The Children’s Institute’s third annual Cape and Gown Gala in December was a virtual and literal success, raising $470,000 to support the organization’s programs that work to transform the lives of children exposed to adversity and poverty in Los Angeles. Founded in 1906, Children’s Institute, Inc. (CII) is the largest agency of its kind providing early education, behavioral health and family strengthening services. It reaches 30,000 children and families annually in communities where support is needed the most.
CII President and CEO Martine Singer told the Buzz she was very pleased with the results of the organization’s first virtual gala, considering they have only done two others in person before the pandemic.
“It was a great experience. We had people calling in from all over the country,” said Singer.
In her opening remarks at the event, Singer welcomed guests saying, “We know first-hand how deeply trauma can adversely affect the health and well-being of those who have experienced great injustices. Experiencing racism is trauma. As an organization, we fight for equity every day. And as a nation, we must address racist policies in order for children and communities of color to reach their full potential.”
Emceed by Emmy® Award-winning TV host and author Loni Love, the evening featured Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Wesley Lowery, LAPD Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides, GRAMMY® Award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, and acclaimed filmmaker/actor/producer Rob Reiner. Guests were moved by presentations featuring CII Child and Family Specialist Yarelly Rosas, and CII program participants LaRae and Royalty.
Windsor Square resident Suzanne Rheinstein, a long time supporter of CII, made a generous contribution to support the childcare center, which is part of the new CII campus in Watts. Rheinstein told the Buzz she is delighted to be part of such an exciting project, which is being designed pro bono by Frank Gehry.
CII operates 28 early education centers for Head Start and nearly 90 percent of its funding comes from grants and federal contracts. But donations like Rheinstein’s help CII construct the new Gehry building, which will serve as a community center where CII staff can provide services and offer a free community space for meetings (when they are able to re-open after the pandemic). Singer told the Buzz that she hopes to building will draw additional investment to the neighborhood once it opens this fall. She said the contractor hired workers from the local community, and she is planning to hire six staff members from the local neighborhood.
Rheinstein said she met Singer years ago when she was a volunteer at Hollygrove, and has followed her career.
“CII is a huge responsibility and Martine is so good,” said Rheinstein, whose involvement with CII goes back to The Colleagues, a non-profit group founded in 1950 by Hancock Park scion Mrs. Homer Toberman.
The Colleagues operate The Room, offering items from, as they say, “…the Best Closets in Town… Including Yours!” The shop is staffed entirely by the organization’s 65 active and more than 25 sustaining members. Its annual Spring Luncheon is renowned for its fashion show, honorees and the funds it raises.
“It’s an extraordinary group of women; they have been raising money for over 70 years,” said Singer. “The Colleagues have donated over $25 million to serve Los Angeles’ most vulnerable children.”
Rheinstein’s commitment to CII is genuine because she really believes in the mission of the organization. She said she and her late husband Fred have supported many organizations in the city because they want to create what she calls “opportunities for curiosity.” As an example, she told us a story about how her late husband Fred, a huge opera fan, created a program to stimulate interest in the opera among LA high school students.
“Fred has this idea that if young people could experience the opera, they would love it. He approached the opera about the program and they supported it from day one,” explained Rheinstein.
The program, known as 90212, invites students to submit an essay about why they want to attend an opera performance. Those selected are invited, along with a guest, to attend four operas during the season. The Rheinsteins funded the program for 12 years completely anonymously. After Fred’s death, others stepped up and wanted to continue to the program. A student-run ambassador program has now emerged, through which students plan all the events. This year’s events were forced online, like so many others, but Rheinstein is still pleased to see the enthusiasm for the program, which has helped some students get into college, she explained.
“We decided to do it because of the pleasure of feeling part of the community and knowing that we are spreading the opportunities to others that we have been lucky enough to enjoy in our lives,” said Rheinstein. “Generosity and curiosity; I’d love to be known for nurturing the curiosity in young people.”
Rheinstein believes everyone has something to give too.
“Don’t’ wait until you have a lot,” she said. You can give back every day of your life.”
If you missed the December event and want to support CII, consider joining their virtual cooking series, “Dinner in Paris.” Hosted by CII trustee Lisa Baker who is also a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, the series is three evenings, February 22, April 19, May 17 at 5:30-6:30 p.m. Guests will receive a list of ingredients in advance.
Monday, February 22: Savory soufflé with winter greens and citrus salad paired with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Ceja Vineyards
Monday, April 19: Fish and spring vegetables
Monday, May 17: Refreshing summer favorites
Click here for more information.
This story was updated.