"Big Sister" to be Recognized for Transforming Young Lives

"Big Sister"

LEADING THE WAY—Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO Lynne West, center, is joined by board president Chip Marvin, left, and board member Richard Burke Jr. at a fundraiser last year. West will be honored Thursday during the nonprofit’s 30th anniversary gala at Las Posas Country Club. Courtesy Big Brothers Big Sisters

When Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County gathers on Thursday to celebrate CEO Lynne West, one of the most grateful people in attendance will be Juanita Wooten, West’s own Little Sister.

Wooten, who connected with West seven years ago, found a mentor at a turning point in her life. She was 18 years old, aging out of the foster care system and facing a bleak future she still prefers not to think about. Now she has a job, a car and the time and money to pursue her passion: classical guitar.

“I would’ve given that up if not for her,” Wooten said of West. “I had a nihilistic outlook on life, and she brought out a lot of optimism, hope and faith in me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.”

Wooten is one of thousands of people who credit their success to the mentorship they received from Lynne West, whose 30th anniversary with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County is being celebrated with a Sept. 14 black-tie gala at Las Posas Country Club.

The event will feature a dinner, auction and speakers, and will run from 6:30 to 10 p.m.

West said she is humbled by the honor, adding that she loves hearing from people who were helped by the program as it motivates her to keep working at a job that will never truly be finished.

“There are many things any of us could be doing and probably making a lot more money than we do here, but when you see a child’s life change, you see what they’re getting out of the program, and you’ve made that happen, there’s no greater reward,” West said.

Danica Selvaggio, vice president of marketing and recruitment for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County, said West brings the same motivation and attitude to the workplace.

“I think she inspires that in everybody,” Selvaggio said. “We’re not putting a product out; we’re providing a service, so our impact might not be a tangible thing to see, but the impact will be felt for years to come, and Lynne makes everyone understand that when they come to work here.”

Selvaggio, who left a career in the entertainment industry, came to West looking for “something that fed the soul more than a dollar.”

West said a career in service does just that.

“One of the things I know through experience is that the lives of volunteers change too,” she said. “Every volunteer says they came to make a difference, but they don’t know what a difference it will make in their own lives.”

Wooten has been preparing a speech for Thursday night’s anniversary gala and might play some guitar as well.

“I just want to celebrate my Big Sister,” Wooten said. “She’s amazing and she doesn’t get the appreciation she deserves. She’s been there for so long and she’s stuck to it, making a huge difference in thousands of lives in our community, and it’s really something to celebrate.”

For more information or to buy tickets, contact Selvaggio at (805) 484-2282, ext. 123, or dselvaggio [at] bbsvc [dot] org