For 90 years, the Junior League of San Diego has been able to advocate and help its local community through big fundraising events like its 19th annual Food and Wine Festival. One of only two events that are held at Ellen Browning Scripps Park, the festival is the JLSD’s largest fundraising event of the year. With over 60 different local restaurants, wineries and breweries in attendance, JLSD refers to it as “the ultimate foodie experience."
But JLSD President Joni Flaherty said this “fun day in the sun” is about much more than just enjoying the warm weather and taking in the views of La Jolla Cove.
“It’s a celebration of not only the great work of the Junior League but the great work of philanthropy in San Diego as well,” she said. “It’s our primary money maker for ensuring that our community partners and our own projects get funded so that we can continue to do the great work that we do in San Diego."
Every 10 years, the JSLD does a “deep dive” investigation of what the needs are in the city and then selects the organization’s primary focus for the next decade. So that great work Flaherty is referring to is currently funding programs that support foster youth as they transition out of foster care and into independent living. The organization is in its fifth year of tackling this issue.
“We put a lot of our capital, a lot of our resources and a lot of our volunteer hours into supporting these young men and women as they transition into independent living," Flaherty said. “Unfortunately, they don’t have the support that a lot of us take for granted, whether it’s from parents. the court or even just being able to sleep on a couch somewhere. Most of the time, these men and women are out to fend for themselves."
And there’s a lot of them. According to the JLSD”s website, about 300 youth, ranging in age from 16-24, foster out of the system every year. Within two to four years of aging out half of them are unemployed and homeless, and 25 percent of them are incarcerated.
Flaherty said that even though transition age youth (or TAY) have some help through public assistance, they don’t have all the resources they need in one place. So the JLSD put together a number of direct services — like the TAY Mentorship Program and the Brand of Brothers resource fair— to empower foster youth and provide them with the skills they need to live independently.
That’s why Flaherty encourages people to attend events like the Food and Wine Festival. The JLSD hopes to raise $120,000 this year so they can continue supporting TAY and the community — like it's done for the past 90 years.
“We are very lucky to have a wonderful history in San Diego,” she said. “We are well supported by our community and by our community partners, and we’re excited to showcase the great work we’re doing in our 90th year."
The annual Food and Wine Festival is held from 2-5 p.m. on May 11 at Ellen Browning Scripps Park with an afterparty held at La Valencia from 4-8 p.m. General admission tickets and VIP tickets can be purchased at jlsd.org/food-and-wine.