Finding your voice.

Both of my parents were always politically active, and it started at an early age. In fact, when my mom was in college – she did not want to run for office herself, but she organized the campaign to get one her friends elected as Student Body President at UCLA. That friend happens to be Judge Harry Pregerson who went on to be a Ninth Circuit Court Judge, which is one below the U.S. Supreme Court!

My dad stayed active in local groups here in Southern California and helped organize a community group to reduce Gang Violence. Part of that was helping campaign for the first woman elected as Orange County Supervisor, The Honorable Harriet Weider.

Both of my parents felt it was important to be active citizens and to exercise your right/privilege and vote. Some of my earliest childhood memories were going to our neighborhood polling place with mom and dad (and my sister Jackie) and watching them cast their vote (this was before you could vote by mail).

So, it should not come as a surprise that while our mom was alive, Jackie and I wanted to honor her within our produce industry. In 2001, we established and funded the Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship, through one of our trade associations. I remember walking into my mom’s office with Jackie to share the exciting news that we created an annual scholarship in her name. It was her passion for being an active citizen and support of enriching family businesses that led to this annual scholarship. This allowed members of any family business within the produce industry to apply and attend the yearly fly-in to the Capitol for the Washington Public Policy Conference in DC.

Since its initiation, we have awarded between two to four scholarships each year and have made many new industry friends. Either Jackie or I will attend the conference, meet up with the scholarship winners, and help guide and connect them with produce peers throughout the conference. Some have even visited us at our office – meeting Frieda when she was alive!

Washington conference attendees.

So, it was an amazing coincidence, as I thought about writing this blog, that I received the following email last week, from a previous scholarship winner:

Hi Karen,

Hope you’re doing well.  I enjoy keeping up with you on your blog, fun stuff.  I just had an “aha” moment and had to share and say thank you.  

Since returning to the ranch, I’ve gotten more involved with the political side of things.   Gradually learning the players…listening more…. building relationships, etc….it has been great. I’ve been on the board of California Citrus Mutual for several years now and have done a lot of state government relations work and have really enjoyed it.   Recently the incoming board chair asked me to join their executive committee. A big part of that role is doing advocacy in DC.   As I was just now working on final logistics for my trip, I realized I’m going to be there almost at the same time as the Washington Conference.  It dawned on me that 12-13 years ago I went to the same conference thanks to a scholarship I received from your family. So, thank you!  

I know my attendance at the conference so many years ago has been so influential. And not just for advocacy in the citrus industry. My young daughter Laura and I, did an advocacy trip to DC for JDRF when she was six years old, and she still talks about it. The fire has been lit in her as well.

Have a great rest of the week and let me know if you ever pass through the Porterville area. Would love to show you around.

 Warm Regards,

Julia Inestroza, Family Business Owner and Citrus Grower

It is amazing how things work out and that a small scholarship for a 2-day conference several years ago, could have such an influence on all members of a family.   Have you ever thought about the impact you could make if you went to Washington DC? Or even to your own state capitol or city hall? What if, instead of complaining about what our elected officials are doing, that you chose to be on a subcommittee, attend a hearing or listening session and made your voice heard.

It’s not as hard as you think it might be and you could make an incredible difference not only in your community, but for the next generation.

That is what motivates me. What motivates you?

Karen