YWCA of Glendale & Pasadena Pays Tribute To Heart & Excellence Honorees at 26th Annual Luncheon

Scholarship sponsor Dr. Carol Ann Burton (in glasses) is surrounded by the Glendale & Pasadena YWCA’s Heart & Excellence honorees. They are, from left, Rima Donnell; Jessica First, CEO and chief strategist, Kilter; and Denise Houlemard Jones, principal, DMJ Consulting.
Photos by Ruth SOWBY


For the first time in three years, the YWCA’s Heart & Excellence luncheon took place in person.

Front and center were honorees Jessica First, YWCA Glendale and Pasadena board president; Rima Donnell, former Glendale YWCA board member; and Denise Houlemard Jones, former Pasadena Foothill Valley YWCA board member. On Wednesday, May 17, the three women were “honored as their own” by the now merged Glendale and Pasadena YWCAs. In the past, members of the community, not necessarily having close ties to the YWCA, were recognized.

The La Cañada Flintridge Country Club was the setting for some 200 YWCA supporters and guests. Program emcee was YWCA Glendale & Pasadena’s Chief Executive Officer Tara Peterson. Besides the honorees, also recognized were special guest Silva Harapetian, CEO Silva Media Group journalist; and survivor Maria (last name not disclosed). 

Enjoying the YWCA Heart & Excellence luncheon are (from left) Paula Devine, Glendale City Council member, and Sue Wilder, chair of the Foundation Board, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.

Maria shared, “It was December 2018 when I decided that 22 years of abuse [from my husband] would end. Today I stand here, holding my tears while I tell my story. I hope it will help more women like me, kids like mine, and other innocent survivors. I’m a survivor because of your donations.”

Maria found the YWCA and its domestic violence survivors’ program helped her with housing and job training. She is now remarried and is in a healthy relationship. 

Honoree Jessica First said, “The YWCA helped 1,600 women last year.” The cost was $100,000 plus government funding. Included in the program is a 24-hour domestic violence shelter.       

YWCA Glendale & Pasadena’s Chief Executive Officer Tara Peterson presents a 2023 Cami’s Courage Scholarship of $1,000 to La Cañada High School student Anna Heur.

Also recognized were Anna Heur of La Cañada High School and Mary Tovbekhakyan of Clark Magnet High School. They each received 2023 Cami’s Courage scholarships of $1,000. The scholarship is named after Cami Burton, the late daughter of Dr. Carol Ann Burton and husband Alisdair. The Burtons sponsor the scholarships each year.      

The $10,000 fundraising goal at the luncheon was met. Gross funds from the luncheon totaled $48,000. The money will support YWCA Glendale and Pasadena’s mission to empower women, children and girls through its programs and services.