Group’s fund of $26,600 to go toward various causes

Staff Report

The Santa Ynez Valley Women’s Independent Giving Society (WIGS) held its 12th annual meeting at the Woodstock home and garden of Sally and Bob Corlett on June 9. WIGS members and guests were treated to “A Day in Provence” with a French-inspired luncheon and a presentation by staff from Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People (PHP).

The purpose of the annual meetings is for WIGS members to received progress reports on their previous year’s funded programs as well as updates on current program needs, which includes client success stories.

At the conclusion of the presentation and progress reports, members decide how they would like to invest their current year donations and cast their votes accordingly. Recipient programs are funded on a pro-rata basis based upon the members voted choices. Donations totaled over $26,000 this year. 

“Our local economy significantly depends upon the agriculture, tourism, and hospitality industries, each interconnected to the other – and each devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” WIGS President Nancy Hunsicker said. “The long-term effects of the virus have turned many of our neighbors lives upside down in ways none could have imagined. We hope to equip People Helping People with more support to advance their work in our community.” 

Inspired by similar organizations in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, WIGS was founded 12 years ago by Nancy Englander, Mila Hart, Claire Hanssen, Annette Serrurier, Sandra Simon, Carolyn Balaban, Nancy Hunsicker, Sandra Focht, Barbara Crist and Phyllis Hennigan. They and other donors wanted to create a women’s giving circle, based in and focused on Santa Ynez and Los Alamos valleys. They had a strong desire to invest their contributions to maximize their impact on improving lives in the Santa Ynez Valley.

People Helping People was selected as the umbrella organization for WIGS because PHP manages a diverse suite of social services programs, allowing WIGS members choices for funding from a broad diversity of programs. PHP administers WIGS operations without overhead, thus allowing 100 percent of WIGS member donations to directly fund services. All food and beverages for the annual WIGS meeting are donated and prepared by the membership.

This year, WIGS members voted to fund the following: Homelessness prevention, food program, family resource centers and youth programming. 

“The generosity of this group of women is remarkable and much needed,” PHP CEO Valerie Kissell said. “Our food distribution program’s costs have increased dramatically as we have expanded our distribution efforts in Solvang and Los Alamos from bi-weekly to weekly. Our rental assistance and homeless prevention program outlays now exceed $120,000 with the demand increasing daily. We have expanded our Solvang offices with a new wellness room where we provide free counseling services for youth, adults, and seniors.” 

This year’s private luncheon for members was prepared by Ann Marie Powers, Sally Corlett, Sandy Simon, Deb Biddinger and Patty Hately, with cookies baked by Gerry Shepherd. New members included Sally Corlett, Deb Biddinger, Francisa Escobar, Bonnie Holdren, Alanna Tarkington and Susan Weber. The program also honored the memory of longtime WIGS member Rachel Pace who passed away May 8.

To become a regular member of WIGS, a minimum contribution of $500 is required. This contribution may be split between two parties who will share a single vote. Sustaining members contribute $1,000, have one vote, and are invited to join the group’s annual steering committee. 

To learn more about WIGS membership contact Erica Jane Flores at or WIGS President Nancy Hunsicker at