St. Germaine Children’s Charity celebrates philanthropy and legacy as it awards grants to nine nonprofits

More than 100 St. Germaine members and guests gather at The Lot La Jolla as the granddaughter of the organization’s founder takes the helm as president.


In its first large in-person event in more than a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the La Jolla-based St. Germaine Children’s Charity awarded grants to nine local nonprofits and seated a new board of officers, honoring the legacy of the organization’s founder as her granddaughter took the helm.

Barbara Christensen founded St. Germaine in 1984 with nine other women; the group currently has more than 250 members who further its mission to aid child abuse prevention in San Diego by supporting agencies that care for, shelter and treat victims of child abuse up to age 25.

More than 100 St. Germaine members and guests gathered at The Lot La Jolla on June 8 for the grants luncheon. Departing President Stefanie Bedingfield called the event a celebration of what “we were able to accomplish [in] a year most people thought we couldn’t.”

“We are as robust and healthy as we’ve ever been,” she said.

Bedingfield then presented the 2021 grant recipients, awarded a total of $130,000 to further their missions: Angels Foster Family Network, which recruits, trains and supports foster families for abused children younger than 5; Armed Services YMCA San Diego, which connects military families with resources; Casa de Amparo, which provides treatment to foster teens removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect; Center for Community Solutions, which supports child survivors of abuse; Monarch School, which provides academic and mental health services; Outside the Lens, which offers artistic programs to mitigate the effects of adverse childhood experiences; Uplift, which provides tutoring to students from low-income households; Voices for Children, which appoints court advocates for children in foster care; and Women’s Resource Center, which coordinates housing for battered women and children.

Women’s Resource Center also received St. Germaine’s Barbara Christensen Heart of San Diego Award, given yearly to an organization that “goes a little bit above and beyond the call of duty,” Bedingfield said. WRC did that during the pandemic by providing extra services to children in need, she said.

Marina Araiza, chief executive of Women’s Resource Center, said St. Germaine’s support is making a difference for the 100 clients in the center’s shelter and transitional housing.

“This would not be possible without donors like you, that you are willing to invest in the lives of people that you don’t know but you know it’s important to help them,” Araiza said.

Aaron Gilliam, media educator for Outside the Lens, told the La Jolla Light that the St. Germaine grant will enable his organization “to get hands on with the students and work with them and provide the resources that we need.”

Bedingfield introduced the 11 new executive committee members, including Katie Christensen, Barbara Christensen’s granddaughter.

Katie Christensen told the Light that her grandmother died when Katie was 14 but left her with “fond memories of her devotion to St. Germaine” and that she is stepping into the role of president “to continue the legacy in her honor.”

“The best way that I can substitute in her absence is by doing the best I can in this role, always keeping her original mission at the main focus of all the members’ hearts,” she said.

Katie Christensen, a trauma nurse practitioner at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, said she hopes to integrate her passion for nursing with her grandmother’s passion for protecting children. “I hope to make that bridge from the knowledge that I have with adults to the children … [and] continue to raise awareness and financial support for those who are younger, especially following the pandemic, when a lot of these victims were stuck at home with their abusers and weren’t able to get out.”

She said she also hopes to further the innovation chartered by Bedingfield beyond St. Germaine’s traditional fundraising.

St. Germaine’s largest fundraising event is its annual Silver Tea, which last year was rendered non-viable by COVID-19 restrictions. Bedingfield organized a cookbook sale in its place, with proceeds funding the awarded grants.

The cookbook was “a great, very innovative idea at a time when we weren’t able to do our traditional events,” Christensen said.

She said she also wants to incorporate social media “to expand [St. Germaine’s reach] to a wider population of people. Anything to help provide more resources … that will help eradicate child abuse throughout the county.”

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