On the Town: Women at Work welcomes new executive director; third annual Heart of Business Expo and Luncheon; "Let Your Light So Shine" musical fireside

Not only is Women at Work celebrating its 35th anniversary, it's also welcoming its new executive director, Camille Levee, who is the former executive director of Glendale Healthy Kids.

At a recent welcome reception at the Women at Work's Pasadena office, several dozen of Levee's best friends, supporters and fans showed up to congratulate her.

At the opening of a short program, Uma Shrivastava, board president of Women at Work, introduced Levee by listing her long history in nonprofits including Glendale Healthy Kids, Pasadena's Haven House and, most recently, Time Out in Payson, Ariz.

"I have collaborated with Women at Work over the past 12 years," Levee said. "The mission of providing clients the opportunity to reach their full employment and earning potential is critical, especially since women still earn only 77 cents to each [man's] earning dollar."

Also part of the celebration was the awarding of a certificate of appreciation to Ann Hight, founding member of Women at Work who has been on its board for 32 years. Hight was also Morgan Stanley's first female vice president. Former state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino presented the certificate drafted as a "resolution" from the California legislature.

The services available at Women at Work range from job counseling and resume critiques to computer-skills enhancement and interview preparation. In order to offer these services to more women, the organization has until the end of April to raise $50,000 to add to the $50,000 already donated.

Members of the American Business Women's Assn. recently presented their third annual Heart of Business Expo and Luncheon. More than 60 members and guests were treated to "Lunch with the Experts," during which experts in social media, marketing and financial planning visited each table to answer questions.

But it was an expert of experts, keynote speaker Betty Porto, who put the icing on the cake. Porto is the co-owner of Porto's Bakery and Café. After an introduction by Lori Hartwell, president of the association's Verdugo Glen chapter, Porto related her success story and how her mother, Rosa Porto, started her bakery business from her home in Cuba during the 1960s.

Rosa Porto's reputation for making wedding cakes, meat pies and guava cheese pastries spread rapidly through word of mouth. Often her customers paid her in chickens and bags of beans.

In 1980, Porto's Bakery opened its doors in Glendale at the same time the Glendale Galleria opened. "As Glendale grew, so did Porto's," Betty Porto said.

After graduating from college in the 1980s, Rosa Porto's children — Betty, Raul Jr. and Margarita — stayed on with the business. Currently, Betty Porto is vice president of community relations.

Besides its Glendale store, Porto's Bakery and Café has stores in Burbank and Downey, employing 850 workers. Rosa Porto's recipes are rigorously followed.

At the end of every day, in the Glendale and Burbank stores, all leftovers are donated to the Los Angeles Rescue Mission. The Downey store donates its leftovers to Meals on Wheels.

"Let Your Light So Shine," indeed, shown through at a musical fireside presented by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

On Feb. 16, at the Glendale church, young adult members in a combined choir from Glendale and Lakewood presented music and testimonies. Mormon football pros present in the choir loft were Christian Tupou of the Chicago Bears and Joseph Faifili, former player for the University of Utah.

Notable among the professional football players was Manti Te'o, San Diego Chargers' linebacker. Te'o, born and raised a Mormon, bore his testimony in which he shared his story for the first time to fellow church members.

He related, saying that in 2012, "If I was on the Lord's team, nothing could hurt me." Unfortunately, his belief was soon to be challenged when he was a victim of a social-media hoax. Later that year, Te'o was duped by an acquaintance into believing he had developed a relationship with a long-distance girlfriend and that she had died.

For months, Te'o faced questions from the media about his personal life and his NFL future. He has since learned from praying, "My answer was to forgive, to love."

At the end of the program, Te'o hobbled on crutches into the church lobby. He spoke briefly of football injuries and generously posed for photographs with each fan.

Hollywood resident Amairany B. Portugal was among the first to get her photo snapped with her football hero. She said she learned from Te'o's story "to keep on going, to follow your dreams and not to give up."


RUTH SOWBY may be reached at ruthasowby@gmail.com.

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