Local Generosity Gives Infinite Returns

As a person who seeks to promote the welfare of others, a philanthropist is an individual who donates time, money, experience, skills or talent to help create a better world.

This definition is true for the following local residents who are committed to making a positive difference in everything they do.

Rosemary Allison

Looking back on a stellar real estate career that’s spanned more than 4 decades—combined with her philanthropic work that’s earned many accolades—Rosemary Allison says her greatest accomplishments will never be about money.

“My answer will always be who I raised,” emphasizes Rosemary, a resident of Santa Rosa Valley whose philanthropy has earned her Ventura County Volunteer of the Year, as well as other recognitions.

“As my kids get older and find their own places in the world, I’m fascinated by who they are becoming, by the wonderful charitable things they have been involved in and the imprint they will leave on the world on behalf of our family.”

As a local philanthropist—who was recognized by the California Legislature as Woman of the Year in 2020—Rosemary has been leaving an imprint for decades as a volunteer with endeavors that make a positive difference, including For The Troops, an all-volunteer run 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Simi Valley.

“It was founded by one of my close friends, Paula Cornell,” explains Rosemary, adding that Paula is dedicated to providing members of the American military with “We Care” packages containing basic necessities, goodies, games and—most of all—a show of support.

“Their mission: We support them while they protect us,” Rosemary emphasizes.

For the past 6 years, she has been honored to chair the For The Troops annual Military Gala, as well as serve on their Board of Directors.

“I want to make sure that I express my gratitude for all of the sponsors and supporters for joining me in helping us to bring meaningful tokens of our appreciation to our deployed military personnel,” Rosemary says. “I'm proud to say that now that my husband is retired, he enjoys volunteering at their headquarters 3 days a week helping to pack the boxes that are shipped to our enlisted personnel.”

She is also involved with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which battles pediatric cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

“In 2011, our close friends, Patrick and Cathy Warburton, founded the Warburton Celebrity Golf Tournament held annually in Palm Desert,” Rosemary recalls. “I was proud to be part of this grand charity event from its inception, where Patrick and his celebrity friends come together for a weekend of star-studded festivities to help. The Warburton has raised more than $26.5 million for St. Jude since its inception in 2011.”

Rosemary is also part of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Foundation, an independent nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization with the sole objective to support the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. The foundation strives to build community partnerships to enhance public safety in Ventura County with the support of individuals, families and businesses.

“My son, Joe Markiewicz, is on the Board of Directors for this worthwhile organization,” Rosemary notes.

Additionally, she received the Visionary Award from the American Cancer Society, a leading cancer-fighting organization with a vision to end cancer as we know it, for everyone.

“I was honored to be the Chair of a Gala to benefit American Cancer Society in Ventura County that raised the largest amount of funds at the ‘Joie de Vivre’ Evening of Hope gala,” remembers Rosemary, who was asked to chair the event by Sandy Berg, who headed the American Cancer Society in Ventura County.

She also supports the Triunfo YMCA in Westlake Village; as a result, project funding of $50,000 has now been completed for the Welcome Wellness Welcome Entry, with Rosemary—who is Coldwell Banker’s Estate Director—as the lead donor.

“I support these charities because their missions speak to me—in helping those who need our support.”

Above all, “I work on behalf of those charities whose mission and goals touch my heart.”

Zelene Fowler

As the owner of Mizel Estate Wines along with her husband, Michael, Zelene Fowler is also the president and director of the Mizel Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for people with special needs in an environment of unconditional love.

“The Mizel Family Foundation began close to my home and heart, inspired by my son, Henry, and his experiences with Down syndrome,” recalls Zelene, of Westlake Village. “Henry inspired my husband and I to provide special opportunities for uniquely abled young people to experience art, music and sports both on Mizel Estate and at other locations throughout the community.”

Everything Mizel does is about inclusivity, connection and warmth, from the exceptional wines, right through to the work of the Mizel Family Foundation.

“At its core, Mizel Estate Wines is purpose-driven, established with the goal of supporting our foundation with a portion of our wine sale proceeds,” Zelene explains.

In 2014, the Fowler couple brought together a spirited team to establish the vineyard and achieve their goal of making world-class wine. They partnered with Guillaume Fabre, a renowned, sixth-generation winemaker and vigneron, who helped them select and establish the varietals that would thrive on the estate and began making wines in the Bordeaux style. 

“Located on the floor of Hidden Valley, our estate’s soil is a fertile mix of clay and sand, which provides tannin structure and elegance to our red wines that is unique to our terroir,” says Zelene, adding that their expert team carefully manages the vines, with only the finest 100% estate-grown, hand-harvested grapes being used to make their wines. “Every year when we get together to blend the wines and taste what we know will develop into deep, velvety reds, we are proud of what our team has achieved.”

She also takes great pride in the Mizel Family Foundation, which creates genuine educational and career opportunities for people with unique abilities who experience special needs.

“A percentage of all Mizel Estate Wine proceeds is donated to the Mizel Family Foundation,” Zelene says. “Individuals with unique abilities can participate in agricultural, athletic, cultural and other activities at Mizel Estate and additional prominent venues. Our goal is to employ and mentor uniquely abled adults to facilitate the growth of Mizel Estate.”

Mizel Estate is a special place where all are welcomed, accepted and befriended, she emphasizes.

“The Mizel Team is an integral part of the success of our Mizel Estate Wines and Mizel Family Foundation endeavors, deeply involved in strategy, creative development, logistics, marketing, publicity and volunteer, vendor and customer relations,” Zelene says. “At Mizel, teamwork, inclusiveness and positive energy are part of the job description.”

In April of this year, Mizel Family Foundation hosted “An Enchanted Ball” at Mizel Estate, a special evening, where uniquely abled and typically developing teens attended a formal dance together.

“Students enjoyed a magical night filled with music, dancing, happiness and friendship,” Zelene recalls. “Planned by the National Honor Society student organization at Newbury Park High School and attended by LEAP (Learning Essentials Academic Program) participants from three local schools—Newbury Park High School, Thousand Oaks High School and Westlake High School—the dance was supported by The Mizel Family Foundation, along with the schools’ administrative and educational teams and students’ families.”

Zelene reflects that “a special evening like this means so much to the community of parents to the uniquely abled, where they can feel safe dropping off their kids and know that they are having a fun time.”

Additionally, “through the foundation we have supported inclusion at Newbury Park High School in the following programs: special education department, weight training department, theater department, wrestling team and the swimming team.”

The Mizel Family Foundation also contributes to assisting disadvantaged youth, women and the elderly.

As far as future endeavors are concerned, “we are focusing on our goal to employ and mentor uniquely abled adults to facilitate the growth of Mizel Estate by matching individuals to expanded job opportunities at the estate.”

In addition, “we want to deepen our relationship with the LEAP program at local area schools, continuing to support activities such as An Enchanted Ball.”

LEAP is a comprehensive academic program for students with significant learning, adaptive and language needs. 

“It uses an alternative curriculum that is aligned with common core standards,” Zelene explains.  “Through this program there are opportunities to engage with typically developing students across a variety of social activities, providing growth opportunities, creating friendships and enriching the lives of all the students together.”

Zelene is also the co-founder of the Down Syndrome Association of Mid-Columbia.

“Mizel Estate Wines also contributes wine gift baskets to local charities for auctions, such as the Thousand Oaks Rotary Club Wine Festival, which supports the Special Olympics, and the Malibu Chili Cook Off, which supports the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.”

In other endeavors that make a difference, Zelene and her husband are partners and advisors with Mizel Media, whose mission is to support filmmakers who are committed to focusing on the representation of strong female characters, roles played by people with disabilities and/or projects helmed by women.

The couple is also involved in SingFit, whose mission is to create robust lives for people as they age through the intentional application of prescribed singing.

“We empower health care professionals, caregivers and individuals to utilize music as medicine on a mass scale for the first time in history,” Zelene adds.

Philippe and Arlette Larraburu

CSU Channel Islands has received one of the largest gifts in the history of the University from the estate of Philippe and Arlette Larraburu, two very early supporters of Ventura County’s only 4-year public university.

CSUCI is the sole beneficiary of the Larraburu estate, a bequest the couple established in 2001—which ultimately grew into a $30 million gift.

“Words cannot express our tremendous gratitude to the Larraburu family for their trust in our University, backed by a gift that will provide so much for our students,” said CSUCI President Richard Yao. “A gift of this stature is a testament to the power of personal philanthropy and to the fact that CSUCI is a smart investment for donors, community partners and students alike.”

Born in Paris, France, Philippe helped his mother survive World War II after losing his father as a teenager. He went on to pursue technical training at prominent trade schools in Paris and earned several degrees in optical engineering. Philippe traveled to Germany for further training and there, he met the woman who would become his wife—Arlette Janet Pioro—who was working as a French translator for the United States Corps of Engineers.

The couple married in Paris in 1955, and they emigrated to the United States in the early 1960s, eventually moving to Ventura County and building their dream home in the Clearpoint neighborhood in Ventura in the early 1970s.

In Southern California, Philippe created specialized lenses for the film industry, then opened his own optical lab and created lenses for industrial applications and weather satellites.

Philippe and Arlette established a connection to CSUCI from the very beginning, staying connected as members of the Legacy Society and as annual supporters until Philippe’s death in October 2021. Arlette passed away in 2014, having been married to Philippe for 57 years. After Arlette’s passing, Philippe moved to Oxnard where he resided until his passing in 2021.

The University did not learn of the plans for the bequest until Arlette’s passing, when Philippe donated a spectrometer and other equipment to the University’s physics program. It was only then that he shared the couple’s decision to name CSUCI as beneficiary of their estate.

“We are profoundly grateful for the Larraburus’ bequest,” said CSUCI Vice President for University Advancement Richard LeRoy. “We also appreciate the Larraburus’ faith in higher education, and their belief that a strong public university can create priceless returns for its graduates, their families, employers and in fact, the entire region.”

There are no restrictions on how the University chooses to use the gift, which is welcome news during these challenging times with budgetary limitations and possible reductions in permanent, long-term funding, Yao said.

“While details regarding how much of the funding will go to which capital projects is not yet solidified, capital projects are my priority for how to make the most impactful, long-term use of the Larraburus’ gift,” Yao said. “We have benefitted tremendously from local community support and funds from the state to support construction of the Early Childhood Care & Education Center (ECC&EC), for example, but a significant funding gap for that project, among others, remains. This gift will allow us to see plans continue for the ECC&EC.”

Loyal supporters like the Larraburus offer ways to manage the tension that exists between the realities of budget cuts in the immediate future and the need to plan for growth in the longer term, Yao said, adding, “The Larraburu gift provides us with great support for doing exactly this, allowing us to invest in capital projects and literally build for the future.”

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