Save the Date…Thursday April 10th, three women…Jessica Balsam, Bernadette Benavente, and Hannah Rothblatt band together to help a special cause…STAR Education.
It all started through a unique social networking group created by Jessica Balsam. “As a side hobby, I love to bring people together,” explains Balsam. “Each Thursday since June 2007, I have coordinated a casual networking night at bars and restaurants on the Westside.” The group originally started as a “thirty-something” networking gathering for people in the entertainment industry, but soon expanded to include all ages and every industry.
Balsam continues, “My group is just social networking that brings people together in a non-competitive, friendly atmosphere, for good old fashioned face-to-face conversations. It is in planning these events, that I came upon Upper West when they moved into the location on Pico.” Balsam affectionately calls her group Thirsty Thursdays, or TT nights.
Another member of the group and a Premier Designs rep, Bernadette Benavente, wanted to do a fundraising night and was willing to donate a portion of her sales to a well deserving charity. She approached Balsam and together they brainstormed about collaborating with a local charity. They tossed around ideas, looked at some non-profits, when Hannah Rothblatt came into the picture. Rothblatt is the Executive Assistant and Corporate Gifts/ Development Coordinator at STAR Education, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. Star Education offers in school and after-school enrichment education programming for students throughout Los Angeles and California.
“I met Jessica when I accompanied a friend to one of her mixers, and jumped at the opportunity to fundraise for STAR,” admits Rothblatt. “It’s been a lovely experience so far coordinating these efforts with Jessica & Bernadette.”
The event suddenly had a life of its own. “We both selected them hands down,” recalls Balsam. “For me, it was the Eco-Station they have set up in Culver City. Preserving Wildlife, as well as educating kids and adults about animals, were my passion and profession long before I found myself in the entertainment industry.”
Benavente also thought it was a perfect match and adds, “I felt it was a no brainer. I could get behind supporting a charity that invests in children’s education and well-being. I am looking forward to this event and partnering with these amazing women who truly make an impact in their respective spheres.”
All of the women are fans of Upper West. Balsam has been a regular customer since it opened. “Favorite cocktail, hand downs the Honey Rye. Favorite food – to name just one would be impossible. So favorites to this day are the Burrata, Corn Fritters (only found on the happy hour menu, how dare they?), the Grilled Cheese, the Veggie burger, the Cubano, Curried Chicken Salad, and the Bread Pudding top the list. I honestly love their food. They are one of my favorite restaurants in town!”
Another woman and talented artist Vicki McClay heard about the event and wanted to help out as well. McClay’s art is currently gracing the walls of Upper West and she has offered to donate a portion of sales from her paintings that day. She recently had an opening at the restaurant and is a local Santa Monica resident. McClay knows first hand how a child’s life can be influenced. The artist was first inspired to paint by her single mother who gave McClay her very first set of oil paints.
The fundraising event takes place Thursday, April 10, 2014, from 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm at Upper West. The restaurant will donate 20% of sales during the event to STAR Education. Premier Designs jeweler Bernadette Benavente has generously offered to donate 50% of her sales as well. Artist Vicki McClay will also be donating a portion of her art sales. The event will feature a raffle with some incredible prizes. 100% of all raffle sales will go directly to Star Education. Upper West is located at 3321 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica.