From championing college for children to supporting seniors, Linda Katz has served as a community leader and civic activist in the San Diego region for more than 35 years.
Recently named one of the 78th Assembly District’s 2015 “Women of the Year” honorees by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), the Del Mar resident’s community service will be celebrated during an awards ceremony March 13 at the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa in San Diego.
“I love Toni Atkins,” said Katz, who has lived in Del Mar for 11 years. “Having this come from her office means even more. I admire her work. She’s a trailblazer for women.”
Born and raised in Phoenix, Katz studied merchandising at Arizona State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in textiles and clothing in business. After college, she worked as a buyer for a department store.
In 1977, Katz and her husband, Mel, relocated to San Diego, where he became co-owner and executive officer of staffing firm Manpower San Diego. Katz continued her career in retail until the couple had their first child in 1979.
As a stay-at-home mother, Katz looked for ways she could contribute her time and talents to the community. Immediately, she and her best friend, who also just had a baby, began volunteering for Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary. Since joining the board in 1979, she has served as board president and co-chaired the hospital’s anniversary charity ball.
“I really gravitate toward organizations that approach life and situations from abundance, rather than scarcity,” Katz said. “We look at what’s good about the community and how we can make more of that.”
When her daughter was 3 months old, Katz also started volunteering for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. She started with the nonprofit as a counselor at the Escondido clinic. Over the years, she has also served on the board and on several committees.
“I knew I didn’t want to go back to work, but I didn’t want to be at home full time,” Katz recalled. “Volunteering became my career.”
Since then, the mother of three has volunteered for more than a dozen local organizations, including Francis Parker School, Girl Scouts San Diego, The San Diego Foundation, San Diego Symphony, Serving Seniors, and United Way of San Diego County, among others.
The causes closest to her heart affect women and girls.
“When you set a woman up for success, you set her family up for success, you set her community up for success, and you set her nation up for success,” Katz said.
“We’ve accomplished a lot as a women’s movement, but our work is not done.”
Of all her work, Katz is proudest of her work with The San Diego Women’s Foundation and Women Give San Diego.
Founded as a supporting arm of The San Diego Foundation, The San Diego Women’s Foundation has grown to more than 200 members. Every member contributes a minimum of $2,000 annually and helps determine where grants will be awarded each year. As of last year, the organization has given more than $2.7 million to 71 community partners to initiate or improve programs.
Katz helped establish the organization in 1999 and remains a contributing member today.
“There is a trend in philanthropy for women to become more involved in philanthropy,” she said. “We founded the organization so that we could provide women with the knowledge and expertise they need to make the philanthropic decisions we’re called upon to make.”
Wanting to do even more to get women involved in San Diego, Katz co-founded Women Give San Diego in 2009. A donor circle of the Women’s Foundation of California, Women Give San Diego funds nonprofits in the county that work with underserved women and girls.
“The reason for Women Give San Diego is to set women and girls up for economic security and sustainability,” Katz said. “We each contribute a certain amount of money and then we pull our contributions. Collectively, our impact can be much, much greater.”
Now 62, Katz shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, she’s always looking for new ways to give back. Recently, she has devoted much of her time to Barrio Logan College Institute.
Located in the traditionally low-income community of Barrio Logan, Barrio Logan College Institute is an after-school program that offers college preparation services for students beginning in third grade. Working together with local families, the community-based organization ensures that 100 percent of its students enroll in college and continues to work with students while they are at colleges across the country.
“Not only do we have an opportunity to impact these students’ lives, but then the students have an opportunity to impact our community,” said Katz, who chairs the organization’s annual “Opportunity for Impact” fundraiser.
Katz has been recognized for her work in the community numerous times. She was named San Diego Magazine’s “Community Volunteer of the Year” in 2005. Among other awards, she was recognized as LEAD San Diego’s “Graduate of the Year,” in 2003 and Charter One Hundred’s “Woman of the Year” in 2002.
“If I make a difference in one child’s life, one student’s life, one woman’s life — it’s all worth it,” Katz said. “It all adds up to magic.”
For more about The San Diego Women’s Foundation, visit www.sdwomensfoundation.org. For more about Women Give San Diego, visit womengivesd.org. For more about Barrio Logan College Institute, visit www.blci.org.