Mother-daughter duos flourish through National Charity League community service

Courtesy of Jean Ikeda
The National Charity League’s Stanford Hills Chapter, above, has grown from 22 girls and their mothers in 1987 to more than 150 mother-daughter pairs from Los Altos and surrounding areas.

Some consider volunteering a sporadic weekend activity, but for local mothers and daughters involved in the National Charity League’s Stanford Hills Chapter, service is a long-term commitment with a clear intention.

“I would hate to see what my children’s lives would be like if they weren’t in situations where they had to dig deep inside themselves and give back and miss something every now and again,” said Los Altos resident Lisa Carmel, reflecting on the organization’s impact on her two daughters.

When Carmel heard about the National Charity League – an invitation-only nonprofit group that fosters mother-daughter relationships via philanthropy, community service, leadership training and cultural engagement – she was immediately drawn by the opportunity to spend more time with her daughters. The time spent together during activities was a finite resource that she came to appreciate as her girls gained independence in high school and left home for college.

One of 154 chapters nationwide, the Stanford Hills Chapter has grown from 22 local mother-daughter pairs in 1987 to more than 150 pairs today.

Once sponsored by a member and selected by lottery for induction in the organization as sixth-graders, the girls, known as Ticktockers, and their mothers make a commitment to serve in rotating leadership roles and fulfill at least 15 hours of community service annually over the course of the six-year program, which ends when the girls graduate from high school.

Chapter president Jean Ikeda, a Los Altos resident, has two daughters involved in the National Charity League. She noted that the organization’s three pillars – leadership, culture and philanthropy – seamlessly build on one another. Whether supporting the work of national nonprofits or community organizations including The Terraces at Los Altos, the Community Service Agency, Hidden Villa and the Ecumenical Hunger Program, according to Ikeda, mothers and daughters learn that service intrinsically develops character and values.

“NCL has opened my eyes to the poverty and need in my own community,” said Ikeda’s youngest daughter, Krissy, who is in her third year of the program. “I have had experiences that have enabled me to realize how much I can help other people.”

Kristin Link is another Los Altos mother who saw the National Charity League as a tool for instilling a lifelong habit of giving.

“When you live a privileged life, you give back, period,” Link said.

Link added that reading about the underserved in the newspaper is different from coming “eyeball to eyeball” with someone who needs a meal. Participation in the National Charity League offers her and her daughter face-to-face opportunities at shelters and seniors centers.

Despite the normal teenage resistance to waking up early on a Saturday or missing movies with friends because of the service projects, Carmel, Ikeda and Link agreed that the National Charity League experience encouraged their daughters to be more thoughtful and socially responsible.

“It’s fun to see the kids become teenagers and begin driving, to see them embrace it on their own and commit to giving back without you,” Carmel said.

Carmel added that older daughter, now a freshman in college, is evaluating sororities based on how much service they incorporate in their identities – a clear reflection of the mark the organization leaves on participants.

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