Windows of Opportunity
Hidden Hills resident Lori Milgard and her family are helping children in need throughout Los Angeles and Southern California through various Boys & Girls Clubs.
You may not have heard of Boyle Heights, a largely-now Hispanic community east of downtown Los Angeles. A short while ago, the local Variety Boys and Girls Club was going through a revival. They’d raised funds to build a new facility, replacing the Club’s dilapidated 85-year-old building, but unfortunately fell short of its their goals and were unable to add a pool that they had so hoped for. More than half of the school-aged children in the area live at or below the federal poverty level, and few of them know how to swim. The nearest public pool was five miles away.
That was enough for Hidden Hills resident Lori Milgard. With the help of her family and the Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation, the Boyle Heights Boys and Girls Club not only got its pool, but also pool equipment and swim suits for the kids who otherwise would have gone without.
Lori is the daughter of Gary and Carol Milgard. Giving back runs deep in their family. Although Gary and Carol have passed away, their legacy continues on, with Lori, her sister Cari, and her brother Mark, now running the foundation.
Lori’s father Gary started Milgard Manufacturing back in the early ’60s, and grew the Washington state-based window business into one of the largest window companies in the country. Lori remembers as a kid her dad working hard, selling windows out of the back of the family car. In time, he would come to employ more than 5,000 in the Puget Sound area and, from the company’s earliest days, focused on taking care of all of them.
Upon retiring, the Milgards sold the company and decided that they wanted to put a significant part of their good fortune to work by helping those who needed it most.
The Boyle Heights pool is just one part of a long history of the family helping boys and girls clubs. When looking for charities to give back to, “My mother took us to visit a boys and girls club in the area. As the door was closing in front of my mom, a little boy ran back and opened it for her. That did it. That was it. Right then and there.” From that time forward, the family focused on helping children and other people who really need help.
In her mother Carol, Lori had great teacher. Among her accomplishments was the creation of the Hope Center in Lakewood, Washington. “My mom raised $60 million for the Hope Center,” Lori told us. “The Hope Center is a boys and girls club during the day, and in the evenings seniors can come and use the computers. It’s not just used by the kids. It kind of doubles because the kids leave around five and it becomes a senior center.”
Lori moved to Hidden Hills about five years ago. Loving the Southern California weather and having lived down here before, it wasn’t a tough move. While Lori could have continued helping the foundation in Washington electronically, she opted for a different plan. “I wanted to get my kids involved down here,” tells Lori, “because I know my parents would really want us to be active here, and not just on computers sending our votes up north.” Lori spoke to her brother and sister and they agreed, so now Lori and her kids have continued the foundation work down here.
Lori began checking out the Los Angeles area boys and girls club scene. She didn’t have to look far before she found kids in real need. “A little south of here, it’s different for kids. The kids need food. They need dentistry. They need clean underwear.”
Lori and her two children, Scott, 26, and Lindsay, 23, have literally rolled up their sleeves by contributing their time and resources to helping the children at various boys and girls clubs in the Los Angeles area. JR Dzubak, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley, has been an integral guide in helping Lori and her children find the clubs in the most need each year. With 27 clubs in Southern California, he meets with Lori regularly and they assess the “needs” list of the various clubs in the region. “We’ve seen donors and extremely generous people come through our doors in the past, but very few are as willing to get involved as Lori, Scott and Lindsay. They are truly amazing and rare,” says JR.
Last year, Scott and Lindsay started their own programs for the kids at the West San Gabriel Valley club that they are hoping to roll out to other clubs. Lindsay started “Manners Matter,” a program that teaches kids life skills through manners. Scott started a program called “Thanks For Giving” that helps the children give holiday gifts to their parents at Christmas time. Both were very successful and JR is hoping to have other clubs implement the programs this year.
Lori and the foundation continue moving forward. She recently spearheaded an effort in support of STEM programs. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. To date, Lori and the foundation have helped the Los Angeles County Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs create and implement STEM programs in nine different clubs.
With Lori, you don’t get the impression she has to think about charitable giving—it’s a part of her family “DNA.” “Honestly, it’s been really easy to give to the kids in need. When you see kids who are sick, compassion takes over, and so it’s a family honor to give back.”
Lori Milgard and her family, along with the Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation, have truly created windows of opportunity for thousands of boys and girls in need.
Published with permission from Hidden Hills Magazine, Spring 2015 issue.