VenturaVie is an extraordinary non-profit run by some extraordinary women. I had the privilege of interning this summer after my junior year in college, gaining first-hand experience from the inspiring people behind VenturaVie’s outreach – including their brick-and-mortar V Boutique and the HiVe community. I want to dedicate space in this article/blog to the women who made this all possible, and how they each have contributed their talents and passions to make VenturaVie shine. Each interview started with a small self-introduction and background on how they became involved with VenturaVie, which I am excited to share with you:
I began my interview process with Victoria Zitrin and Renee Siller-Ellis, both of whom were so gracious working with me and who I am learning so much from. I gained some insight into VenturaVies foundations and how it came about.
President/Founder Victoria Zitrin:
"We had this big place on Sutter Street when we first opened V Boutique. It was still a social enterprise and I didn't know what I was doing. One door opened another door and everyone thought it was crazy because I didn’t want to take any money. I didn't know how, but my instinct told me that it would somehow work out. We had a couch in the front and people would always gather there to rest and tell stories when we first opened. These stories that I heard encouraged me because I knew that I was making a difference, that this space was making a difference. From then to now, this vision has become a place (physical and virtual) with a great sense of community.”
Although my focus was to ask questions about VenturaVie’s sense of community, I found that these questions were answered right from the self-introduction. I learned that VenturaVie, at its very center (including its foundations), is built on community and a safe space. As Victoria explains here, "VenturaVie transformed into what it is today from those connections with people in their neighborhood, from people who came in to rest and recover."
Renee also shared a really beautiful story with me that I would love to share about one such community experience:
“There was a family who came in and ended up spending an hour or so in the shop. If you come into the shop, you’re part of the community. When they were leaving, the mom took my hand and looked me straight in the eye, and said “Thank you so much.” It’s having that positive, memorable experience. She looked at me and thanked me for providing them this space. Having a brick-and-mortar nowadays is rare. How often do you see things like this in the cities now? It’s even more of a unique experience to go into a shop and get something you want and like. It’s become even more important than ever before.”
V Boutique - Days at the shop
I want to draw attention to that “brick and mortar” Renee mentioned. This really resonates as one of VenturaVie’s core values. It is about making those foundational connections with people and forming a network – not necessarily a corporate one, but a human one. Connecting on a really grounding level, where you meet people’s needs to know one another, is so essential. Another wonderful example of this through VenturaVie was their virtual HiVe program, created during Covid.
Like many small businesses, V Boutique was hit hard by Covid-19 and had to close up shop – of course, this never stopped them! I had the pleasure of speaking with Cheryl Mussachia, a volunteer, friend, and colleague of VenturaVie who has been involved closely with the non-profit since the beginning. She told me that VenturaVie’s V Boutique HiVe community worked together online with different kinds of outreach work, which included ...making face masks for the nurses… doing Zoom salons… and creating Covid capsule clothing. Cheryl said the Covid capsules were outfits put together with masks as accessories during the pandemic. VenturaVie was able to adapt and teach their interns new skills such as sewing, and how to be resilient and adaptable during these extremely difficult and unprecedented situations. I find this truly inspiring, and yet another testament to the power of outreach and community.
This collective power doesn’t end with VenturaVie and V Boutiques’ shop programs, but also with the surrounding community on a broader scale. From Marissa Pho, a former intern and current volunteer/colleague of Ventura Vie, I was able to learn about some of V Boutique/VenturaVie's programs: such as an annual walk with the local community. “One day out of the year we have a walk at Fisherman’s Wharf. We’ll open the shop with donuts and coffee, anyone can come. It’s a fun experience – just networking, and people of all ages come.” The relationship that VenturaVie has with its community in this way is so important to highlight. Connecting folks from diverse backgrounds, ages, and life experiences is not an easy feat, but it is something that the non-profit strives for with incredible success.
VenturaVie/V Boutique Community Mentoring Walk
I also want to dedicate some space to the efforts made by Cheryl Murray, a longtime supporter and friend of VenturaVie who I unfortunately was not able to interview at this time. Cheryl participated and was instrumental in the virtual Sunday Salons set up during Covid. She also suggested the art and poetry created by VenturaVie in lockdown and turned it into a beautifully published book, which came to fruition through a local grant. Many of these books were sold, and proceeds made from the books were given to a group called Doll’s Clan. This is a women’s collective in South America that uses graffiti art to communicate creatively regarding issues of domestic violence and sex trafficking.
Virtual Sunday Salon
“When I was a child I would be in my closet, having ‘transactions’ with people and clothes, and loved it. Now I have that for real and I think it’s a really good idea to listen to your inner voice and inner child. Sometimes you forget about that inner child.”
Victoria Zitrin and Matisse
I wanted to conclude with the quote above that I really resonated with from Victoria herself. At large, no matter what you pursue, we always carry our inner child with us and I have personally found it to be a powerful guiding force when I tune into it. I wanted this to be a reminder of the incredible things listening to that voice can create – just look at what VenturaVie has become!
VenturaVie continues to create free space for both live and virtual events.
Check here for upcoming events: VenturaVie Events.
A public charity,501(c) Fed Tax ID #82-4546535