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Woman of Distinction, Karen DiCarlo

By Amanda Ridder
Staff Writer
11/01/2015 at 01:48 PM

Karen DiCarlo has proven more than worthy of the title Woman of Distinction and Spirit of the Entrepreneur finalist. DiCarlo served as a volunteer at Santa Claus, Inc. (SCI) from 1986 to 2012. Santa Claus, Inc. is a 64-year-old non-profit organization that has been providing new toys, quality clothing, books, quilts, school supplies and personal care items to needy children at special Christmas Distributions since 1952. DiCarlo has helped the organization grow into the largest children’s charity in the Inland Empire. Having been elected president for nine years and hired as the first Executive Director, DiCarlo is tasked with the job of major fundraising to keep SCI stronger than ever before. “As the organization began to grow, it was necessary that somebody was accountable, especially for grants and to build strong national and local relationships,” DiCarlo said. The organization has been growing rapidly. In 2013, SCI provided gifts to a total of 20,000 kids. In 2014, DiCarlo helped increase that number to 55,000. This year so far SCI has increased its giving to approximately 72,000 children. “It’s rewarding to be part of a growing and vital organization that has the strong capacity to help so many kids,” she says. “Even though we still have a long way to go, it’s been satisfying to see our various programs grow and flourish.” So far in 2015, DiCarlo estimates that SCI has received over $2 million in kind donations from major manufacturers, such as Sketchers, Toys "R" Us, and more, through the accomplishment of its strong partnerships. Not only is she Executive Director for SCI, a mother, wife and grandmother, DiCarlo and her husband own a resort in Big Bear called Golden Bear Cottages. The DiCarlos are entrepreneurs and business owners by trade, and have been very successful in their careers. And DiCarlo isn’t slowing down anytime soon! She has two new major projects called “All My Own” and “Project Step Up.” “All My Own” is a partnership with Loma Linda Ronald McDonald House (LLRMH). Through this program, LLUMC and SCI work together to provide clothing, shoes, personal care items, baby items, toys, books, a fluffy blanket, and a teddy bear to children who are hospitalized and are already in or entering the foster care system. “So many of these children are going into the unknown when they leave the hospital. They need things that they can call 'All My Own,'" DiCarlo acknowledges. Children need to have comfort and familiarity as they are living in a new and temporary home. The second major project will be called “Project Step Up,” a 24-hour hotline for law enforcement officers from the San Bernardino Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to help get homeless families into a motel room during off hours. Officers will work directly with SCI. The organization will provide motel vouchers, food, and other emergency items for the family. Since homeless shelters close at 5 p.m., SCI is currently in the end of planning stages of this great partnership with our law enforcement agencies. Project Step Up will provide safety for those in dire need when other facilities are closed. DiCarlo is looking ahead to 2016 when the organization will be holding a “Spring Fling” giveaway for Easter. “Giveaways have been so much fun for kids,” she adds. “This is just one of many ways we will provide what they need throughout the year.” SCI has three college interns, and recently brought on a volunteer who graduated from college to work in marketing. As a role model for young men and women, DiCarlo offers a piece of advice to the next generation of volunteers: “Do your research and find an organization that you can fall in love with. You are the future of our nonprofits. Don’t hesitate; just jump in.” On Tuesday, Nov. 10 at the Riverside Convention Center, DiCarlo will be honored at the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards, an event that attracts over 800 people from businesses large and small. DiCarlo shares, “It’s a huge honor to be a finalist for this prestigious award. This is our 3rd nomination. We’re hoping that the 3rd time is a charm!” SCI is gearing up for the annual Christmas Distribution program in December, and is asking for more volunteers to help out. If you are interested in giving your time to help those in need, call the warehouse at 909-885-0090, or visit the location at 824 East 6th Street in San Bernardino.