Mark Levinson exemplifies the true spirit of volunteerism and community service. The 2015 Fernando Award recipient is actively engaged with nine boards, including his newest role as President of the Valley Village Foundation Board.
Mark first became aware of Valley Village through his involvement with the Encino Chamber of Commerce, where he met Kitty Cooper, a Valley Village parent and then-Secretary of the Valley Village Board of Directors. “Kitty introduced herself and Valley Village. Eventually, I met Valley Village staff who were seeking volunteers,” Mark explained. Valley Village hosts monthly community events. One Saturday a month, the organization hosts Super Saturday, a community-based program that brings together Valley Village clients, staff, and volunteers to enjoy activities like festivals, museums, and parks. Mark learned that anyone can help at Valley Village community events with snacks and supplies or helping to organize groups of clients. “When I got involved with Valley Village, I felt I was doing something worthwhile, and it was nice to meet other people. I learned the importance of how to engage with the clients and how to give them the best experience at each community outing.” Mark enjoyed his experience so much he has not missed one Super Saturday since he began volunteering with Valley Village.
Mark’s volunteerism with Valley Village grew after he attended his first annual meeting where he learned about how Valley Village is funded and the challenges the organization faces. “I started to attend Valley Village’s fundraisers.” One of the things Mark enjoys most about attending Valley Village fundraising events is sitting at tables with clients who can attend. “It makes me feel happy to spend time with them, help them when they need it, and assist the client support staff.”
It wasn’t long after this that Mark was invited to have lunch with Deb Donovan, Valley Village’s Executive Director. “Deb asked if I would be willing to be on the board. I was already on several other boards and wanted to be transparent to confirm no conflicts existed. I have plenty of energy, and I am willing to give my time.” When Mark officially joined the board, he remembers the group was celebrating a major milestone with a champagne toast. “I remember Deb Donovan smiled and said to me that we don’t serve champagne at every board meeting.” Over the years, Mark’s role on the board has evolved. “I was asked to sit in as Secretary while Dolores Zimmermann (a Valley Village founding parent) needed time to care for her husband. When Dolores decided to step away from her role, but not the board, I became secretary of the Foundation Board.” In 2020, Mark was elected President of the Foundation Board.
Why Valley Village? Mark chooses to spend his time supporting Valley Village because the organization does a tremendous amount for people with developmental disabilities, many who are completely dependent on other’s care. “It’s the significance of the contribution to Valley Village and the clients’ needs. The services are lifesaving. That and the impact Valley Village makes on the families of the clients – peace of mind knowing their children are in excellent care. Valley Village exists for the clients AND their families.” The impact is much greater than individuals receiving care. Our clients are always going to be dependent on us, some more than others. Knowing that so many of the parents are involved tells you something about Valley Village. “People like me who don’t have children in the programs see the value and impact and we are committed to the organization and its mission.”
Mark’s volunteerism and engagement with Valley Village extend well beyond Super Saturdays and the board. He’s participated in and volunteered at the annual Village Run/Walk and Showtime events. Mark placed 3rd in his age group at the 2018 Run/Walk. He is a founding member of the Valley Village Business Council. He supports efforts to grow the Valley Village Legacy Group through planning and engaging in activities that support outreach to new and potential members. “I am very fortunate to have the time and support of my family to help others.”
When Mark was nominated for the Fernando Award in 2015, he was certain he would not win. “I was told that you don’t win the first time you’re nominated.” He received the award that year. I was relaxed and having a good time since I was not expecting to win the award, and I had no speech prepared. Mark shared that when he took the stage to accept the award, he said “This as a challenge to do more, not less.” Mark is a man of his word. He currently serves on the following boards: Valley Family Center, Child Development Institute, Fernando Foundation, Mid Valley YMCA, Encino Chamber of Commerce, Calabasas Chamber of Commerce, Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce, United Chambers and Valley Village Foundation Board.
Mark is an attorney, and he practices family law. He graduated from CSUN with a B.S. in Political Science. He earned his law degree from USC. In December, Mark and his wife will celebrate 50 years of marriage. He and his wife have a daughter, a son-in-law one granddaughter. He is a native of Southern California, where he has lived all his life.
If you’d like to learn more about opportunities to become a volunteer at Valley Village, visit the volunteer section of our website.