Helping Youth in Need

Roger Mendelson and Joan Mendelson Sautter, longtime Members and Donors, credit OMCA with transforming the lives of underprivileged young people

When brother and sister Dr. Roger Mendelson and Joan Mendelson Sautter inherited their mother’s estate in 1999, they realized they had a special opportunity to effect change. Roger, a psychiatrist in Oakland and Berkeley, and Joan, a San Francisco-based estate planning attorney who calls the East Bay home, shared an abiding passion to help underserved youth—and wanted to apply their resources to support local institutions and organizations committed to this goal.

“Joan and I were raised in San Francisco, and both of us found ourselves in the East Bay by the 1970s,” Roger says. “Things were getting increasingly rough, especially in Oakland, and we wanted to do something to improve the safety and atmosphere here. We decided to try to help kids at a young age, so it might serve as a positive influence on their lives.”

Initially, Joan and Roger worked with the East Bay Community Foundation to establish a group of like-minded donors called the Youth Development Donor Circle. Additionally, as longtime Museum Members, they immediately recognized the value that OMCA brings to local school groups, broadening young people’s horizons through exposure to art, history, and the natural sciences. Ardent supporters of OMCA for many years, Joan and Roger treasure the Museum as a vibrant, inclusive institution that “takes much-needed risks,” Roger says. He cites the recent exhibitions about the Black Panther Party and marijuana in California as eye-opening examples of important shows “that you’d never find in most museums.”

“I just marvel at all the work the Museum does,” Joan says. “I love OMCA’s social events, their docent tours, the dedicated staff, the whole atmosphere. I am also a big supporter of the White Elephant Sale—I attend pre-sale events and donate frequently. It is so satisfying to know that we can make a difference in our community by supporting the Museum.”  

Photography: Terry Lorant.

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