A lifetime of service to SCV

Jane Bettencourt-Soto, was honored in The Signal's Top 51 “Emerging Leaders” category on Oct. 27, 2016. Dan Watson/The Signal

For nearly 25 years, Jane Bettencourt-Soto has dedicated countless hours of volunteerism and service to nonprofit organizations throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

“From the time we got here we just had a sense of family,” she said.  “The city and all the organizations and every person we came in contact with became our other family.”

Bettencourt-Soto has acted as a volunteer director, advisor, leadership team member, executive board member, executive director and president at organizations like the Betty Ferguson Foundation, Circle of Hope, Inc., Child and Family Center and the SCV Nonprofit Leaders Network.

Her nonprofit work has earned her honors like the American Cancer Society SCV Unit’s Special Recognition Award and The Signal’s “51” Emerging Leaders award.

And now, after residing in Saugus for 23 years, Bettencourt-Soto will be leaving the Santa Clarita Valley in May to move to Henderson, Nev. with her husband, Richard.

“We’re going miss Santa Clarita and, in making the decision to leave, we had to find a place we felt was up to par,” Bettencourt-Soto said.  “I think I’m going to go off the grid for a while and I think my husband and I are going to enjoy each other again.”

But before she leaves, local organizations are recognizing the time and effort she dedicated to nonprofits in the area.

Originally from Hawthorne, Calif., Bettencourt-Soto learned about service and leadership from her parents.  She became involved in volunteerism as a high school student working at the Hawthorne Community Hospital.

“When I was in high school and we took a test to figure out what we want to be when we grow up and I always leaned toward helping people,” she said.

She then married her husband at 21 and began her career as a senior logistics planner for Northrop Grumman Corporation.

However, when she was diagnosed with soft tissue rheumatism—a combination of clinical problems related to tendons, ligaments, fascia and bursae—Bettencourt-Soto had to leave her corporate job to focus on her health.

“Walking away from my career was really hard,” she said.  “We went from two incomes to one, relocated to Santa Clarita for the excellent schools and I never worked a corporate job again.”

When her family moved to Santa Clarita, however, Bettencourt-Soto began volunteering with his two children’s Parent Teach Associations (PTAs) and Site Councils.

Soon after she began working with the Betty Ferguson Foundation’s Mes Amies book club and leadership program.  It was there that she developed a relationship with the foundation’s co-founders Judy Cox and Marjanne Priest.

“I always want to help somebody, that has always been a part of who I am,” she said.  “Depending on their mission, if an organization touches my heart then that’s my first clue to get involved.”

During her eight years with the foundation, she moved up the ranks from a volunteer director to the executive director while launching the Youth With a Voice empowerment program and learning about the nonprofit world.

When the organization dissolved in 2011, Bettencourt-Soto helped fulfill the Betty Ferguson Foundation Scholarship Endowment at College of the Canyons.

Soon after she met Colleen Shaffer at Circle of Hope and served as the founding president of the organization.

While she was doing so, she joined the Child and Family Center Foundation where she served as an advisor and an executive board member for nine years.

“I think she had a good perspective on how nonprofit organizations work,” said Cheryl Jones, vice president of marketing and community outreach for the Child and Family Center.  “She was very passionate about the cause which is mental health services.”

Jones said Bettencourt-Soto acted as an advocate for the organization by helping at events and getting others involved in the nonprofit.

“She’s been a very supportive board member,” Jones said.  “The board members at Child and Family Center will really miss Jane and her husband.”

As she leaves the valley to start her new life, Bettencourt-Soto said the thing she will miss the most about the community is the people.

“We go to a lot of events and it’s like going to a family reunion,” she said.  “Everyone I see in town that I know we greet each other with hugs.”

As she and her husband start the next chapter of their lives, Bettencourt-Soto said they will still keep ties with the community they know and love.

“We already have on the calendar our list of favorite events to come back to next year,” she said.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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