‘Not your mother’s Ebell,’ says board member Janna Bodek Harris

| August 3, 2017 | 0 Comments

              JANNA BODEK HARRIS

Longtime Windsor Square resident Janna Bodek Harris has a message to all of the young women reading this: join the Ebell of Los Angeles.

“The club is a jewel in our community,” says Harris, who serves on the board of directors for the organization.

“Really, I feel like every woman in this neighborhood should be a member.”

Born and raised on the Westside, Harris left Los Angeles as a young woman to attend Wesleyan University in Connecticut. After graduating with a double major in American studies and film, she relocated to New York City, where she lived for nearly six years before meeting her future husband James Harris, who, coincidentally, also is a native Angeleno.

“I would probably still live in NYC if I hadn’t met my husband. He dragged me back,” Harris says with a laugh. “The deal was we would try living back in Los Angeles for two years, and if I wasn’t happy, we would try somewhere else.”

Returning to the West Coast, the couple first lived in Cheviot Hills. It was then that Harris, who says she has always had a passion for architecture, renovated a house in West Adams as a business project.

While working in the area, it didn’t take Harris long to discover the well-preserved homes in the historic neighborhood of Windsor Square. Shortly after, the couple sold their Westside property and moved to Norton Ave., where they lived for 15 years, and for the past 12 years, the couple has lived on Lucerne Blvd.

“I love that it’s a real community. That you can walk along Larchmont Blvd. and run into people you know,” says Harris.

Having raised two children in the neighborhood, Harris can recall many wonderful memories walking up and down Larchmont to grab supplies or heading a bit further to play a match at the Los Angeles Tennis Club.

“It’s wonderful having Chevalier’s Books so close,” she adds. “When my kids were little, it was nice to be able to walk them over for events and story hour.”

When Harris talks about the things she loves best about the Larchmont community, the Ebell Club is near the top.

“Most people don’t know that the Ebell does impressive educational and philanthropic work,” she explains of the organization, which was founded by local women in 1894.

To all the younger women living in the neighborhood, Harris explains: “This is not your mother’s Ebell anymore.” And with annual membership fees around $270, there’s no excuse not to join, she notes. “There aren’t many clubs that you can join for that.”

Recruiting Ebell Club members is important, according to Harris, because the club needs to survive to allow for its many philanthropic endowments to continue.

In 2012, Harris was tapped to be the club’s program chair, a role she took seriously.

“I really wanted to make the programming as diverse as possible to try and appeal to our diverse membership.”

Harris points out that the Ebell’s membership “is pretty unique” in that it is made up of women from many backgrounds, young and old, working and stay-at-home moms of all races.

As program chair, Harris resurrected a long lost Ebell tradition to give members the opportunity to do hands-on activities to help the non-profits that the club supports each year through the Rest Cottage Endowment Fund.

“It’s a wonderful way for our members to work together to help women in need.”

These hands-on activities have previously included members knitting squares that are then put together to make blankets they donate to breast cancer patients at Good Sam Hospital, donating cooked dishes so members can bring dinner to residents at Alexandria House once a month, and donating personal hygiene items for the residents at Teen Project.

Harris’ approach to programming was to try and encourage as many people as she could to get involved and share ideas.

“What I found is that if we created program series, then it’s pretty easy to plug things in,” says Harris. And from 2012-2016, that’s exactly what she did, organizing lunch speakers and ongoing events like the “Live in the Lounge” and themed wine pairing dinners.

Although Harris is no longer the program chair — “There’s a terrific woman doing programs now,” she says — Harris now serves as the club’s treasurer. And she continues to promote Ebell membership.

“It’s a wonderful community of women,” she says. “I’ve met some amazing people who I otherwise would never have met, worked with or had fun with.”


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Category: People

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