Photo by Natalie Rocha
After serving the Santa Clarita Valley as a nonprofit leader and advisor for nearly 25 years, Lady Jane Bettencourt-Soto is moving to Henderson, Nevada with her husband, Richard, to “start a new adventure.”
“I have an amazing husband, who recently retired after 40 years with the same company,” she said. “It’s time for us to explore other things and have a great time.”
Bettencourt-Soto marches daily to the call of her community. With a self-proclaimed “warrior heart” and a penchant for positive change, the Saugus resident has maintained a steady commitment to volunteerism in the Santa Clarita Valley, all while refusing to let a lifetime of chronic illness stand in her way.
“Every moment is an opportunity to serve,” Jane said from the Saugus home she’s enjoyed with her husband and two grown children for 23 years.
Originally from Hawthorne, Bettencourt-Soto learned her spirit, a mix of fight and servant leadership, from her parents and picked up volunteering at an early age.
Professionally, she climbed the corporate ladder, amassing a career as a senior logistics planner for Northrop Grumman Corp. Yet Bettencourt-Soto had a challenge coming her way, and she was soon diagnosed with soft tissue rheumatism.
“Chronic pain and fatigue caused me to stop working,” she said. “Walking away was hard. We went from two incomes to one, relocated to Santa Clarita for the excellent schools, and I never worked a corporate job again.”
“I started going to this women’s group, Mes Amies, hosted by the Betty Ferguson Foundation” she said, “and they treated me like their long-lost cousin!”
Through her relationships with the co-founders, Judy Cox and Marjanne Priest, Bettencourt-Soto began to learn about the nonprofit world. Already equipped with leadership skills, she honed her ability to make things happen as she got to know local charities.
“Jane was an integral part of the Betty Ferguson Foundation for many years,” Priest said. “Her leadership skills, inspiration, dedication and enthusiasm were key to the success of our organization.”
Within the foundation, she climbed from volunteer director to leadership team to executive board member and, finally, to executive director.
“They saw me in the office for eight years, running the show,” she said. “All along, Judy and Marjanne were training, developing and empowering me. What I learned while being under their wing I took to all the organizations I worked with after.”
In 2011, they decided to dissolve the organization. But first, the three women made sure the foundation fulfilled its $100,000 Betty Ferguson Foundation Scholarship Endowment at College of the Canyons. The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce recognized the foundation with its first Nonprofit Award that same year.
“I am most proud of what I learned there, of the knowledge and tools I was given to better help others,” she said. “If it wasn’t for what I learned at the Betty Ferguson Foundation, I wouldn’t have been able to assist other nonprofits.”
“As long as I’m vertical, I’m going to find some way to help,” she said, laughing.
Tapping into issues that touched her heart, Bettencourt-Soto next gravitated toward Child & Family Center. Her brother had struggled with diabetes and severe mental illness for years, and often times, Bettencourt-Soto served as his caretaker. She knew she had to ease her heart’s pain by making change, so she joined the Child & Family Center Foundation in 2008. From advisor to executive board member to Taste of the Town committee, she has dedicated many hours to the organization.
Additionally, she has volunteered for the Chamber’s SCV Leadership Academy, SCV Nonprofit Leaders Network, American Cancer Society, Toastmasters International SCV, American Diabetes Association, Forged by Fire Foundation, SCV Senior Center and many more. She completed certifications in mental health first aid and volunteer management, and most importantly, she is constantly looking for her next opportunity to serve.
The community has responded by recognizing her wide-open heart whenever possible. Bettencourt-Soto is: a winner of the American Cancer Society SCV Unit’s Special Recognition Award; a three-time Woman of the Year nominee in 2009, 2015 and 2017; an honoree of The Signal’s Top 51 “The Next Level;” and a two-time honoree of Zonta Club of SCV’s Advancing the Status of Women Award.
With so much invested in the Santa Clarita Valley, the couple won’t be gone for long. After departing for Nevada in May, Bettencourt-Soto and her husband will visit often to attend their favorite charity events and social gatherings.
“I want to express to the community how grateful I am that my children were raised here, that I was exposed to some amazing organizations and that I was always greeted with love,” she continued. “We’ll see you soon at our favorite events for some hugs!”