On Nov. 16, Livermore's Shepherd's Gate, a women's shelter, hosted the Alliance of Women Professionals so their residents could learn from and be inspired by successful women.

The panel included chiropractors, office managers, an attorney, financial adviser, real estate agent and hair dresser. The event was the first time professional women have come to the shelter to offer their advice.

One woman who had been at the shelter for only one week was interested in becoming an attorney. Another woman who has been at the shelter for seven months was inspired by the women.

"It was very nice and uplifting," she said. She said becoming a financial adviser is something that might interest her. Before coming to the shelter, she was homeless for a brief time with her 8-year-old son. While many women at the shelter are victims of domestic abuse, this woman said her son was the victim. She says she caught her father abusing her son, and when she turned him in to the police, she was rejected by her family. At around the same time, she lost her job and had nowhere to turn.

"This place offers me stability and helps me with my spiritual relationship. Most of all, it offers safety for my son," she said.

Sima Alefi, a financial adviser with Edward Jones, organized the event, finding a broad-spectrum of professional women for the panel. She led off the presentations.


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"When I started out I didn't have anything," said Alefi. "I was 19 years old when I got married. I was going through school while I had a child, and then I had a second child. So I finished my education while I was a full-time worker and a mother.

"I want you to know that you, too, can set goals today. You can follow your dreams and you can achieve those goals down the road. You have a tremendous amount of potential," she said.

Alefi cited recent statistics showing the growing economic power of women. She also described how people can accumulate wealth slowly over time even with a small initial investment.

Esther Langofer, a real estate agent, informed them how they can eventually achieve the dream of homeownership, and gave some tips on renting in this economy. Kathy McCloud, the office manager at Tollefson CPA Firm, told the women how she started working just a couple hours as a yard supervisor in Livermore while raising her children and going to school. Her husband had a pay cut, and she knew she would have to increase her income, so she began taking classes at Las Positas. A woman she befriended in class recommended her for hire at an accounting firm, the same firm she now works at many years later.

Keely Coleman, owner of Maurice Salon in Danville, told them that they don't necessarily have to get a four-year degree to have a successful career. Dr. Niele Maimone and Dr. Kristin Hazleton, of Align Healing Center in Danville, told them about their career paths to becoming chiropractors and then offered treatment and aroma therapy to the women after the presentations.

Kathleen Reeves, a family law attorney for 30 years who offered legal advice to the women after the presentations, asked the women to raise their hands if they have children, and most of the women raised their hands, including one woman pregnant with number four.

"As I look out at all these beautiful faces, you are our future," Reeves said. "The most important thing I see here is that you want to take care of your children. As you become more secure, the more secure they become. The less emotionally drained you are, the better your children are going to be."

"All of you are amazing to accept what Shepherd's Gate is offering you and using it. If you take advantage of what's being offered to you and you do your part to get through it, you save your lives, and you save your children's lives, and you will be able to go forward and turn around and help other women," Reeves said.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@bayareanewsgroup.com.