Talks and Walks Through Lotusland

By Richard Mineards   |   March 21, 2023
Mark Schmidt, Rick Vitelle, Tony Ybarra, Joseph Marek, Mari Mitchel, and Ron Caird (photo by Priscilla)

Lotusland, the 37-acre botanical paradise just a tiara’s toss from Westmont College, goes from strength to strength even though visitor numbers to the former estate of Polish opera legend Ganna Walska are limited to 20,000 visitors annually, including 5,000 guests for educational programs.

Treasurer Stephen Schaible told the annual meeting held in the charming Theatre Garden the estate has a $5M operating budget with between 39 and 49 employees, depending on the season, and 200 active volunteers.

But, given the restriction on numbers, “we have at least one hand tied behind our back,” leaving Lotusland with an annual operating deficiency of $850,000 helped by an investment portfolio of $17.7 million managed by Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs.

President David Jones said there had been a 20-percent increase in membership revenue, while the popular annual gala had increased its revenue by 35 percent, a record.

Board certified internist John La Puma, a professionally trained chef and New York Times bestselling author, considered the founder of culinary medicine, talked about the importance of connecting with gardens, nature, and good food as a way of preventing and treating medical problems.

“Lotusland is a magical oasis of tranquility,” he told guests, who then adjourned to the Great Lawn for an al fresco lunch serenaded by a guitarist.

Among the supporters enjoying the crowd-free serenity of the event were Ginni Dreier, Caroline and Steve Thompson, Connie Pearcy, Mark and Maria Schmidt, Thomas Rollerson, Joseph Marek, Palmer and Susan Jackson, Merryl Brown, and Executive Director Rebecca Anderson.


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