President’s Message 2020-2021

(Please also read our incoming president Joanne Quijano’s message)

(July 2021) What a year! If ever there was an opportunity to prove ourselves trailblazing and tenacious, this was it.  In spite of the challenges of the pandemic, we were able to advance gender equity through each of our three action areas: research, education and advocacy.

Research – We started the year with a member survey to find out what you, our members, needed from our organization and we planned our annual activities around your input.

Education – We held six mission based educational programs that we delivered via Zoom.  We took advantage of the Zoom format to distribute the program content more widely than was possible with in-person events.  We invited our neighboring AAUW branches to join our programs and launched successful publicity and social media campaigns that drew 125 members of the public to register for our programs.

Local Scholarships – We raised over $18,500 from our July Garden Tour which we awarded this year to Local Scholars and we already have $4,000 in our fund for next year based on the first Evening Stroll at Ruth Bancroft Garden.

Tech Trek – We funded 16 virtual campers this year using a portion of the funds we had from last year’s cancelled camps.  And based on your generous donations, the two corporate sponsors we secured, the $1,700 we raised from our Mangia Mi dinner event, and the remaining funds from the cancelled 2020 camps, we already have almost enough funds to support our campers in 2022!

Advocacy – Based on your survey data, we reinvigorated our advocacy activities, with our Get Out the Vote postcard writing campaign, a joint program with the League of Women Voters on California ballot initiatives and our co-sponsored school board candidate program with the San Ramon Valley PTA.  Three of our members joined Lobby Day to educate state legislators on the most important bills for our AAUW CA agenda.   We reinstated our monthly Public Policy Update in The Advocate.  And we are looking to strengthen our advocacy effectiveness next year by coordinating our efforts with neighboring branches.

AAUW FUND – Based on our solicitation letter and our Montecatini Triple Win fundraiser dinner, our branch contributed $13,500, mostly to the Greatest Needs Fund, where our contributions are most needed to support the broad spectrum of programs and support provided by our national organization.

Thank you for the opportunity to lead our group of remarkable women whose generous contributions of time, energy and resources enabled us to achieve so much in difficult times.  Thank you to the Board members who worked so well and so hard to lead our initiatives.  And thank you to all our members who supported our branch’s work this year.  I look forward to seeing you all in person soon to continue our work under the able leadership of our new President Joanne Quijano.

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21

(June 2021) After a year like this, I think we can clearly confirm that we are trailblazing!

At our June 17th branch meeting, Celebrating Local Scholars and Executive Board Installation, we will reap the rewards of our work as we present our Local Scholarships valued at over $18,000 to 12 deserving candidates!  We will have the opportunity to hear from many of the awardees at the meeting.  We will also officially install our newly-elected Executive Board and thank our outgoing board members for their efforts.  

Also coming up July 28 & 29 are the second two Evening Strolls at the Ruth Bancroft Gardens.  This time, the dramatic annual garden sculpture exhibit will be on display, so, even if you attended our first stroll, the garden will be transformed to a new experience for a second visit.  Please be sure to invite your friends to this very enjoyable activity that will support our Local Scholarships for 2022.

Since we are continuing our fundraising into July, we are planning an August Membership Appreciation Garden Party that we can all attend in-person!  This will be a wonderful opportunity for us to reconnect with our AAUW friends, re-energize our interest groups and celebrate all that our members do to support each other and our important projects.  We are still working on a date and will keep you posted. 

Finally, congratulations to Deborah Wechsler, Marsha Anderson and to all the volunteers who made our first Evening Stroll at the Ruth Bancroft Garden a stunning success!  This creative alternative for our annual garden event was a delightful way to safely provide an enjoyable experience to raise funds in the face of COVID restrictions. With this start, we are well on our way to another year of generous funding for our local scholarships program.  Thank you to all who participated and attended.

Have a wonderful beginning of summer and I look forward to seeing you all at our June 17th meeting.

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21

(May 2021) As the weather warms and our pandemic restriction ease, I hope we are all feeling like emerging from our cocoons into glorious days ahead! 

Are you ready to get out for a beautiful evening outdoors?  Our garden tour this year will be a social distancing-friendly series of evening strolls through the Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek.  The May 21st event features a special wine tasting donated by Bette Felton’s Sky Terrace Vineyards as well as the special Ikebana Japanese Artscape exhibit.  We are planning two additional evening strolls on July 28 and 29.  Proceeds will fund our Local Scholarships. Please buy your tickets now for the May 21st event.

Be sure to join our next member event, the May 6th Creativity Night program via Zoom at 5:00 PM.  It’s an opportunity to see examples of the amazing creativity among our members and to cast your vote for next year’s slate of DAW AAUW Board candidates.

And please save the date on June 17th for our end-of-year Member Appreciation Night where we will honor this year’s 12 deserving Local Scholarship winners, recognize our members’ efforts and contributions, and formally install our 2021-22 Board Members. 

Since we already have big social events in May and June, we will end our Wine, Chat and Board Update social chat time for the year.  Thank you to all who attended, and I hope you enjoyed this opportunity to connect with other members during the pandemic isolation.  I know it was a pleasure for me! 

And, on the horizon, we are already planning our first in-person event!  Save the date for our Membership Brunch on September 25 at the Crow Canyon Country Club! 

Finally, please make your voice heard on the AAUW national vote on eliminating the degree requirement for membership, and on the AAUW CA state ballot to elect director candidates and to approve legislative priorities and proposed bylaws changes.  Your ballots are in your email (or paper mail if you unsubscribed from AAUW electronic communications.)

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21

(April 2021) The pandemic may have kept us physically distant, but we continue to find new and wonderful ways to nourish our social connections and to support our important projects. This month’s Advocate issue contains a wealth of information on our accomplishments and upcoming activities.

The big news is that this year’s garden-themed fundraiser will be re-imagined into a series of three private Garden Strolls in partnership with the Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek.  Marsha Anderson and Deborah Wechsler have been working with the garden staff to create a memorable and special experience for our attendees. Proceeds will fund our Local Scholarships; we will look to reinstate our traditional Garden Tour next year.

I hope you will all join our April 21st “Local Women in Encore Careers“ program. It will feature several inspiring women who will share how they added meaning and joy to their lives in “encore” careers after 50. And we can discuss our thoughts on the topic at our Wine Chat & Board meeting the following evening, April 22nd!

Now is the time to get ready for our May 6th Creativity Night program. This is your opportunity to share whatever you do that is somehow creative (decorating, baking, art, poetry, music, gardening, organizing?). We will also collect the final votes on the candidate slate for our 2021-22 branch officers.

Meanwhile, applications are arriving for our Local Scholarships and we have lots of deserving candidates. Tech Trek plans are on the move and there’s still time to be a coach or volunteer in some other way to join the activity.

Our branch also made our voices heard in the California State Legislature. Our members joined the AAUW CA March 24th Lobby Day where we held meetings with our state legislators to solicit their support on three top-priority bills for AAUW California. Our board voted to endorse the Ballot Disclose Act (SB90 and AB 1416) which will improve voter education by printing the supporting and opposing groups for initiatives on our state ballots. 

Voting opens April 7 on our own AAUW national proposal to eliminate the degree requirement for AAUW membershipClick here for detailed information including a video from members on the topic, attend the AAUW National Town Hall on Member Education Requirements Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 1pm, and please be sure to cast your vote online beginning April 7th.

Wishing you a joyous spring,

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21

(March 2021)  Vaccines are finally finding their way to us!  Many of you have reported having received at least one shot and we are looking forward to gradually expanding our in-person contacts starting with our families.  I know these vaccines are just in the nick of time for me as my grandson prepares to go to pre-school and I am sure many of us have similar reasons to be happy about being vaccinated.  I hope we can all breathe a sigh of relief soon.

Meanwhile, our DAW branch is in full action.  If you missed the Women in STEM program in February, you can click here to watch the recorded session.  The two speakers, Chitra Manohar and Nitya Furtado, will become the two newest members of our branch, so please welcome them by hearing their stories.

The deadline is March 3 to vote in the AAUW 2021 Art Contest.  Many of our members have contributed their talents to this effort so please enjoy the beautiful art and vote for your favorites!

Also coming up quickly on March 8 at 5:00 pm is our next branch program celebrating International Women’s Day.  This is a joint program with the Benicia-Vallejo AAUW branch.  We start with opening remarks by our Lieutenant Governor, Eleni Kounalakis, and feature four of our members who will share some of their extraordinary contributions to making the world a more equitable place for women.  We have amazing women in our two AAUW branches, and this is a great way to learn more about their inspiring stories.

Speaking of inspiration, the branch Nominating Committee is looking for candidates; here’s your chance to participate and help us support women’s equity and education in our community!  Please contact Joanne Quijano to learn more.

On the fundraising front, we are looking forward to delivering our Mangia Mi dinners on March 3 with $19 plus any tips supporting our Tech Trek program.  Our thanks to Susan Terzuoli and Robin Halloran for leading this effort and to the volunteers who will deliver the meals.  I hope you are enjoying these smaller social-distance-friendly fundraising programs that enable us to maintain our project funding.  Your feedback is always welcome to me or Susan Terzuoli.

Finally, as you know, we have an upcoming vote from April 7 to May 17 on the proposal from our National AAUW to eliminate the degree requirement for membership. There is extensive information about the pros and cons of this issue on the AAAW Open Membership page, as well as an article on the topic in this month’s Advocate.  Please be sure to make your voice heard on this issue.

I hope you are all doing well in this last month of winter preparing to welcome Spring and are able to expand our social worlds a bit!

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21

(February 2021) January got off to a rocky start with the event of January 6 leaving us shaken and horrified at the attempted takeover of our nation’s capital. Both National AAUW and CA AAUW have strongly condemned the insurgent activities surrounding the transition of power and demanded that those responsible be held accountable.

Nonetheless, our democratic institutions prevailed and we now have a new Washington administration with our first woman Vice President in place that is aligned with our AAUW goals of equity for women! As we get our vaccinations and gradually awaken from what feels like a long hibernation, we look forward to stepping up our activities in our community.

Our branch January program, Race and Racism with Dr. Lori Watson was extremely timely and informative. Because the session was interactive, we did not record it. So, I hope you were able to join in. I know that I took away several ideas about how I could personally act to address the specific challenges face by women of color.

Our January Wine Chat and Board Update topic was “What is the first thing you want to do after the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted?” We had lots of fun sharing our aspirations to travel, hug loved ones, and get back into our public life activities. Our next Wine Chat and Board Update is February 18 at 5:00 pm. So please join me and your AAUW friends for this fun social chat time.

This month’s program comes up very soon. Be sure to mark your calendar for Tuesday, February 9 for our “Women in STEM” program, celebrating mother and daughter scientists and their journeys in two different time periods in the male-dominated STEM world.

In this Advocate edition, you will be treated to the first of a new series of articles “What was it Like for You, Mom?”, written by our editor, Beth Clark, and based on experiences shared by our members and other women. This will be a collection of anecdotes and remembrances of what the world was like before women gained the rights we have today. I expect we will be motivated by these reflections to want to share them with younger women and to encourage us all to continue our efforts toward equality for all.

Please read the letter from Julia Brown on the proposal from our National AAUW to eliminate the degree requirement for membership. You can learn more about this proposal on the AAUW Open Membership page.   Comments are being accepted until February 5. Votes will be held from April 7 to May 17. Please be prepared to make your voice heard on this issue

Finally, we continue to upgrade our website. I invite you to take a look at our Volunteers Needed page that lists volunteer opportunities within AAUW. If you are looking for a way to contribute, here’s quick access to the activities you can join. We also added invitations from our local sister AAUW branches to the “To Do” list side bar on our webpages, and created a page “Other Branch News. These should help you take advantage of all our regional zoom programs. I hope this website is a great resource for all of us to find the latest and greatest on DAW AAUW.

Wishing you all a good month and I look forward to seeing you at our next event.

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21

(January 2021) Welcome to the New Year! I know I am happy to see the dawn of new hope for the vaccine as our path to returning to lunch dates, coffee together, and eventually even attending a group event. We will, of course, move very cautiously as an AAUW group by continuing our meetings and events virtually until our health officials advise us it is safe to meet.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t joined our virtual Zoom events, I encourage you to try out our next Wine, Chat and Board Update Party on January 21 from 5:00 to 6:00 pm. If you need help getting started, see Tips for Those New to Zoom. If you want to practice or need a one-on-one helper, drop our webmaster Teresa Cheung an email via our web contact page and she will set you up with a Zoom pal. Virtual meetings can be a lot of fun and help us keep in touch with our friends and moving forward in our lives.

Speaking of moving forward, we have learned that Tech Trek is going virtual this summer. Deborah Wechsler shares the plan for Tech Trek. We are looking for lots of volunteers to help advise the campers via Zoom. So, here’s another reason to become a Zoomer! Please contact Deborah Wechsler if you want to take part in this rewarding effort.

Bette Felton’s article reviews our wonderful educational programming so far this year, and announces our next event on January 27, focused on Race and Racism. The program features an experienced workshop leader who will teach us new approaches to doing our part to end racism. Please share the invitation with your friends as this event is open to all.

Advocacy is also back in focus this month; it’s time to register for AAUW CA Advocacy Days, which will be held virtually this March. You need to sign up for training meetings by January 8. See the details in the article about the AAUW CA Public Policy virtual lobby day and join the effort to support representatives in Sacramento who support our agenda.

Here’s to 2021 as a year of joy and progress with the help of COVID vaccine! I look forward to seeing you all soon at our next events.

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21


(December 2020) We wrap up a truly astounding year—capped off with a break-through for all women with our first woman Vice President of the United States. Please take a moment to read the AAUW Statement from our president, Kim Churches, expressing our pride in Kamala Harris’ election and our hopeful expectations for the new administration to unite our country (Page 3 of our December Advocate newsletter) .

We are entering our holiday season in a very different world with pandemic restrictions. Yet, we seek to experience the joy and peace of the season.

I hope you enjoyed our November program, Embracing Life Online, where we learned how various digital communication tools can help us to communicate. Despite the pitfalls of social media, we believe these apps, along with video conferencing, can enrich our lives in a time when in person meetings are not possible. We are relying heavily on Zoom, for example, to continue our branch activities. If you need help connecting to zoom, please check out the article  on page 5 of our December Advocate newsletter to learn the basics. If you need more help, please let us know by contacting the webmaster to ask for a one-on-one mentor to help you join in programs and events.

Our November Triple-Win FUNDraiser was a smashing success. Thanks to our Team Leaders, Susan Terzuoli and Teresa Cheung, and to all our members who supported FUND with a wonderful meal. We held our second Zoom Wine Chat and Board Update party on the same evening and enjoyed a fun social check-in time loosely centered on our online life experiences. Our next Wine, Chat and Board Update party will be January 21 at 5:00 pm – it’s a fun way to catch up with your AAUW friends.

Our December Program will kick off the holiday season with a festive social event via Zoom, complete with party games and other activities. Join in to share holiday cheer and fellowship, Dec. 3, 5-7:00 p.m.

Your 20-21 AAUW Member Directory should have just arrived via snail mail. Thanks so much to Joanne Quijano for leading this major effort.

Finally, I want to extend our thanks to Aline Soules, our Advocate Editor, for her excellent work in creating our newsletter, and join me in welcoming Beth Clark as she takes the helm with the January issue. The dedicated work of all our many volunteers is something for which we can be truly grateful.

Wishing you and your family a healthy and happy holiday season.
Chris Ritter
President 2020-21


(November 2020) With the election looming, I hope we are all making our voices heard at the ballot box. Last month, our extremely successful “California 2020 Ballot Initiatives: Pros and Cons” program enabled us to reach over 130 individuals from our local AAUW  branches and the public. I am encouraged by these early results of our community outreach.

Our Fall virtual Membership Brunch was attended by 42 of our current members. During the  program, we welcomed 23 new members to our group. We all enjoyed an inspiring presentation
by one of our AAUW national FUND Fellows, Araceli González, followed by branch leaders sharing our plans for the year and the members approving our budget.

We also held our first “Wine, Chat and Board Update Party” where 17 of us shared our personal histories and connections with AAUW, and chatted about our current branch activities. The
party is a fun way to stay in touch with our AAUW friends. Next up is our November Program, “Embracing Life Online”, led by two Social Media entrepreneurs who will help us understand
the what, how and whys of the common applications so we can use them to our advantage.

BREAKING NEWS! Our fundraising team came up with a wonderful new idea to enjoy a delicious meal, support AAUW FUND and support our local businesses—the Triple-Win FUNDraiser, November 19.  For your donation, you will receive a wonderful three-course meal from Montecatini restaurant delivered to your door. Our Wine Chat and Board Zoom Party that evening will follow at 7:00 pm so we can enjoy dessert and socializing after our dinners. Check out the details in the Triple-Win FUNDraiser article.

I look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events.

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21

(October 2020) What a relief to see our California blue skies again. I hope you are all faring well in our new COVID-safe lives.

Our website says, “we are tenacious and trailblazing”, so I am happy to announce that we will demonstrate our tenacity by moving forward with a full menu of 2020-21 programs and events while trailblazing new ways of using virtual tools to keep us safe and keep us connected.

Our Website is Key to Staying Connected in our Virtual World

We are placing new emphasis on the website to keep it chock full of timely information about branch events and other news.  Click here to check it out.

With our new virtual activities, we will post the zoom meeting links in Members Only pages so that unwanted “guests” will not join our meetings.  Please click here to take a look at the Members Only website page and click on the Zoom Meeting Links.  You will be asked for a password.  If you don’t know the Members Only password, please go to our main web site, choose “about”, then “contact”, and send a request for password to our webmaster, Teresa Cheung.

Upcoming (Virtual) Programs and Events

Membership Brunch- Oct 3, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

We launch our year with our virtual Membership Brunch.  This year, we have a wonderful AAUW FUND Fellow as our speaker, who will inspire us with her work in rural education. We will also announce our full calendar of branch events, volunteer opportunities and approve our branch operating budget. The Zoom meeting link is in your email invitation sent Sept 9 and on the Members Only Zoom Links page of our website.

California 2020 Ballot Initiatives: Pros and Cons – Tuesday Oct 6, 5:00 – 6:30PM

Here’s a great opportunity to arm ourselves with information on California’s 2020 Ballot Initiatives.  We are co-sponsoring this event with the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley.  Both members and the public are invited so please spread the word.  The Zoom meeting link is in your email invitation sent Sept 14 and on the Members Only Zoom Links page of our website.

New Wine Chat and Board Update:  Starts October 22, 5:00 – 6:00 PM
Repeats monthly on the Thursday after the third Wednesday Board Meeting.

All members are invited to join me and other Board Members for a new monthly quick-update and social event called “Wine, Chat and Board Update”.   This will be an opportunity to learn the latest branch news followed by small group activities where you can interact with a variety of other members.  I hope we will all meet members who we did not already know.  The meeting link is on the Members Only Zoom Links page of our website.  I will also send an email invitation with the link closer to the date.

So, What’s So Important About Social Media?  Tuesday, November 10, 6:30-8:00PM.

Our November program features two leading women Social Media Entrepreneurs. They will discuss how the use of social media, zoom and events in the digital world are present in daily life, from careers, to dating and socializing with friends and family.  Watch for your email invitation and DAW AAUW website info.

Friends, Fun and Enjoying the Holiday Season: Thursday, December 3, 5:00 – 7:00 PM

Save the date for our December Social Program:  We are planning to jump-start the holiday season with an all branch social mixer event.  Details to follow.

Call for Public Policy Advocates

Public Policy Chair, Asha Baja, is looking for a few good activists who want to help us boost our public policy activities to increase our influence in our local community.  To find out more about the Public Policy Committee opportunities, please contact Asha Bajaj.

Call for Advocate Editor

We extend our sincere thanks to Aline Soules, our intrepid Advocate Editor since March, 2019.  Aline has decided to step down from her position after our December issue.  We will miss her helpful editing of our informative and enjoyable newsletter.

If you would like a fun position where you can to try out your newsletter editing skills (we use standard word processing software), please contact Chris Ritter right away.  We need your help.

I hope to see you at our upcoming events.  As always, please contact me with your thoughts, reactions and ideas for our branch at any time.

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21

(September 2020) With our successful garden fundraiser in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward into our new year of joining together to support our mission and each other.

Virtual Membership Brunch– Our first meeting will be our virtual Membership Brunch featuring AAUW Fellow Araceli González who will be speaking on “Education Equity and Access in Rural Communities”. This October 3rd event will begin at 11:00 AM and will also include new-member introductions, Interest Groups updates, and unveiling of our Calendar of Activities and other special initiatives for this year. Watch your email for your zoom meeting invitation.

Member Survey Results – It’s probably no surprise to us that the main reason we belong to DAW AAUW is to “connect with like-minded women for social interactions, individual growth and support”. We also seemed to need a stronger advocacy program for members to directly affect our mission. See what our membership values and is willing to support in the Member Survey Results article.

Join the Voter Access Postcard Project – Armed with our survey results and direction from our national AAUW to support voter access, we already launched our first advocacy initiative sending postcards to unregistered voters. We moved quickly in order to support the November election process. The postcard writing phase of this project is now complete but phone banking and texting options are still available. Please read about the details and learn how to sign up for this project in Asha Bajaj’s Public Policy Update article.

Review our FY21 Plan and Budget – Your Board of Directors met to craft our FY21 branch goals, strategies and activities during our Summer Strategy Meeting. Strategy Meeting Results are reported in this issue of the Advocate and full plan and budget will be posted on our website after our September 16th Board Meeting under Annual Goals & Budget. We will send you an email ballot at the end of September requesting your approval of the FY21 budget. Contact me if you have any questions or feedback.

Website Update – If you haven’t visited our website recently, please take a look at its updated organization. We will be making a concerted effort this year to keep everything current so the web site will become your first stop for information. Please check out the details in the article by our new webmaster, Teresa Cheung.

Finally, a warm welcome to our newest Board Members, who volunteered this month

Maryam Alexandrian-Adams, Fundraising Outreach Chair – We welcome Maryam to her new role leading our effort to expand our fundraising to the corporate sector. We have been looking for a member with the right background to help us explore funding opportunities and partnerships with business. Maryam brings an extensive network of professional contacts as well as the skills to determine what may interest a potential corporate funding partner.
Teresa Cheung, Webmaster – Teresa will step into the role of webmaster. In the days of virtual communication, our web is more important than ever so we are excited to have Teresa take on this challenge.
Deborah Wechsler, Parliamentarian – We welcome our Past-President back to our board in her new role as Parliamentarian. Thank you, Deborah for continuing to share your wisdom and for helping us institutionalize your knowledge by leading the update of our Policies and Procedures this year. Deborah will also work to complete our Leadership Succession Plan that she drafted while serving as our President last year.

I am looking forward to seeing you at the Fall membership zoom brunch.

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21

(August 2020) With a wonderfully successful AAUW Garden Walk 2020 behind us, we can all feel proud that we met the challenge of fundraising in the time of COVID. By adapting our plans to meet health guidelines, we were able to fully fund our Local Scholarships for 2021 while also providing a much-needed way for the attendees to get out in nature. Kudos, congratulations and our heartfelt thanks to our Garden Walk Team, led by Kathy Harkins and supported by you, our branch members for this resounding success!

Meanwhile, we are all learning how to apply social distancing that allows us to continue with the meaningful activities in our lives. For our branch, this means we will plan to carry on with our monthly activities while adapting the format to accommodate current health guidelines.

Our 2020-21 Board of Directors will meet this August to plan our upcoming year’s activities within our new constraints. Thank you to all who responded to the Member Survey that closed July 31. The results will inform both our near-term plans and our longer-term direction.
Several of our interest groups are evolving to continue through zoom meetings and other distancing methods. The updates are listed in the updated DAW Interest Groups sections of our August 2020 newsletter.

Our September membership brunch, which will be held in virtual format, is the kick-off for our year and we will work to make it meaningful, productive and fun! Watch your email for a “save the date” message soon.

Our 2020-21 budget in conjunction with our proposed monthly event calendar will be presented at the September brunch for your approval.

With our move to virtual activities, it is more important than ever for you to check your email regularly for communications from During the months that we are unable to meet in person, email can help us stay connected through our branch activities.

Wishing you all a safe and relaxing summer to recharge before we come together again in September to kick off our new year advancing women’s equity.

Chris Ritter
President 2020-21

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