Old Town resident Micheline Etkin is a triple-treat.
She’s not only a business owner and a Brazilian-Lebanese super-model but a passionate philanthropist for children’s causes as well.
“My main job is philanthropy,” Etkin said. “I’m dedicated to bringing awareness to children’s hospice and palliative care all around the world. And it’s what I do as an ambassador for the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation.”
Etkin credits her philanthropic nature and her business, Sweets Table by Micheline, to her mother.
Born in Lebanon and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Etkin remembers spending quality time in the kitchen with her mom, cooking and baking together.
“I always wanted to be a housewife, a mother. I wanted to marry early and take care of a family. That was my dream growing up,” Etkin said at her Waterfront residence.
Etkin would do just that, have two children at age 20 and a third at 27. Jimmie, Caroline, and Richard are all now adults.
At age 30, Etkin embarked on a modeling career taking her to more than 40 countries and works with a long list of renowned designers like the late Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera and Badgley Mischka before moving to Scottsdale.
“I never dreamed in my life I’d be a model,” Etkin admitted.
Etkin started modeling for Elite Models and continues to model with The Agency Arizona. But most of her time is dedicated to either her business or her philanthropic efforts.
Sweets Table by Micheline started with Etkin’s mom, who created a grandiose sweets table for her eldest grandson’s wedding.
A Brazilian tradition, sweets tables are flashy, decadent, over-the-top, expertly designed, curated and crafted dessert tables prominently featured at nearly all major life events but most especially at Brazilian weddings.
“Everybody in Brazil has a sweets table,” Etkin said. “This is the first thing you see; you enter, you see a sweets table.”
This year just so happens to be the 10th anniversary of Sweets Table, too.
“I’m always doing them either for my family, my grandkids, or my friends. This is something I’m doing it all the time, but it’s more like a fun thing to do,” Etkin said.
Etkin’s most recent client was Scottsdale Arts, for whom she created the dessert table at its Starry Night gala in December.
“People were like, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ But one guest, he was from Brazil. He was, like, ‘Oh, this is tradition in Brazil!’ I was, like, ‘Yay!’” Etkin recalled.
The Starry Night gala sweets table was adorned with bouquets of yellow flowers, towers of truffles, and 36 suspended chandeliers.
It was an enormous feat — and an expensive one, too. Etkin’s sweets tables range from $10,000 to more than $25,000 and the gala’s took her five months to plan, a typical amount of prep time for most of her sweets tables.
Most of the sweets and all of the “forminhas” — Portuguese for the flower cups used to set the sweets inside — are flown in from Brazil.
“We call them in English ‘flower cups’ because they’re like a container,” Etkin explained. “The little flowers you put in the sweets looks like a sweets garden because you have this beautiful flower arrangement.”
The rest of the sweets Etkin bakes in her Scottsdale home.
“I love doing it because of the creative part of me; it just feeds my soul,” she said.
When Etkin isn’t working on a sweets table for a client, though, she’s volunteering her time at various nonprofit organizations.
“My mom was the most charitable person I’ve ever met, and I learned it from her,” Etkin said.
Etkin is a founding council member of Stars of the Season, and organization dedicated to promoting and establishing integrative modalities in pediatric medicine.
She also co-founded Casa Brazil in 2003, a nonprofit assisting needy children in Brazil.
And Etkin is an honorary member of the Phoenix Women’s Board of the Steele Children’s Research Center, known as PANDA – People Acting Now Discovering Answers.
PANDA supports discovery processes to improve treatments and cures for devastating childhood diseases, its website states.
She’s been involved with PANDA for nearly two decades.
This year, Etkin is dedicating her time to the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation and the opening of its children’s hospice in Chile.
Announced in October 2018, the Casa Sagrada Familia Foundation and the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Chile Chapter created the first pediatric hospice of South America in Chile, where children from low-income families facing an advanced, chronic or degenerative disease can receive care.
The hospice will have a Residential Pediatric Palliative Care program with nine special rooms suitable for the children, their parents, and siblings and a Domiciliary Pediatric Palliative Care program. It aims to help about 100 families annually.
“The whole purpose is to bring awareness, bring training to all these countries that need it desperately,” Etkin said.
The late Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was a psychiatrist who wrote “On Death and Dying,” the 1969 book outlined the five stages terminally ill patients experience: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Etkin used to care for Kübler-Ross when the author lived in Scottsdale.
“The connection was immediate,” Etkin said of her relationship with Kübler-Ross. “Her son, Ken Ross, is my best friend. That’s how I got involved.”
Kübler-Ross quickly became a mentor to Etkin and fueled Etkin’s passion for giving back.
“You learn the importance of life, every single moment. You work with people that have no more time; they know they have no more time left. Their perspective of life is so different. You learn from them, and they become teachers,” Etkin said.
Now, her children are following in her footsteps.
“My daughter today does exactly the same thing. She wants to help children. That’s her passion,” Etkin said.
Her daughter, Caroline McLain, is currently on the Casa Brazil board and heavily involved with the nonprofit.
“We’ve fed almost 500 kids a day in Brazil every day for the last 16 years. She never missed a day,” Etkin said proudly.
In the 20 or so years she’s been a philanthropist, Etkin estimates she’s given back millions to nonprofit organizations — and she’s showing no signs of slowing down.
“I’ve given my time, money, and my contacts, everything. I’m passionate about it,” Etkin said, her eyes welling up. “Think about it: Children are hopeless. If you don’t lobby for them, who will?”