Monday, March 16, 2015

WELIFTLA – Providing Former Foster Youth Needed Adult Transition and Life Skills

Nationwide, according a report from Children Uniting Nations, as of 2014 463,000 American children live in foster care. California has a larger number of children in the system than any other state based on a 2009 AFCARS report.

Generally at age 18 these young adults are considered “emancipated” and “age out” of the foster care system.  According to an article by John Kelly Editor-In-Chief of the Chronicle For Social Change and the Alliance for Children’s Rights, the number of young adults in California staying in the system for extended foster care up to age 21 has more than doubled since 2012 from 2,000 to over 5,000. The fact is whether at age 18 or 21 these young adults exit the system and then what?

The answers are in the data from WELIFTLA and Alliance for Children’s Rights .
·         The stats for those exiting without any sort of housing have varied from 30 – 65% depending on the year
·         50% of those aging out in Los Angeles County don’t graduate high school (1)
·         Nationally 99% will not successfully complete college. In California this stat though still abysmal is a tiny bit better with a shameful 3% exiting the system completing college (1 )
·         70%  of those incarcerated in California are former foster care youth
·         36% of those “aged out” are homeless within 18 months
·         40% are receiving public assistance within 2 years
·         50% of all female former foster care youth become pregnant by age 19

The elephant in the room? There is a glaring lack of mentoring, guidance and opportunities to learn by example, which these youth have never had. These are missing building blocks for the skills and attributes for successful transition to positive and productive adulthood and life skills for self-sufficiency. 

The goal of WELIFTLA is to make a difference by filling in some of these missing building blocks. Joyce Harmon the organization’s CEO and Founder spent years as a successful executive in the textile industry. She’d begun questioning what she really wanted her life to be about.  She felt an undeniable desire to do something meaningful for others.  In 2006 she founded The Work Of Angels while still working fulltime. It was a work in progress with an initial direction to do something to help youth.

 It all came together in 2009 while watching a Lifetime Television movie called “America.” The film was produced by Rosie O’Donnell and she starred as a psychiatrist treating a biracial 17-year old boy named America who had experienced a difficult life of foster care and sexual abuse.  According to Joyce, “I was struck by these kids that were falling through the cracks.”  Then and there it became her life’s mission to do something about it. And WELIFTLA was born.

The organization partners with independent living group homes including Penny Lane, Women’s Care Cottage and Pacific Lodge Youth Services. Using the services of volunteers WELIFTLA provides mentorship, parenting, career and financial planning workshops as well as academic counseling and anger management programs.

The organization recently began working with California State University’s Resilient Scholars Program and acquired a home that will provide campus housing and in-home support for five CSUN students who are former foster care youth. 

In addition volunteer services and general donation needs to provide program support and materials the organization currently has a special fundraising matching gift initiative to help with renovation and other needs of their new CSUN WELIFTLA House. For every dollar donated up to $10,000 for the house two loyal supporters have committed to a dollar for dollar match doubling the impact of your contribution.


To learn how you can get involved and to make a donation visit http://www.weliftla.org

Monday, March 2, 2015

Homeboy Industries--Nothing Stops A Bullet Like A Job

According to Will Lopez, a graduate trainee of Homeboys and their current facilitator in domestic violence prevention, “Homeboy Industries is a place of second chances.”

Homeboy Industries provides training, support, counseling and real world work opportunities for previously incarcerated men and women.  You might find their delicious salsas and chips on the shelves of your grocery store.

If you are ever anywhere near Los Angeles’ Union Station their cafe and bakery is a MUST destination just 2 blocks from the train station.  They have the best coffee drinks! I am not talking wimpy- I mean tasty, substantial, authentically good and baked goods that are a match for any bakery you can name. My favorite is the cranberry muffin with fresh juicy cranberries and large chunks of walnuts.

The organization also provides a top notch charter high school and childcare for the children of the clients they serve to help create a supportive family environment and eliminate bumps and distractions to participation in its programs.

The program actually grew out of “Jobs For A Future” (JFF), a program created in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle while he was serving as pastor of Dolores Mission parish in Boyle Heights – at the time one of the roughest gang neighborhoods in the country. Father Greg remains a cornerstone and inspiring center of the program. Father Greg is also the author of the New York Times Bestselling book, “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.”

Homeboy Industries is recognized as the largest gang intervention, re-hab and re-entry program in the county, and has become a national model. To find out how to volunteer, provide financial support or even have Father Greg speak at one of your events visit their website www.homeboyindustries.org
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Empowering LGBTQ Youth, Homeless Veterans, Teen Parents and War Survivors

Dove Pressnall, founder of Survivors' Truths, was compelled to take action. From 2004 - 2006, while working as a trainer and field supervisor of Liberian counselors and social workers she listened to the stories of war survivors including women survivors of targeted sexual violence, male and female torture survivors of all ages, and conscripted child soldiers. She found that by getting victims to  tell their stories it not only empowered them but also helped change perceptions of them and their experiences from negative to positive. Survivors' Truths has since greatly expanded its mission since Dove relocated to Los Angeles in 2007. 

The organization's goal is to transform media coverage and  media imagery of not only war survivors but here in the U.S also  homeless veterans, LGBTQ youth and teen parents from negative to positive. Their work transforms impressions and stereotypes by telling positive stories and empowering those society has tended to victimize. The organization's vision- social service meets social media for social change. You can use your social media klout and social networks to help Survivors' Truths. Spread the word, donate..... go to http://survivorstruths.org/ to learn more.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Amigos de los Rios Building Parks and Engaging Community




Amigos de los Ríos (AMIGOS) was founded in 2003 with the mission of building parks with a bigger use while fostering environmental sustainability.

AMIGOS focuses on developing  and implementing  multi-purpose, state-of-the-art parks in park-deficient neighborhoods. Their projects use green techniques such as on-site water filtration, bioswales, and low-water-use irrigation. In their park projects they also integrate  drought-tolerant and native-plant landscaping to conserve water, protect biodiversity and natural resources.

They are currently working to make their amazing vision of “The Emerald Necklace” -an unbroken network of parks and connecting nature trails and bike paths that stretches from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Sea- a reality.

AMIGOS  is committed to engaging the community while reflecting community needs through programs including curriculum creation for K-12,  family-oriented environmental education program,  developing vocational green collar training certification programs and encouraging community involvement in all aspects of their parks projects development.

An initiative spear-headed by AMIGOS has resulted in approximately 2 acres of exterior space at the historic Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center being transformed into the innovative LAC USC Wellness Park and Fitness Trail.  With outdoor exercise equipment along the trail it is available for the health and enjoyment of the public and definitely worth a visit.

If you are looking for a hands on way to make a difference in local environmental sustainability- or you’d like a fun meaningful way to meet a community service requirement- this may very well be the cause for you!

They have a wonderful, highly skilled Volunteer Coordinator, John Latsko, who is extremely knowledge about indigenous California plants.  And they are always in need of extra helping hands. To volunteer, donate and learn more visit http://www.amigosdelosrios.org.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Pay It Forward Foundation

The Pay It Forward Foundation,  based in Cleveland, Ohio,  is an all volunteer, nonsectarian nonprofit organization. Their mission is to use the money they raise to help hard-working people who have fallen on tough times regardless of their beliefs, color, sex, age or orientation--- and  give a little relief and shine a little light at the same time. We don't have to be geographically located in Cleveland to understand their work and the need.


It doesn't matter where we are we can still make a difference. And as always remember you can use your social networks to do social good by sharing this information. To donate, learn more or volunteer visit http://www.piffcleveland.org
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Monday, February 2, 2015

Shoals Area Families Foundation Helps Families Make Ends Meet

Melissa Hargett is a successful Alabama business woman. She launched the Shoals Area Families Foundation (SAF) to assist temporarily impoverished families with making ends meet. Families that request assistance also sign up as part of an innovative "give back program," where in exchange for support they agree to volunteer at start-up local thrift shop.

Shoals Area Families was formed to assist local temporarily impoverished families with utilities, food and shelter to give them a way to give back and to train them with a new skill that will hopefully break the cycle of impoverishment. The mission is simple -One to take person at a time over the poverty line.

SAF is opening a thrift store to help fund the foundation.  They have a 10,000 square foot building where they take donations, process items, and sale the merchandise. The families they work with come to the organization through referrals from public school counselors and through the SAF Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ShoalsAreaFamilies. They are located at 602 Veterans Drive, Florence, Alabama 35630 and you can email Melissa to donate or for more information at melissa@boostinternetsolutions.com

Monday, January 26, 2015

Inside Climate News- An Environmental Resource



Their mission is to produce clear, objective stories that give the public and decision-makers the information they need to navigate the heat and emotion of climate and energy debates.  Having won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 it is very clear that they are accomplishing that goal on and ongoing basis.

Inside Climate News is a non-profit, non-partisan news organization that covers clean energy, carbon energy, nuclear energy and environmental science.

They have grown from a founding team of 2 to staff of ten full time professional journalists and a growing network of contributors. Their aim is to double in size and come to full scale in the next two years.

Currently their media partners include Bloomberg, Associated Press, The Guardian, center for Public Integrity, The Weather Channel and McClatchy. In addition to their 2013 Pulitzer they organization has won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, 2013 Society of Professional Journalists Award and a Scripps Howard for the Best Journalism of 2012, among others.

Some of their most viewed stories include As Oil Prices Sink Tar Sands Riskier, Elections Deliver A Blow To US Climate Leadership, 40% Of Wisconsin Frac Industry Violates Rules, Arctic Meltdown-In Maps and 2014: the Year Climate Change Undeniably Arrived.

To read stories and if you have environmental journalism tips, want to donate to keep environmental journalism alive and to get engaged visit http://insideclimatenews.org