A host of stars came together on Saturday to help the homeless and the hungry at the Los Angeles Mission.
Homelessness is a tragedy for anyone, especially families with children. Making ends meet with little or no income means that compromises are a daily occurrence. But the End of Summer Block Party at the Los Angeles Mission takes one compromise away from hundreds of families – school supplies.
About one thousand backpacks full of schools supplies were handed out to grateful kids at the Block Party on Saturday. The day was the result of a combined effort by nonprofits, businesses and people who just want to help.
Among the celebrities who attended were Hilary Duff (Bloodworth), Charlotte Ross (Glee), Katie Blair (Miss California USA 2011), Angie Everhart (Take Me Home Tonight), Brandon Molale (True Blood), Parris Mostellar (Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer), Ty Paintz (How to Eat Fried Worms), Lauren Storm (I Love You Beth Cooper), Savannah Jayde (Big Time Rush), Kellie Goss (Big Time Rush), Tucker Albrizi (Alvin and the Chipmunks), Allisyn Ashley Arm (Meet Dave), Paige Adkins (Cuttin’ Da Mustard), REBORN (Gospel Artist), Oren Williams (Lincoln Heights), Zachary Williams (Lincoln Heights), Justin Tinnicci (Big Love), Lauren Dair Owens (Kids Quest) and others.
For a decade the Block Party has been a way for kids to play, have fun, win prizes and forget about their circumstances – if for only a day. The Los Angeles Mission has been serving the homeless and poor in the Skid Row area for 75 years What started as a soup kitchen in the Great Depression in 1934 continues to serve the needy in the great recession of 2011.
Fifth Street, the main street of Skid Row was decorated with bright and colorful tents and inflatable play areas set up for maximum fun. Slides, a dunk tank, face painting, crafts, games and of course backpacks full of school supplies were spread down the street.
“The numbers are startling,” said Herb Smith, President of the Los Angeles Mission. "We have expanded our services to families and children daily, but it is heartbreaking to talk to parents who are trying to keep a family together while struggling to pay rent, buy food and provide all a family needs. Today is just part of the services the Mission provides to help families in economic distress.
Children from age 4 to 17 got a backpack. Nearly 1,000 backpacks and the school supplies that are so important at this time of year were distributed. Supplies, including pencils, notebooks, crayons, erasers, folders and arts & craft items were donated. The backpacks came from Blessings in a Backpack, a charity started by actress Hilary Duff. Schools supplies were donated by Jackson-Hewitt, Buck Consultants, Landsburg-Amcor and individuals.
“On behalf of Hilary Duff and myself, the importance of allowing these children, our children, to go to school with the proper supplies and knowing that someone cares about them being ready to succeed is very significant,” said Stan Curtis of Blessings in a Backpack. “We are proud of this partnership.”
Celebrity volunteers always come to Los Angeles Mission events. They worked to make sure everyone had a good time, and helped In-N-Out Burger, King Taco and the Los Angeles Mission kitchen crew serve a picnic to the Block party participants and their families. US Foods helped with a variety of food and serving items. And this year there were snow cones provided by volunteers from marketing firm Russ Reid.
Several hundred volunteers from all over the area gave their time – with tens of thousands of hours given by thousands of volunteers each year to the Mission.
The famous “Nickel” – the name that Fifth Street had had since the Mission was founded in the 1930’s – was closed by 6:00 AM. Vehicular traffic was re-routed around the street between Wall and San Pedro so that setup could start early Saturday morning. There were inflated bounce houses, slides, craft tents and food service areas set up. Families started lining up early so they could have plenty of time for food and fun before getting their school materials and backpacks.
“Last year, we thought that we had made it through the roughest part of the recession and that things were starting to look up,” said Smith. “But the latest unemployment numbers and the continuing economic turmoil means it is hard for people to find work, especially those who have low skills, insufficient education and big gaps in their work history. The Mission works daily to provide education and job training – but many of our graduates can’t find jobs in the current market.” Smith adds, “The economy of Skid Row won’t turn around until there are living-wage jobs and affordable housing for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.”
Representatives from the Los Angeles Christian Health Centers and volunteer nursing students from all over the area provided health screenings including height and weight, body mass index calculation and nutrition information. California State University Long Beach sent students and faculty to conducted speech and hearing evaluations of the children who attended.
U. S. Bank and City National Bank (CNB) provided financial substantial support for the event.
“Once again it is our pleasure to assist in the sponsorship of the Los Angeles Mission’s end of summer Block Party,” said Robert Deidrick, Vice President of US Bank. “This annual event is the ideal program to truly demonstrate US Bank’s commitment to our local community and though our contribution hopefully helps shape the lives of our inner city young people.”
“City National Bank is delighted to share our love of reading with the children and families that come to the Los Angeles Mission for this day of fun,” said Bonnie Tseng, Assistant VP, event volunteer organizer, City National Bank. In addition to financial support, City National also donated books to the young guests.
For 75 years, the Los Angeles Mission has served homeless and hurting men and women of downtown Los Angeles, providing emergency services such as shelter, food and clothing. In addition, the Los Angeles Mission also offers long-term residential rehabilitation programs, including education, job training, transitional housing and counseling.