Venice based charity Badge of Heart aims to feed 500 families this Thanksgiving and they’d like some help with the cause.
“Our goal is to give 500 frozen turkeys to selected families. These
will be distributed through local schools, churches, and also dropped off by LAPD Pacific Division Officers, ” says Officer Ken Lew from LAPD Pacific Division.
Lew was inspired to set up the local charity, Badge of Heart, after witnessing first hand, through his time as a police officer, the struggle low income families and victims of crime face in Los Angeles.
“This year’s Turkey Drive is a way Badge of Heart hopes to ease the burden on families who face hardship in Venice, Mar Vista, Palms, Del Rey & Westchester,” says Lew.
A $20 donation will buy a Turkey dinner for a family of 4.
“None of this could be done without the help of our community and corporate partners. We would love for you to be a part of our growing family. Everything helps us help others. We are seeking donations in a form of financial contribution,” says Lew.
ABOVE: Actor Quinton Aaron with Venice PAD Manager Timothy Pardue.
At the Teen Project’s Venice PAD on Windward Avenue celebrity visits are a common occurrence; actor Ellen Page has popped in, and more recently actor Quinton Aaron, who starred along Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side,” dropped by to help inspire the local homeless youth of Venice.
Sharing pizza and inspiring stories of how he himself was close to being homeless, Aaron made a big impact on the 15 or so young people who had come to meet the 6’8” actor – and it was not just because of his height. Aaron says he fully supports the work of Teen Project and the PAD.
“What this organization and Teen Project is doing, they’re doing it right,” Aaron says. “They’re making a difference. The children are our future and they’re working to make sure our future is looking pretty bright.”
PAD Manager Timothy Pardue describes visits from people like Aaron as “very inspiring” and that overall celebrity visits are important to a charity like the Teen Project as the awareness helps increase donations and the more money the organization has coming in the more kids they can get off the streets.
Since March the organization has helped 53 young people off the streets. However as the tourist season in Venice quiets down homelessness is on the increase.
“We’re getting really busy,” says Pardue. “It’s getting cold everywhere and a lot are coming to Venice to escape the winter everywhere else.”
One of the local youth who got to meet Quinton Aaron was Jacob, a teen who has been homeless in California for about three weeks and in Venice for only two days.
“I have a tent, that’s my house,” Jacob says. “I have a three-bedroom tent. It’s huge.”
He had been trying to get back home to Colorado.
“Before I got out here I was trying to get back home,” Jacob says. “They [Teen Project] just told me about a job so I’m going to do that and get back on my feet.”
Jacob says meeting Aaron was inspiring for him.
“Inspiration comes from a lot of different things,” Jacob says. “You can get inspired from people, you can get inspired from art, you can get inspired from nature. For someone of his stature to come yeah, it’s inspiring. It’s inspiring to me because I like sports.”
Aaron explains that it was being cast in “The Blind Side” that saved him from the streets.
“‘The Blind Side’ happened, literally right in the nick of time,” Aaron says. “I never stopped believing that it was going to happen and it took a year to happen, but it came right on time.”
After the success of the movie, Aaron decided to pay it forward and start his own foundation.
“At the time I was speaking a lot at schools, talking to kids from a motivational standpoint telling them my story and my background,” he says. “I’ve been through a lot of bullying in my life in my past and a lot of kids who were approaching me were asking me how did I deal with it? How did I deal with being bullied, and how did I deal with the fact that nobody around you likes you, or wants you around, or that you’re never accepted?”
Aaron says he was bullied mainly for his weight.
Pardue says many of the homeless kids in Venice have been bullied.
“Absolutely, a lot of them have been bullied, a lot of them have been sexually abused, a lot are LGBT and they’re rejected by their families and they’re rejected by their towns,” Pardue says.
Lauri Burns, founder of the Teen Project, says that Aaron not only represents the anti-bullying movement but also foster kids after his work on “The Blind Side.”
“People look at Quinton and they know who he is and they know that he represents foster kids and I can’t tell you how many of these kids come in here,” says Burns. “Even today there were two foster kids sitting on the couch in the front and they tell their stories and you realize again and again kids are leaving foster care to homelessness and they’re coming from all over the United States to Venice Beach for the sunshine and the resources. When someone like Quinton gets involved they really get it, they get that it’s even bigger than anyone can imagine, that it’s happening all over America. It’s a godsend that he’s come to us and helped us to represent the lives of the foster kids in America.”
Aaron says he is looking forward to working with the Teen Project through his foundation the Quinton Aaron Foundation.
“Over the years the numbers of child suicides have grown, mainly because of bulling and kids being picked on because they felt they were not accepted or people were saying mean things about them or doing mean things to them and now it’s even evolved into social media. I don’t know if we can fully ever stop it one day but if enough people get involved in protecting these kids, seeing to it that we have a zero tolerance for things like that we can make a difference. I believe that and that’s why I do what I do,” says Aaron before he sweeps Burns up off her feet into his big strong arms, the kind you want lending a helping hand to get kids off the streets in Venice.
The Venice Neighborhood Council and the Vera Davis McClendon Youth and Family Center are collecting new, unwrapped, non-violent toys at various locations in Venice from now through December 17 as part of the Great Venice Toy Drive & Holiday Festival
Toys can be dropped off through December 17, 2015 at any of the 7 locations in Venice:
(1) Abbot’s Habit, 1401 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
(2) HUZZAH!, 2010 Lincoln Blvd.
(3) Le Cellier Wine Bar & Restaurant, 417 Washington Blvd.
(4) Oscar’s Cerveteca, 523 Rose Ave.
(5) Superba Food & Bread, 1900 Lincoln Blvd.
(6) TheVNC booth at the Venice Farmers’ Market (Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.), intersection of Venice Blvd. and Venice Way
(7) The VNC’s Board meetings on November 17 and December 15, 2015, Westminster Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (Make sure to look for the bin with the reindeer riding the bicycle!)
The toy drive culminates in a free holiday festival to be held at Oakwood Recreation Center on December 19, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. through 2:00 p.m. At the festival, children up to sixteen years of age present with a parent or guardian will be able to select a toy.
The toy giveaway will be first come, first served. Santa will be available for photos. Kids will be able to engage in arts and crafts or play on a moon bounce or in the snow. There will be facepainting as well as a caricature artist and deejay. Food will also be provided.
Mariana Aguilar, one of the toy drive’s team members, says, “Last year, The Great Venice Toy Drive ensured that over 500 Venice kids not only had a toy for the holiday season, but also had a great day at Oakwood park with their families and community. With the help of our Venice neighbors, we hope to make this year’s event the best one yet.”
This is the fifth year that the VNC has sponsored The Great Venice Toy Drive. The VNC created the event in response to community concerns about the lack of a toy giveaway in the Venice area.
This Thursday the Venice Art Crawl will hold their monthly mixer at QART.com gallery on Washington Blvd., in Marina del Rey.
Each month Artists, gallery owners, venues, sponsors, art enthusiasts, and the community gather together at the Venice Art Crawl’s Monthly Mixers to collaborate and shape the Venice Art Crawl events.
The VAC is always looking for new volunteers, artists, and sponsors the monthly mixers are a great way to meet the VAC team and get involved.
The Venice Art Crawl is a local organization that aims to share, inspire, and promote collaboration within the Venice community through mixers and art events with a goal to foster and reinvigorate the creativity that has historically and currently makes Venice such a vibrant and dynamic community.
When: This Thursday, November 19 6pm-9pm
Where: QART.com 480 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey 90292
A closing event will be held today from 5pm for the latest exhibition at Venice’s Social Public Art Resource Center. New CodexOaxaca: Immigration and Cultural Memory has been running since June in SPARC’s Durón Gallery, located in the Old Venice Police Station at 685 Venice Blvd., Venice.
With more than one million Oaxacans having immigrated to the United States, the exhibit looks at the impact of immigration on those left behind: those who are often unable to see loved ones, husbands, mothers, and children for many years.
Special guests at tonight’s closing event include Ruben Martinez, writer, performer and academic; Gaspar Rivera Salgado, project director at UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education Yolozee Odilia Romero Xhogosh; and Xochiltl M. Flores-Marcial.