Category Archives: Venice Beach Organizations

Venice LAPD Officer Making A Difference Through Badge Of Heart

Above: The Rotary Club of Westchester along with Field Deputy to Councilmember Mike Bonin, Frederick Sutton (second from right), present an award to Badge of Heart. Officer Victor Perez (center) accepts an award as one of the two officers who braved a burning house to save a family. Captain Alberca stands next to Officer Ken Lew (far left).

Badge of Heart is a local Venice charity that sees the officers of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Pacific Division partnering with the Westside community to provide relief to those victimized by crime and family hardship.

The charity has been running for less than a year but already it has made a difference in many local lives.

Founder, the charismatic, Officer Ken Lew of LAPD Pacific Division, who regularly tweets as @LAPDKenLew, talks about the inspiration behind setting up Badge of Heart.

“In 25 years I’ve seen a good amount of bad,” he said. “Probably more bad than good because obviously, we all know that the police department, often sees the bad. I spent the first eight years of my career in south L.A., and then 11 years in downtown L.A. where I saw a lot of poverty. Single moms raising two, three, or four kids. We’d often see moms and dads working multiple jobs trying to provide for their family. Pretty much never home to see their kids because they’re working so much. So I thought throughout the years, wouldn’t it be pretty cool to try to make a difference in somebody’s life. About a year ago I came up with the idea to start a charity to do this.”

To begin with, even though he had the charity set up and ready to go, Lew wasn’t sure of the best way to help people. Then a tragedy struck and Lew knew he could step in and help ease the burden on the family affected.

“There was a house fire about a block and a half away from the Police Station three days before Christmas,” he said. “It was a family of five and their house caught on fire in the middle of the night. They were woken up by a couple of officers from Pacific Division. Their lives were saved and they went into safety housing. However, they lost everything inside their house, including their beloved birds, they lost everything.”

Arriving at work the next day, Lew heard about the tragedy during roll call.

“I found out they were a hard working, decent family who had just lost everything,” he said. “So I told my Captain, ‘Give me a few hours, let me try to see if I can do something.’ So the next thing you know I made some phone calls to the media and Channels 2, 5, 7 all responded and came down and did an interview with my Captain about the family.”

The media wanted to know how the general public might be able to help the family.

“My boss came up to me and said, ‘Ken, your idea was to help this family which is great but we can only take clothes and furniture. We can’t take any money.’ I asked, ‘What do we need to do that?’ She said, ‘Well we need some kind of non-profit who can take the money and get it to the family.’ I knew then and there that this was a way Badge of Heart could step up and help.”

While the LAPD has a policy that they can’t take money from the public, Badge of Heart was ready to go so Lew and LAPD Pacific Division ran with it.

“When the media aired the story, all the stations, at the end told people if they wanted to help the family they could go to BadgeofHeart.org and make a monetary donation,” Lew said. “Next thing I knew, Badge of Heart was in business.”

LAPD Pacific Division officers donated around $800 of their own money in a matter of three days.

“You know, it was before Christmas,” he said. “It was heartbreaking. The family was homeless living out of a shelter facility. Badge of Heart raised $2,500 all up, in three days, thanks to the media, the general public, and the officers.”

The following February there was another tragedy.

In south L.A. a father and son lost their lives trying to chase after a robbery suspect, after the family business got robbed.

Lew called 77th Street Police Station as he knew the Detective who was handling the case and wanted to see if Badge of Heart could do anything to help the family.

“Next thing you know I made some phone calls and they put me on TV again,” he said. “We raised an undisclosed amount of money for that family. We mailed them off a check because they didn’t want any publicity.”

While Badge of Heart has so far kept a relatively low profile Lew said slowly but surely they have been helping people here and there.
In March this year Lew decided to step it up.

“I said ‘You know what? I want to feed 500 families for Thanksgiving. I want to give a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and dessert,’” Lew said.

Badge of Heart started campaigning in May and has so far raised half of the $15,000 needed to feed the 500 families.

Most of this money has come selling merchandise, T-shirts, and apparel through their online store, and fundraising within the LAPD.
Now they’re ready to reach out to the wider community, local businesses, and residents who are a part of the LAPD Pacific Division, from Palms to Mar Vista to Venice.

Lew hopes this year’s Turkey giveaway will set a precedent and be the first of many.

Ultimately he hopes Badge of Heart will be able to extend its reach beyond helping those in need within Pacific Division.
Helping the family in south L.A. was just one example of how the charity would be able to expand its reach more and more in the future.

For now though, the focus is on the Turkey Giveaway and with Thanksgiving only a few months away.

Lew said Badge of Heart is ready for locals to open their hearts to the cause.

“Everyday in Pacific Division we handle hundreds and hundreds of calls; these officers are going to peoples homes, their schools, they’re going to establishments where they see family hardship, victims of crime, and a lot of these officers have actually reached into their own pockets to help these people,” he said. “How do I know this? Because I’ve done it myself and I’ve seen other officers do it. That doesn’t get noticed out in the public. You often only see the bad side of us but there’s a lot of good that we do that’s not talked about or seen and I am here to let the public know that this is what we do.”
Lew said a lot of the time these good deeds go unnoticed out of respect for those the officers help.

“In my 25 years of being an officer I have paid for people’s meals, I have bought them clothes, I have got them groceries and I have seen other officers do this as well, but we don’t say anything. We just do it and that’s it, we leave. We don’t talk about it because it can be embarrassing for people that they can’t afford to feed their kids or buy new clothes.”

As a rule, Badge of Heart works along the lines of this model, giving quietly to those in the community who need it most. However, at a time of the year when being thankful is something that is shared Lew wants Badge of Heart to make some noise and make a difference, helping the community.

To give and help feed a family a Turkey dinner this Thanksgiving, go to BadgeofHeart.org and help support a great local charity.

Motion to Provide More Drinking Water at Tonight’s VNC Meeting

In the wake of Venice Neighborhood Council President, Mike Newhouse’s Yo! Venice discussion on how local restaurants could better conserve water, an interesting motion will be put forward at tonight’s VNC meeting that could see more water handed out by establishments.

On behalf of We the People of Los Angeles, local homeless activist Jarad ben Noah will put forward the “Support for Cup of Water Law”.

The motion says that as clean water is a fundamental human right under the U.N. declaration that We the People of Los Angeles are asking it be made mandatory that any bar, restaurant, or cafe open to the general public provide at least one cup of water on request to any member of the public.

Whether or not that person meets the dress code of the establishment, or whether or not the person is customer, the motion moves to enforce a civil penalty for any establishment refusing to bring a cup of water upon request.

Tonight’s meeting is open to the public, other issues covered on the agenda include noise and sound ordinance enforcement, a “No Support” of street vending motion, plans to legalize safe bootleg units, and other pressing Venice issues.

Senior Lead Officers Peggy Thusing and Kristen Delatori  from LAPD pacific division will provide a monthly Venice crime report.

The Venice Neighborhood Council meeting is tonight from 7:00pm at Westminster Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice.

National Night Out – Meet Dodger Legend Tim Leary

 

7:51am

1988 World Series Champion Dodger Pitcher, Tim Leary, will join Councilmember Mike Bonin, and the LAPD Pacific Division Community Police Advisory Board  for music, free hot dogs, and drinks in a celebration of community tomorrow night at Venice High School.

The National Night Out  is an initiative for those wanting to get involved with improving their community. The event will feature civic leaders, city resources, engaged neighbors, and community organizations working to make the Venice neighborhood as safe, supportive, and caring as possible.

Capt. Nicole Alberca, Commanding Officer of LAPD Pacific,  and other local LAPD Senior Lead Officers will be at the school. As well as the new Venice High School Principal, who will share the school’s plans to enrich the lives of, and educate local youth.

The event is an opportunity  for Venice residents to  meet, and provide feedback to, local neighborhood councils and other community associations.

Want to get involved in improving your community? Learn how you  can create a neighborhood watch program on your block or apartment building.

RSVP for National Night Out at Venice High here.

The event runs from 6:00pm – 9:00pm tomorrow night August 4th, 2015 at the Venice High School 13000 Venice Blvd,.

Will You Help Them Find A Safe Haven?

Above: After living on the Venice Boardwalk for three and a half years, former drug addict Carol (right) is now sober and living with her daughter out-of-state thanks to Four Square Church’s Pastor Regina Weller and the Venice Stakeholders Association.

Columnist Mark Ryavec.
Columnist Mark Ryavec.

By Mark Ryavec

The Venice Stakeholders Association has launched a drive to raise $20,000 to support the LAPD Homeless Task Force’s good work in helping those who genuinely want to leave the streets and return home or enter housing or rehab.

The VSA was recruited by former Pacific Division Commander Brian Johnson to fund the HTF and so far has donated $6,500 to support this program.

The HTF is an effective collaboration of the LAPD officers assigned to the Venice Beach Detail and the chaplains of the Four Square Church at Windward and Riviera.

Three afternoons a week the officers and chaplains visit those living on the streets of Venice and offer them hygiene kits, counseling, bus fares to return to family out-of-town, and in some instances the first month’s cost of housing or rehab.

Since the first of the year HTF has placed:

• 27 people into housing (initial housing fees for 12 people paid by VSA)

• 22 people returned home by Greyhound bus (all paid by VSA)

• Four people went into rehab (one paid by VSA)

The Task Force continues to identify candidates who want to return to family out-of- state or move into housing but HTF does not have the funds to pay for bus fares or rent.  The $20,000 budget will fund the program through the end of 2015.

We have approached the Mayor, Councilman Mike Bonin and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl for funding but none have offered financial assistance to the HTF so the VSA is turning to the Venice community to support this very effective program.

As an example of the HTF’s success consider Jake, until recently a homeless alcoholic living on the streets of Venice for years. A regular around the Venice Pier, he was well known to many of the first responders in our area. During the past six months, police and fire personnel were called to Jake’s aid approximately 40 times, with 12 of those times involving transport by ambulance to the hospital. The last time the ambulance came for Jake, it was because he had suffered head trauma from being hit by a car.

After all these contacts with Jake and multiple offers to help him get off the street, Jake finally told the police that he was ready to enter a rehab treatment program and wanted to meet with the Four Square Church’s Chaplain Steve Weller, who had previously offered to place him in substance abuse rehab. Upon completion of a 30-day rehab program, Jake entered a sober residential house in Long Beach. He has put on 33 pounds, is actively attending AA recovery meetings and working with peer support specialists.

The savings in police, paramedic and hospital costs is easily in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the neither the City nor County, which realizes these savings, has donated to help the HTF place the next Jake in rehab.

Carol, an admitted crystal methamphetamine user, lived on the Venice Boardwalk for three and a half years. An LAPD Beach Detail Officer referred her to the HTF out of concern for her well-being. Over two months, Chaplain Weller spoke with Carol about her out-of-state family and more specifically about recovery and being reunited with her 10 year-old daughter. Carol told Weller that she was tired of the danger of living on the street and of sleeping on the ground, and that she missed her daughter terribly but she didn’t know where to start. Weller asked for her family’s phone number and got in touch with her mother, who said she was hopeful for Carol’s recovery and return.

With considerable coaching from Weller and his wife Regina, Carol consented to downsize her belongings, allowed the Wellers to adopt her pet rat, went with Weller to the Venice Family Clinic for a medical examination, and then entered the CLARE Recovery Program; Venice Stakeholders paid the initial rehab fee. That was in April; Carol has since moved out of state to be with her daughter, and is still sober.

Daryl had come out from Michigan in 2011 with the blessing of his family to attend college to advance his career as an artist. He fell short of his goals, went down the wrong path and ended up living on Ocean Front Walk at Park Avenue. Daryl was hard to miss, not only because of his large size, but because he always appeared to be agitated and wild-eyed. Not long after arriving in LA Daryl had experimented with “bath salts,” the latest designer drug on the market, and had become addicted. The symptoms of bath salt abuse are similar to those of cocaine or methamphetamine addiction.
Over five months Chaplain Weller was able to establish a positive relationship with Daryl. The Chaplain continuously encouraged sobriety. Daryl always declined.

However, on one early morning visit this spring, Daryl agreed to have breakfast with Weller and then responded favorably to the idea of changing his life and returning home.  He told Weller that he was very tired of life on the street and that he missed his family, especially his grandmother. Daryl gave Weller permission to contact his sister in Michigan to ensure family support upon his return. Daryl also had to clear up his seven warrants prior to leaving California, so he went to jail for one day. With those cleared up he was able to get permission from his probation officer to return to Michigan.
After 30 days clean from bath salts, Daryl was escorted by LAPD Beach Detail officers and Chaplain Weller to the bus station in Downtown L.A. The fare and a three-day meal ticket were provided by Venice Stakeholders Association. The day Daryl arrived home his grandmother called Weller to thank everyone that helped her grandson. Daryl is now working in his father’s business.

The LAPD Task Force is the most cost effective service helping the homeless in Venice today. The police officers are already here, frequently know the histories of the people who are living on the street, and through the Task Force are actively engaged in getting them off the street, re-uniting them with family or into housing. The chaplains donate their time.

A contribution to the VSA is tax deductible and the VSA assesses no administrative charges. The funds raised will only be spent on bus fares, meal tickets for use while in transit, and fees for first month’s rehab and/or rent.

Hotel Erwin and Carl Lambert, the owner of Venice Suites, have each donated $1,000 to launch the campaign. Only $18,000 to go.
Will you help? You can mail or drop off a check to Venice Stakeholders Association at 1615 Andalusia Avenue, Venice, CA  90291 or make a donation by PayPal through www.venicestakeholdersassociation.org.

Mark Ryavec is president of the non-profit Venice Stakeholders Association.

Fitness Fridays Tomorrow at Penmar Park

The Venice Chamber of Commerce continues it’s Fitness Fridays. Local Venice business owner, Robin Solo of Turning Point Pilates, will be tomorrow’s special guest instructor.

Solo will host a 50 minute  Pilates Mat class  at Penmar Park. The class kicks off at 12 noon.

Now in it’s third week, Fitness Fridays is an 8-week series aimed at all fitness levels, encouraging locals to work out in the afternoon. There is no charge to participate and members are encouraged to invite friends and colleagues.

Chamber members meet at 12:00 noon, at the corner of Rose and Penmar Avenue, for a one-hour exercise session led by personal trainers, yoga instructors and other fitness professionals.

Snapchat - Robin Solo 4
Robin Solo of Turning Point Pilates with client, Thea Drayer of Marina Del Rey

Hosted by a different member studio and trainer every Friday, members attending will experience a variety of practices, such as yoga and pilates, that will help add more diversity to their existing workout or for many, introduce them to ways they can have fun while exercising.

“Fitness Fridays was created in response to members wanting to have a variety of get-togethers beyond the monthly mixers and happy hours,” said Carl Lambert, president of The Venice Chamber of Commerce. “We are proud to add another activity that engages local business professionals and the community that, like the Venice Art Crawl and the Holiday Sign Lighting, exemplifies the creative and innovative spirit of Venice.”

Click here for more details.