Category: In The News

Feb 12

Be My Valentine Event – Santa Monica Mirror

By Sam Skopp

For the 9th year in a row, the Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club hosted a valentine making event, Saturday Feb. 3. inviting kids and adults alike to make as many Valentine’s Day cards as they wanted, with ticket proceeds benefiting educational organizations.

Susan Barri, who is a board member at the Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club, explained that all ticket sales benefit Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (SMMEF), and then the Woman’s Club in turn makes a matching donation to School on Wheels, which provides educational assistance to homeless children across Southern California.

“We’ve always donated to School on Wheels,” Barri said. “As of three years ago we included SMMEF.”

While a number of groups throughout Santa Monica host similar valentine-making events, Barri has found that what makes their event stand out is their wide range of materials.

“I think it’s evolved in the sense that we have more and more supplies,” she said, explaining how the event has changed over the years. “I think that no one has as many supplies and great things to make valentines as we do.”

Additionally, the event included a number of Valentine’s Day-appropriate sweets, and two musical performances during the daylong event, including by jazz pianist Gerry Bryant, on a Steinway grand piano.

“It’s a pretty amazing piano that’s part of the club,” Barri said. “The club is very centrally located. It’s easy to park, and in a special part of Santa Monica.”

For more information on both the Woman’s Club space, and upcoming events hosted at the Woman’s Club, visit

Read the story from the Santa Monica Mirror here.

Jan 25

#10For10 Challenge Donates to School on Wheels

Thank you to Colin Kaepernick and Jhene Aiko for recognizing School on Wheels and the work we do.

Day SEVEN of Ten:

Colin Kaepernick Donation: $10,000

Celebrity Match: Jhene Aiko $10,000

Organization: School on Wheels – Los Angeles Area



Colin Kaepernick and Jhene Aiko are donating $10,000 each to Schools on Wheels! Their donations will specifically pay for:

  • $15,000 for private tutor for 15 homeless students for 1 year
  • $5,000 for 10 students to attend summer camps
  • Art classes, music lessons, sports activities, etc

“I will donate one million dollars plus all the proceeds of my jersey sales from the 2016 season to organizations working in oppressed communities, 100k a month for 10 months.”Colin Kaepernick

Jan 22

The NBCU Foundation Launches ‘Project Innovation’ Grant Program

Comcast NBCUniversal is committed to working with changemakers and local non-profit organizations that are driving positive change in their local communities by leveraging media, technology and innovation.

The NBCUniversal Foundation, in partnership with NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, launched Project Innovation, a new grant challenge program in 11 markets where NBC and Telemundo-owned stations are located. Through Project Innovation, non-profit organizations that are using technology and innovation to solve everyday problems in their communities will be awarded grants to help support and expand their programs.

The NBCUniversal Foundation will award $225,000 amongst three to eight nonprofits in each of the 11 markets. The NBCUniversal Foundation will work closely with the owned stations to evaluate applications and choose winners in each market.

Apply for a Project Innovation grant by visiting your local NBC or Telemundo station website, in any of the following markets:

Project Innovation grant categories include:

  • Igniting Civic Engagement: Programs that provide or expand opportunities for individuals to engage and volunteer in their communities, especially those that – in this digital age – leverage media and technology.
  • Skills for the Digital Economy: Programs that support middle-skills jobs training, adult career employment and readiness for advanced skills development programs in an effort to close the gap between education, income and prosperity in local communities.
  • STEM/STEAM Youth Programming: Programs that support K-12 youth education by encouraging and training the next generation of workers for advanced careers in STEM or STEAM fields.

Project Innovation expands on NBCUniversal’s commitment to promoting social good in local communities and builds on the success of The NBCUniversal Foundation’s previous grant challenge, 21st Century Solutions, which awarded nearly $6 million to local nonprofits over the past five years. Transitioning to Project Innovation will help The NBCUniversal Foundation continue to tackle important community issues by targeting key areas of importance while allowing for greater flexibility for grant applicants.


Click here to learn more about The NBCUniversal Foundation and NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ past grant winners.

Project Innovation is poised to support established non-profits and those recently formed in each of the local markets. Through the program, The NBCUniversal Foundation and local NBC and Telemundo stations will award nearly $5 million over two years (2018 and 2019) to eligible non-profit organizations.

Project Innovation applications open on January 12, 2018, and close on February 2, 2018. Grant winners will be announced in March 2018.

Jan 9

Angela Sanchez, a blossoming L.A. writer, was once homeless – L.A. Times

Scruffy Dog of the children’s book “Scruffy and the Egg” was not always scruffy. He used to have well-groomed chestnut fur and a bright blue collar with a shiny gold tag. He used to be Fluffy Dog.

In her debut as an author and illustrator, L.A. native Angela Sanchez tells the story of the dog’s transformation as he loses his family and home, navigates life on the streets and befriends and adopts a lost egg.

The cohesive, expressively drawn book, which Sanchez crowdfunded and self-published last year, has a surprisingly optimistic tone considering its exploration of difficult circumstances and homelessness.

The book is also partly autobiographical.


Sanchez, 26, grew up in Glendale, where she shared a two-bedroom apartment with her father, an architectural draftsman by trade.

For a single dad with no safety net, familial support or four-year degree, the Great Recession was a devastating financial earthquake.

Sanchez was a junior at Herbert Hoover High School in fall 2007 when an eviction notice appeared on the door of her apartment. A week before Thanksgiving, police officers came knocking.

“At the time I didn’t fully understand what the prospect of going homeless meant,” Sanchez recalls. “My dad had lived in that apartment for 25 years. I had lived there all my life. It was home. To lose it was a big blow.”

Sanchez and her father spent the 2007 holiday season hopping from one motel to another. By January their credit ran out and they landed in an emergency church shelter. The rules of the shelter were strict and comforts minimal. They slept on military-style cots a few feet from strangers. There was no privacy, no shower and no breakfast.

The high school junior kept her homelessness a secret from everyone at school except a supportive principal and a handful of advisors who helped her with her college admissions essay.

“I didn’t tell my teachers because I wanted to be treated like every other student,” she says. “I didn’t want to drag homelessness with me into the classroom. At school I got to be the smart kid. That was my identity. I didn’t have to worry about anything else.”

On the weekends, Sanchez and her father had nowhere to go during the long hours when the shelter was closed.

You don’t realize how much time you spend in your home until you don’t have one anymore.Angela Sanchez

Jan 9

Vittorio’s Ristorante Brings Joy to Homeless Children – Palisades News

For 62 homeless children who live in shelters in Long Beach, Torrance, Sylmar, Los Angeles, Canoga Park and Venice, December 18 was one of their happiest days in 2017.

After the kids were bused to Vittorio’s Ristorante on Marquez Avenue and served a lunch of pizza and garlic rolls, Santa came with wrapped gifts for each child. In addition to the toys, each youngster left with a large decorated cookie.

Marie Steckmest, who organizes an annual Holiday Spirit Toy Drive through Palisades Cares, sees that half of the toys collected go to these children. “This is one of my favorite events of the year,” said the former Citizen of the Year.

Hank Elder, a member of the Sons of the American Legion (SAL), said that his organization paid for the buses.

“For the first time, SAL members decorated Vittorio’s with Christmas decorations in anticipation of the Homeless Children’s Christmas party,” Elder said.“I saw a miracle. I cannot think of anything in Pacific Palisades as special as this event this time of year.”

Elder said that each age-appropriate gift is chosen for a child and then wrapped. The goal was for each child to receive four gifts.“These were most likely the only ones the children would receive for Christmas,” Elder said.

Steckmest and Elder pointed out the two people truly responsible for this event: Vittorio’s owner Mercedes Pellegrini and her daughter Vanessa, who have sponsored it the past seven years.

“We are so blessed and grateful to everyone who comes out to help wrap gifts, give gifts and volunteer that day,” Vanessa said.

This celebration came out of pain, after Vanessa was diagnosed with CNS (central nervous system) lupus in December 2010 and hospitalized for two weeks.

“We weren’t sure I was going to pull through, since the disease was attacking the blood vessels in my brain,” Vanessa said.“ My mother, being a devout Catholic, prayed to Nossa Senhora de Aparecida in Brazil. She performs miracles, according to local legend, and so my mother prayed.”

(Her mother was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and met her husband Ron while he was traveling to Rio de Janeiro for Carnivale. The couple married and Mercedes came to the United States, where she started Mercedes’ Continental Delights, a bakery in the San Fernando Valley. In 1984, she opened Vittorio’s Ristorante with a partner, but when Giovanni Mazzola left to open a new restaurant in Malibu, Mercedes kept Vittorio’s.)

Mercedes’ prayers were answered and after a few weeks of intensive care in the hospital, Vanessa was sent home, well on the way to recovery.

“As an offering, we both promised to give back to the less fortunate children, who are innocent and often times are the victims of circumstance,” Vanessa said. “I had worked with School on Wheels since 1999 and I was intimately involved with kids who were living in abused homes, homeless shelters and transitory houses. These were the children that were forgotten, and so, the Holiday Luncheon was born.”

School on Wheels provides academic tutoring to children living in shelters, motels, cars, group foster homes and on the streets with the hope of having them achieve educational success, so they can break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.

Vanessa, who attended a parochial school in the Valley and then graduated from Pepperdine, told the News in a December 26 email, “I’m still fighting the battle [with lupus].” She works with her mom in the restaurant and at the Palisades office of Pacific Union Realty (formerly Gibson International). She has two sisters, Sabrina and Pia.

“The luncheon is an amazing day for us, for the kids and for the community!” Vanessa said. “We have no plans to stop this wonderful tradition.”

Read the article on Palisades News here.