MEND Gala Wrap Up

Every well run fundraiser is well planned. Sometime in September the lights stay on for late Wednesday evening meetings at the MEND center on San Fernando.


I have never been a “lady who lunches”, instead I am a “lady who grabs my kid from daycare, zooms through McDonald’s and rushes up a flight of stairs to kiss 25 faces before sitting down and starting kindergarten homework while the meeting starts”. It is not glamorous, or well executed, but it is how I roll.

How the Committee works

Despite how I perform as a Gala member, everyone else comes with pens and notepads and ideas. We have been doing this for seven years and tiny factions have formed. People gravitate to tasks like solicitation, public relations, auction items and volunteer recruitment the ways that bees pollinate their favorite flowers.

Bigger issues such as ticket prices, Board Member engagement, entertainment, production features and suggestions for growth are openly and freely debated.  There are laughs and sometimes there is wine.

Starting in December the meetings go from monthly to weekly.  We say MEND’s mission statement, discuss dollars, order favors (thanks Aimee who hated me in highschool but comes through for MEND and me every year at AB_Unlimited), bond over our love of Mr. Urbano from Universal Studios and get ready for the big event.

The day before the Gala we load up a large truck with supplies and I pretend that I know how to create lovely silent auction baskets while my daughter plays with the COO’s kid. MEND is a family friendly affair for staff and volunteers alike on the weekends.

Family affair  – Mr Kelly, and Carrie’s son and his dancing lady friend. (I borrowed this photo from Facebook)

By 11 am on Gala day the committee is assembling table decorations, setting everything up, wandering around in curlers and eventually laughing in the ladies room as we fix zippers, share lipstick and discuss slips and shoes. (I gave my shoes to my friend Tarry who used to be a MEND employee and now volunteers.)  We are our  own special sorority. Sometimes silly, always serious about our goal.

Where does the money go?

This is the only big fundraiser MEND has all year.  MEND’S budget has two great needs: homeless services and Medical Dispensing.  MEND has a great Diabetic program with specialized food boxes, nursing, education and blood testing & Insulin. Insulin saves lives and it is hard for us to put a price-tag on it – but the manufacturers have managed to do that and MEND pays so that we can give the medication to clients in need.

Thank you Heritage Provider Network and other generous donors.

The funds raised at the GALA are the operations budget, the orphaned program funds for homeless services, showers, the Diabetic program and all the wonderful and needed programs that are not glamorous enough to attract other directed donations. Sure, there is food and music, and a great show on television combined with an awesome MC from ABC7 each year (This year we had Sid Garcia; in previous  years Danny Romero served) .

As committee members we are COMMITTED members to supporting this oasis of help in a desert of need.

How do we know if we have done our job well?

This is what happens when an Analyst is your Committee Chairperson.

Robin, Victoria,Steve and Susan watching the analysis
Every well run fundraiser is well planned. This is what happens when an Analysist is your Committee Chairperson.
Yasmin Serrato explains the success and areas of improvement to Pablo and Rita

If you look in the window you can see a reflection of a computer spreadsheet that is being projected from the television. Yasmin is walking us through comparisons to previous years and taking notes. We are always giving feedback.

There is always magic in giving. Victoria gave Darla a wand from Universal Studios where our gala is held.

My youngest daughter has been on the committee for the past six years, and she has made some lifelong (6 years that is) friendships and connections that only enforce my love for MEND. The people behind the scenes are as passionately in love with the goals as the staff and day to day volunteers. Now we go through the long hiatus of waiting for Fall to begin again.

While we wait, think about joining us. We have food, and the occasional cookie, and so much fuzzy fun. If there is something you want to donate to our auctions, let me know because it is tax deductible.

How to Ruin Your FoodStamp Budget

costcoMore on my MEND Poverty #Foodstampchallenge to #stopSummerHunger

Well, to begin with, it turns out that since 2009 Costco has accepted the EBT cards as payment in their stores. so YAY. ”

  • Payment
  • • We welcome cash,* checks,* debit/ATM cards,** Costco
  • Cash Cards, Costco Credit Cards**, EBT Cards and
  • American Express Cards.** Checks may require picture
  • identification and approval by a supervisor or manager.
  • * Not accepted at Costco Gas Stations.
  • ** Not accepted at Costco Food Courts.”

On the down side; all the best planning in the world does nothing if you leave a 2 year old home in the care of a 43 year old who lets the 2 year old feed herself out of the refrigerator.

Darla made her way through 2 bananas and 3 baggies of fruit and 3 tubs of precooked meals – thus throwing off my weekly plan. But, we will regroup and stay the course.

I imagine this happens to many households with kids. They grow – they get hungry – they EAT and eat and EAT.

Diva Alert: I am Intolerant so I Became a Social Worker


No. I am not a “Do-Gooder” – I am an angry and intolerant snob with customer service issues. I can’t afford to be one of those “Ladies who Lunch” – but please, feel free to fix me up with a Sugar Daddy so I could be…. I’m just saying that I am open to the idea… It isn’t so much that I am trying to make the world a better place – I am trying to make the world I live in a place where I don’t want to scream and poke people.

Growing up in Arcadia, CA we were shielded from poverty and other human afflictions. Before you get defensive, remember that the Santa Anita Racetrack was an Internment Camp until Manzanar

My freeway sign
My freeway sign

was ready – and I didn’t know that until I went to college.  Everyone pretended that all adults could read, hold employment and were emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially healthy. As children, my friends and I knew this was not reality. We had friends who lived in trailers, shared back houses with other families, had incurable lung diseases, and family and friends with substance use issues.  Arcadia was (and is) a nice bubble to live in – but bubbles are transparent and everyone can see through them.

I was confused and angry to be told of one reality while I lived something completely different. My biological mother was chronically homeless, mentally ill and a drug addict. I was adopted into a family where my uncles had (and have) ongoing substance abuse and mental health problems and my adoptive Mother had a life long illness. My uncles moved in and out of my grandparents homes because they could not stabilize themselves. And as far as I could tell, no one stood up and said “Hey, look over here and see if we can make a change!”

Supposedly we can blame Bryan Whitlach Alexander for his infusion of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror while I was in High School. “Look in the mirror and make the change….”

I went to college and dropped out to become an unwed mother with 3/4ths of a college degree. My sorority sisters abandoned me when they realized I was going to live in poverty and raise my daughter on cash aid and food stamps while I worked minimum wage jobs and debated returning to college. Eventually I did complete my degree – which today I am told will never be worth what I paid to earn it… great.  While in college I did an Internship at Santa Anita Family Services and met a homeless man living in the parking lot. I was told to drive him to the edge of our “SPA” – Service Provider Area – and then he would not be our problem anymore.  Seriously?!?! More “out of sight is out of mind” thinking? Wow.

While I was never good at finding resources for myself, I did suddenly start a search for ways to help this man. What I discovered will not shock the natives – THERE ARE NO SERVICES IN ARCADIA to assist the low income or homeless. None. Sure, the churches and synagogues and temples offer sack lunches, but there is no employment training, nowhere to collect cash aid checks and pick up food stamps (these are now issued on an EBT card), no public restrooms or showers or low cost laundry mats. Even the Adult Education Classes were held outside of the city. I would love to build a MEND Poverty (Meet Each Need with Dignity )  in the San Gabriel Valley.

So, I became a Social Worker. I would love to bring and build services needed by so many – but I don’t know how to fund that. What I do know how to do is have an encyclopedic reference for every possible service currently provided in the area, the ability to network, to connect via social media, and how to make a human connection with the people in need for these services and plug them into the programs they need.

As a social worker and child of teachers, I am intolerant of people who drop out of high school, and equally intolerant of schools that disenfranchise students who don’t fit their dream ideal of what a child’s goals should be. In Arcadia there are no more Vocational Training courses such as auto shop and woodworking. They even tried to kill the football program because it conflicted with test schedules. No joke.  Now that I know where the great Remedial Education and Adult Basic Education skills are offered, I am intolerant of folks who won’t try to achieve the most necessary of “Get a job” skills – the High school Diploma or GED.

I am angered by parents who refuse to continue school and who settle for minimum wage jobs because parenthood prevented them from living their dreams. Don’t they understand that they are telling their kids that the kids are dream killers? I would rather they show the children that the kids inspired the parents to push harder than ever and achieve their goals. My oldest daughter was five years old when she attended my graduation from The University of La Verne. She is currently a Sophomore there.

I am intolerant of people who believe that only illegal immigrants can do menial manual labor like push material through  sewing machine, pick crops, wash dishes, swab restrooms. The money is just as green from field work as it is from sitting in an office.  My father picked and sliced fruit as a youth, and I literally washed a grown man’s butt to pay for college. Work is work and money is money. Some work is harder on your body and soul – but they ability to pay bills is not reduced by the nature of the source of income.

People are worth more than the sum of their bank accounts and personal property. This is my largest pet peeve (other than when folks don’t take down the blue handicap placard before driving… I mean, read the bottom of the card and take it down already! ). Jesus , Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Ben Franklin – none of these people had credit cards and not all of them had permanent or stable housing throughout their adulthood. Would you refuse to have dinner with them now, if you could? These folks are noteworthy because of what went on in their minds, the words that came from their mouths and the actions they took. It never had anything to do with income. How did money become so important in dividing us anyway?

I am intolerant of people who give up and are as helpless as they can be in the hopes that someone will save them. I have had enough with the “Damsel in Distress” act. Get up. Pick a direction and get moving. You won’t get to come back as someone smarter or richer – this is your one life. Educate yourself, enrich yourself with your own efforts and reach out and help those around you.

I am not trying to make the world a better, kinder place. I am trying to shape it into a place I can set my four girls loose into and know they will thrive – where even if hard times happen (because they will) there will be assistance and motivation for them. I want to build the world I was told Arcadia has always been.

$11 for 11.11.11 Veteran’s Day – a Suggested Donation

I know many of us will be spending money this Friday at Veteran’s Day sales. Can I suggest we also spend $11 to help the very veteran’s we are taking the day to honor?

Recently you have been hearing a lot about @MENDPOVERTY1  M.E.N.D   from me. Part of that is because I am enthralled that there is a place providing everything I have ever wanted to see in a community center – and it is all FREE to those who can not pay. Donations, of course, are accepted when they fit into the recipient’s budget.

Pacoima is far away from my hometown of Arcadia – and I would do anything to replicate the services closer to home. Until I figure out how to do that, I want to share a little more about why MEND speaks to me.

  • If you live near MEND and don’t have enough money to feed your family for the month: MEND can give you a box of food
  • If it is the middle of the day and you need a hot meal : MEND will serve one to you…and it will be real food that smells and tastes good.
  • If you never graduated High school and need the education to get a better job, or as an example for your children: MEND offers the classes.
  • If poverty and other issues are causing you emotional troubles, free therapy is available
  • Need a dental or vision or medical appointment, real life, certified professionals will examine and treat you.
  • Need somewhere to pour your good intentions and time into: MEND is almost completely staffed and run by volunteers.
  • Do you want to learn to sew? MEND has a class for that.
  • Are you homeless without a place to take a shower? Two days a week MEND opens it’s hot showers for free.
  • Need nicer clothing for your children or family to wear for school or to work? MEND has a boutique. A donation is suggested, but if it isn’t possible – it is also free.
  • Too overwhelmed to know where and how to apply for public benefits? the Intake staff will hep you apply and direct you.

So, now it almost Veteran’s day and they are telling me that many of their clients are Veterans. At least 5 of the Veteran’s they served last week were homeless.

Like I said, all of the services to the Veteran’s (and the neighborhood) are free. And speaking of FREE, I am free because people were willing to sign up and protect this country and fight for my freedoms. Freedom is free to most of us with a suggested donation that some of us serve in the military and armed forces.

So: go to MEND’s web page and look for this form.

 Donation Amount:       (US Dollars)  *  

      $11.00    – for Veterans Services
      $25.00    – Provides warm jackets and pants for two people
      $50.00   – Provides necessary supplies to give a child a teeth cleaning
    $100.00  – Provides a nutritious food box to feed a family of four
    $250.00  – Pays for the cost of running the computer lab for one week
    $500.00  – Provides vital insulin shots and medication for a diabetic patient
 $1,000.00 – Strengthens MEND’s comprehensive approach to poverty-relief!
  other $

I want to make a one-time donation.
I want to make a recurring donation every: Month 3 months Year What’s this?

This donation is in response to:  * Veterans 11-11-11 Campaign Christmas Basket Program E-Newsletter/Online search engine Gift of Love Fundraising Event Long time MEND Supporter Mailing: Newsletter / MEMORANDUM Media Story Stop Summer Hunger Facebook/Twitter Story Other
If you chose other, please explain:  


Find somewhere near you to give $11 to, or feel free to donate to MEND