Tag Archives: Christine Belgrad

Penn Serves LA Toasts the New Year

By Irene Park, C’05

Tucked away in the warm and welcoming home of alumna, Christine Belgrad, Penn  alumni from a cross-section of backgrounds, interests, professions, schools, and years gathered to celebrate the work of, and welcome interested new members to the Penn Serves LA New Year Social in late January.

Guests chatted easily over wine, beers, and light refreshment provided by Penn Serves LA board members, which lent to an elegant yet homey feel. The highlight, of course, being alumna Kiera Reilly’s “P” for Penn shaped sugar cookies! Herein lies the very nature and appeal that is so unique to Penn Serves LA: Started by a small group of alumni who have always been philanthropically inclined whose passion was to serve their community while connecting with other alumni made this organization a true grassroots effort. It was a void that they met outside of the mandate of other existing alumni groups and the University; one that the LA alumni community and its community partners had no idea was missing until the need was met.

sugar cookies baked by Kiera Reilly, C'93 for Penn Serves LA New Year Social

Home baked sugar cookies from Kiera Reilly, C’93 – Red and Blue P’s for Penn of course

Once a majority of the guests arrived, everyone gathered in the living room and shared their experience at Penn and what brought them to the Penn Serves Social that evening. Over the sounds of a roaring fireplace, the room was brimming with a fellowship between friends and strangers alike with one shared history and love, Penn. All jokes about the oldest alumnus in the room and on-campus curfews aside, the genuine excitement over projects they’ve participated in with Penn Serves LA since its inception in 2012 (in a ‘meet cute’ facilitated by Kiera who brought together alumni superstars, Jane Gutman, Leanne Huebner, Aileen Level, and Denise Winner) was palpable.

Penn LA alumni introduce themselves at the Penn Serves LA New Year Social

Penn LA alumni introduce themselves at the Penn Serves LA New Year Social

Much of what has captivated the alumni community is Penn Serves LA’s disregard for the geographical boundaries generally defined by popularity and traffic. Additionally, instead of marrying itself to one particular organization, cause, or issue, Penn Serves LA addresses a broad-spectrum of needs throughout the community. Penn Serves LA has fed the homeless, built homes, refurbished schools, knitted blankets for babies and new mothers in need, and gardened for Vets just to name few of their projects. This inclusive approach not only means alumni have the opportunity to deepen or discover new organizations, causes, or skills, but it also means more organizations are getting the help they need. Some Penn Serves LA members have gone from a single day volunteer to a regular volunteer to become an organization’s Board member.

Learning about Penn Serves LA

Learning more about Penn Serves LA

From the South Bay to Downtown LA, from the west side to East LA, our alumni are happily committing their weekends to regroup from the buzzy focus of their careers and daily responsibilities to meet new alumni, strengthen existing relationships, connect with people and places they may never have organically met, while serving the community. Though many of the organizations and communities served by Penn Serves LA are ones that its committee is already familiar, they also welcome and have partnered with organizations suggested by alumni volunteers.

A great crowd of alumni of all ages and backgrounds coming to learn about Penn Serves LA

A great crowd of alumni of all ages and backgrounds coming to learn about Penn Serves LA

The moment that solidified the evening for me, and the reason I’ve committed to the organization since its inception was when an alumnus that I had met, perhaps once at another volunteer event, gave me a familial hug after his eyes lit up at the idea of being able to bring his professional resources to Penn Serves LA. Though we all had our own private pursuits, professionally and personally, we felt as though we were unified for the common purpose of doing good. Truly the Quaker way.

It wouldn't be a Penn LA without a great spread of food and wine!

It wouldn’t be a Penn LA without a great spread of food and wine!

About Penn Serves LA

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Penn Serves LA impacts the Los Angeles community by engaging University of Pennsylvania alumni, parents and families in meaningful community service activities.

We have done everything from serving meals to the homeless to restoring the environment to fixing homes. Six times annually, we find another great opportunity to learn about interesting nonprofits, lend a hand and enjoy fun experience with fellow alumni.

Join Us

We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, and help fellow Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Upcoming Events

  • March, 2017 – Food Forward Harvesting – Date and Location TBA
  • April, 29, 2017 – Habitat for Humanity

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Michal Clements, W’84 | Justin Gordon, W’05 | Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Jamie Kendall, W’04 | Irene Park, C’05 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Jeff Weston, C’05 | Denise Winner, W’83

Read about our previous events:

 

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Filed under Guest blogger, Los Angeles, Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

PennServes Picks Packs of Peppers at Westside Food Bank

Penn Serves LA visited the Westside Food Bank in Santa Monica on October 24 to lend a hand. Here is the report of their day by Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16.
18,000 pounds of fresh pears, apples and peppers arrived yesterday, to everyone’s surprise, at the Westside Food Bank.  In a few days it would rot… Quakers to the rescue!
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Feeling pumped following last night’s under-the-lights football win over Yale, over twenty-five members of the Penn family met at the Westside Food Bank to pitch in for another worthy and enjoyable Penn Serves LA project.  The food bank distributes 4.5 million pounds of food each year to 70 local social service agencies.  Half of this food is donated through collection drives by churches, synagogues, schools, the mail carriers, etc., and in addition, the Westside Food Bank purchases an average of $16,500 worth of nutritious food each week.  We were shown a moving video about the work of the Food Bank, the grateful recipients, and the importance of distributing healthy foods:  more produce and protein, less sugar and fat.
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We were shocked to learn that the beautiful food we gleaned and packed today would have been thrown out by farmers were it not for the Food Bank’s efforts to collect healthy produce to assist our food insecure friends in LA.  They pay a small amount to have this food trucked in, and whenever it arrives they need to quickly sort it and box it so that people can “shop” at local agencies for wonderful farm fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Quakers built and filled boxes and worked in the hot sun to get the job done.  As usual, we had all ages and all schools represented.  The time flew by and the last box of peppers found its way into the cooler – we took care of 18,000 pounds of produce and felt good knowing a few thousand people would enjoy healthy snacks this week because of our efforts.

About Penn Serves LA

We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, and help fellow Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

Upcoming Penn Serves LA events:

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Denise Winner, W’83 | Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00 | Irene Park, C’05 | Jeff Weston, C’05

Penn Serves LA has many terrific projects for all ages on the calendar for the coming months.

Read about our previous events:

See the video about the WestSide Food Bank:

 

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Filed under Kiera R., Los Angeles, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

Penn Serves LA: Harvesting a Garden for Veterans

By Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16

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In the midst of our intense and bustling city of somewhere between 13 and 18 million people, we find a few parks and refuges from the crowds. And for those whose budgets won’t allow for multi-thousand dollar initiation fees, there are also a handful of golf courses where anyone can pay to play. Penn Serves LA enjoyed the convergence of many treats for our recent project in July. We gathered at a wonderful, pastoral spot, which is also a golf course open to the public AND we had a bit of summer rain – a real slice of LA heaven.

With gardening gloves and trowels in hand, thirty-odd alumni, friends and children brought the raised bed gardens at the Veteran Administration’s Heroes Golf Course back to life. No special skills were needed to hoe, weed, trim, harvest, re-plant and re-stake these beds, and it was the most satisfying work. After less than three hours our Quakers had literally transformed the gardens from their sad state of affairs, to flourishing boxes of green glory…and in the process we picked basket after basket of zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, herbs and more.

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The Executive Director of the Heroes Golf Course, Bruce Rosen, provided the group with a wonderful history of the VA in Brentwood. The golf facility itself, a 9-hole 3-par course, is most inviting and now all the more so because it is ringed by healthy raised vegetable beds, the produce of which is offered to any veterans who choose to come by and partake.

We are grateful to Bruce and his associate Aviva for providing us with plentiful mulch, plants, tools and enthusiasm …and to the vets who worked alongside of our Penn volunteers. We hope people will support our veterans and this course by coming out to play a round, and meanwhile check out the fruits (and vegetables) of some fine Penn gardening labors…and let’s all hope for a little more rain!

About Penn Serves LA

We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, and help fellow Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

Upcoming Penn Serves LA events:

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Questions? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Denise Winner, W’83 | Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00 | Irene Park, C’05 | Jeff Weston, C’05

Penn Serves LA has many terrific projects for all ages on the calendar for the coming months.

Read about our previous events:

 

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Kiera R., Los Angeles, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

Penn Serves LA has The Giving Spirit

By Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16

Photos by Kiera Reilly, C’93

Wonderful Penn Serves LA volunteers joined in a fantastic effort on May 30th to provide a bit of summer relief for some of the 82,000 people in our city who are homeless on any given night. Founded in 1998, The Giving Spirit has raised over $2 million through small donations and served over 35,000 homeless. Twice a year this all-volunteer non-profit, the largest in the city, organizes the filling of backpacks and duffle bags with essential items (canned and fresh food, clean socks and hats, toiletries, etc. plus lists of available services) to help our friends on the street to survive and enjoy a bit of comfort during the hottest and coldest points in the year.

Volunteers of all ages helped to set up the assembly line, then fill the backpacks.

Volunteers of all ages helped to set up the assembly line, then fill the backpacks.

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Volunteers at the beginning of the assembly line to fill the backpacks.

But in addition to handing out these critical supplies, The Giving Spirit is unique in its approach:  the organization’s leaders know they cannot cure homelessness, but when volunteers hand bags full of help, and maybe hope, to homeless people, they also look them in the eyes, engage them when feasible and let these disenfranchised people know that someone is thinking about them. The formula is a moving one, and through a short, televised video our Penn Serves LA volunteers received a glimpse into its effectiveness.

Jane Gutman introduces The Giving Spirit's founder and Chairman Tom Bagamane to the Penn Serves LA group.

Jane Gutman introduces The Giving Spirit’s founder and Chairman Tom Bagamane to the Penn Serves LA group.

Tom talks to the group about the founding of The Giving Spirit and the work that they do to help the homeless in Los Angeles.

Tom talks to the group about the founding of The Giving Spirit and the work that they do to help the homeless in Los Angeles.

Penn Serves' Jeff Weston, C'05, helps load the filled backpacks into vans for distribution.

Penn Serves’ Jeff Weston, C’05, helps load the filled backpacks into vans for distribution.

One truck filled with backpacks ready to be distributed.

One truck filled with backpacks ready to be distributed.

Penn Serves volunteers at The Giving Spirit.

Penn Serves volunteers at The Giving Spirit.

 

Penn Serves LA has many terrific projects for all ages on the calendar for the coming months, including a day of painting on June 13th at Valiente College Preparatory Charter School, a brand new school for underserved kids opening this fall. Join us this Saturday – RSVP here.

 Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, help us Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

Upcoming Penn Serves LA events:

  • Saturday, June 13, 2015 – Help paint Valiente College Preparatory Charter School – RSVP
  • Saturday, July 18, 2015 – Harvesting a Garden for Veterans – RSVP
  • Saturday, September 12, 2015 – Reading to Kids – Details coming soon
  • Sunday, December 6, 2015 – Midnight Mission: Serving Meals to the Homeless – Details coming soon

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Questions? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com.

Find us on the web, follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page!

Read about our previous events:

August 2014 – Penn Serves LA Strikes Again: This Time with Paint!

December, 2013 – Holidays are a Time for Giving

November, 2013 – Sending Holiday Warmth to our Troops

August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

 

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Kiera R., Los Angeles, Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

Penn Serves LA Strikes Again; This Time With Paint

By Leanne Huebner, W’90

Photos by Kiera Reilly, C’93

Over thirty Penn Alumni and their children joined together for a fun beautification project for El Nido Family Centers in Mission Hills.  We were thrilled that Elizabeth Fields, Julie Gutowski and Kiera Reilly from the Penn Western Regional Office joined us. And we welcomed special guests in town from campus Penn Professor David Grossman, Ph.D., Director, Civic House and Civic Scholars Program, and Katie McCarthy from the Penn Development Office, both lending their painting skills for good.

All in all, the team completed the center’s foyer, a key event room, as well as a hallway in bright white.  The highlight for many participants was contributing to a full wall-sized canvas mural alongside the Pacoima mural artist.  Volunteers brought together her vision for a grand-scale masterpiece to add cheer and interest in the center’s main lobby area.

Stuart Berton, El Nido Board President and Wharton ’61 graduate, thanked the team and provided a great overview of the important work of El Nido, a nonprofit that has served Los Angeles for 89 years.  Each year, the centers reach over 11,000 Los Angelenos  through its community outreach, early education and teen pregnancy initiatives, and gang-prevention programming.  While many individuals come to the center, El Nido social workers are also in the field meeting individuals and assessing families in their homes and schools.

Penn Serves LA's Jane Gutman with El Nido's Stuart Berton

Penn Serves LA’s Jane Gutman with El Nido’s Stuart Berton

A few highlights of their work were shared.  For instance, their GRYD program for gang-prevention has experienced success rates of up to 98% working with at-risk youth.  Their teen pregnancy recidivism rate is 80% lower than the national average, with only 4% of teenage mothers they serve having a second child before they turn twenty years old.

Penn Serves LA's Leanne Huebner is thrilled with the event.

Penn Serves LA’s Leanne Huebner is thrilled with the event.

“We are excited to help El Nido with such a great, enthusiastic group of volunteers,” shares Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16, one of the Penn Serves LA Directors and coordinator of this event.  “And to have David and Katie here from Penn lending a hand makes our day of brightening the facility with fresh paint all the better.”

View all the photos from the day here.

The entire group poses to celebrate a job well done!

The entire group poses to celebrate a job well done!

The next Penn Serves’ event will be Saturday, August 9th from 9 a.m. to noon and you can reserve your spot here.  Penn will be serving LA Waterkeepers in an effort to help identify the impact of debris on our area’s water supply.  “It’s a great opportunity for your science-minded side as we will be surveying and collecting valuable data,” shares Christine Belgrad, W’87, PAR’15, PAR’17, event coordinator.
Many of the past Penn Serves sell out, so please reserve your spot quickly.

Read about our past events:

December, 2013 – Holidays are a Time for Giving

November, 2013 – Sending Holiday Warmth to our Troops

August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Family Programming, Guest blogger, Kiera R., Los Angeles, Penn Serves LA, Photos, Volunteering, West Coast Regional Office