Tag Archives: community service

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 Spruces Up a New Charter School

By Leanne Pyott Huebner, W’90

Valiente College Preparatory Charter School

Five Large Classrooms, Five Hours, and Twenty Volunteers.  That’s what the Penn Serves team had to work with this past weekend to prepare the classrooms of Valiente College Prep Charter School, in South Gate, California.  This newly-chartered early-start middle school will open its doors in two months time to approximately 140 4th and 5th graders.  Every dollar counts for new schools prompting Board Chair Leanne Huebner, W’90, to call in the Penn Serves LA volunteers to lend some much-needed manpower on this June morning.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have the help prepping Valiente, as our teachers are so eager to prep classrooms for opening day,” shares Huebner.  “This work saved our school thousands of dollars we can now use towards other critical school needs!”

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A great team of Penn alumni were out in force to paint the new charter school

 

Valiente College Prep Charter School is the culmination of nearly two years of prep work which started with school founder Jacob Wertz’s vision to create a high-performing charter middle school for Southeast Los Angeles.  After completing a yearlong fellowship with non-profit Building Excellent Schools, Jacob and his founding team embarked on the task of launching Valiente, utilizing best practices from dozens of successful charter schools across the U.S.

“We are creating a high-expectations community of leaders and learners preparing our students for great universities like Penn,” shares Wertz.  Valiente serves one of the most overpopulated zip codes in the U.S. where today only 7% of its residents hold college degrees.  The team is on a mission to move that needle higher as it serves approximately 95% students with free- and reduced-lunch eligibility status, often used as high poverty indicator.

“It was great to come out today and help this school get ready for day one,” shared Jennifer Bunn, W’06, C’06, now an attorney in Newport Beach. “After Penn, I taught for four years, two through Teach for America so I know how important for charter schools to access great volunteer talent whenever possible.”

Interested in getting involved at Valiente College Prep?  Please contact Jacob at jwertz@valientecollegeprep.org to learn more.

Penn Serves LA’s next event will be on Saturday, July 18th, when the volunteers will be harvesting, weeding, pruning, and planting a Heroes’ Garden at the Veteran’s Administration in West LA.  Click here to RSVP.

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Dunn Edwards, headquartered nearby the school, generously donated paint and some supplies – it came in handy.

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Great teamwork with Penn alumni working alongside school parents.

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Paul and Nicole tackle the two-tone windows.

 

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

June, 2015 – Penn Serves LA Has the Giving Spirit

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, Guest blogger, 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.

Penn Serves room 2

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

Seattle Alumni Put on Aprons for an Evening to Help Alleviate Poverty

By: Haley Shapley, C’06

Thanks to a little help from the Penn Club of Seattle, at least one person will be able to transition from the streets to a job in the hospitality industry.

It was all part of Guest Chef Night at FareStart, a culinary job training and placement program for homeless individuals in Seattle. Since 1992, FareStart has provided opportunities for nearly 7,000 people to transform their lives, while also serving more than 6 million meals to disadvantaged men, women, and children.

The tables are set for FareStart's Guest Chef Night, with Penn Alumni Club of Seattle members as guest servers.

The tables are set for FareStart’s Guest Chef Night, with Penn Alumni Club of Seattle members as guest servers.

Each Thursday evening, prominent guest chefs come to work with the students as part of their 16-week food-service program. The three-course meal is served by volunteers, which is where Penn alumni came in.

Chef Sam Hassan explains the evening's menu.

Chef Sam Hassan explains the evening’s menu.

Although none in the group had any restaurant experience to speak of, on April 24 we got a crash course in the art of serving, learning the importance of checking back within two bites, refilling waters regularly (and not touching the rim of the glass!), and how to properly carry a tray. Chef Sam Hassan of Maple Falls Cafe provided a tasting of the Mandioca Frita, NW by SE Pasta, and Mango Raspberry Cobbler beforehand so that we’d be able to answer questions about the ingredients when guests inquired (Just what is yuca? Ask us; we know!).

The featured servers tonight - the Penn Club of Seattle!

The featured servers tonight – the Penn Club of Seattle!

Penn Alumni getting trained

Penn Alumni getting trained

Six hours, countless pitchers of water, and a few cramped fingers later, we’d served 169 diners, raising a total of $7,116 for FareStart’s training programs, including donations of $181 and tips of $1,327. All in all, it’s more than enough to give one student safe housing, the full 16-week culinary program, and comprehensive wrap-around services.

It's a full house.

It’s a full house.

The program has a 90 percent job placement rate within three months for students after graduation, and each Guest Chef Night includes a graduation ceremony with those who’ve completed the 16-week program successfully. On our night, we watched two grads get ready to move on to the next stage of their lives, including Tina, who didn’t miss a single day. “It’s made me stay focused instead of every day wondering what’s going to happen,” she said.

Rupi Sureshkumar, Maria Seredina, and David Blum watch the graduation festivities.

Rupi Sureshkumar, Maria Seredina, and David Blum watch the graduation festivities.

Bob, who moved to Seattle in July with a big plan that fell apart, was equally grateful. “I thank this program; it really rescued me,” he said. “I learned a lot and I appreciate it. This program is ingenious to solve the problem of homelessness and poverty.”

Bellies full of delectable ingredients like shaved Parmigiano, smoked fish, and Chantilly cream, we scattered into the night back to our respective homes — energized by the experience and humbled by the fact that we made a contribution, however small, to the students being able to have homes to return to as well.

Penn alumni enjoy a hard-earned meal at the end of the evening.

Penn alumni enjoy a hard-earned meal at the end of the evening.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, GAN, Guest blogger, Penn Clubs, Photos, Volunteering

Penn Club of Utah Fifth Annual Day of Service

By Kiera Reilly, C’93 @KieraReilly

Art Warsoff, W’83, and his wife Diane Warsoff, W’83, submitted this note about the Penn Club of Utah’s Fifth Annual Day of Service:

On April 5th, the Penn Alumni Club of Utah held our 5th annual day of service. This year we volunteered with Tree Utah and followed it up with lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Red Iguana.

We are glad that the weather cooperated and we were able to get all four large columnar oaks and an apple tree planted at Wheeler Historical Farm. We were also able to cheer runners participating in a 5k run which went right past us.

As in prior years, we invited alumni from Princeton, MIT, Franklin & Marshall and University of Virginia to join us. All twenty-five alumni, friends and family that participated are looking forward to next year’s activity.

Planting trees in Utah.

Planting trees in Utah.

You can see more photos from the day’s event here.

Many Penn Clubs around the world contribute to their communities through service activities. Some recent examples are from the Penn Club of Northern California, Penn Club of Philadelphia, and a group in Los Angeles, Penn Serves LA, that includes members of both PennClubLA and the Wharton Club of Southern California. You can also read about the Penn Club of Utah’s 4th Day of Service here.

We hope that many other clubs will plan events to serve their communities – and share your story with us. Please contact Kiera Reilly, C’93, from the regional clubs team, or your regional clubs liaison, if you would like to plan an event or you organized an event you would like to share on our blog.

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Clubs, GAN, Kiera R., Penn Club of Philadelphia, Penn Clubs, Photos, Volunteering, West Coast Regional Office

Penn Serves LA: Holidays are a Time for Giving

By Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16

Holidays are a time for giving, and also for giving back. Fourteen years ago a man named Tom Bagamane and his sister decided to pack forty grocery bags and hand them out to homeless people they saw near home and work. The weekend of December 12 – 15, 2013, volunteers with The Giving Spirit headed to all parts of Los Angeles and handed full duffle bags to 2,600 homeless people. The bags were not dropped off in parks or near shelters, rather The Giving Spirit volunteers found isolated people and interacted with them in the process of handing over a bag filled with fresh and canned food, socks, hats, rain gear, toiletries and the like, along with an industrial strength blanket.

Giving Spirit group Dec.13.2013

On the Friday night of that weekend, over fifty Penn Serves LA volunteers of all ages congregated at a church in West LA to help to make greeting cards and pack Tupperware and ziplocks with necessities for The Giving Spirit’s bags. As Mr. Bagamane told the Penn crowd, The Giving Spirit knows it cannot cure homelessness, but it hopes to make the holidays and the coldest part of winter just a little easier for “our friends living on the street.” He asked the Penn alumni how it would feel to never hear your name spoken or to line up with your kids just to have a roof over your head for a few hours.

Giving Spirit 1 Dec.13.2013

Giving Spirit 2 Dec.13.2013

The Penn group pitched in for a few hours – some hauling heavy boxes, some joining the assembly lines, some binding blankets. It was a cold night, but we had lots of company and warm food provided by local restaurants…and we were reminded yet again how very lucky we are not to live in a tent or a box on the street. After a fulfilling and collegial evening, our Penn alumni headed back to their cars and homes, and over the Penn shirts they had donned many wore The Giving Spirit t-shirt emblazoned with, “GIVE HOPE LOVE”…and that’s what the holidays are all about!

Giving Spirit 4 Dec.13.2013

Giving Spirit 3 Dec.13.2013

All alumni, Penn parents, families and their children are invited to the next Penn Serves LA event on Sunday, February 23, 2014, from 4:00 – 7:00 pm at One to One Outreach. Back by popular demand, we will return to assemble and deliver boxes of food to the low income, food-insecure of South Central Los Angeles. Children over 8 years are invited to attend. Bring a bit of joy and relief to those in need with us. Click here to sign up for this event.

About Penn Serves LA – Started in 2012, Penn Serves offers a way for direct community service for local Penn alumni and their children to serve Los Angeles’ most needy populations. We partner with established nonprofits and grassroots organizations for one-time volunteer opportunities. So far, we’ve served meals to the homeless, delivered food to low income families, planned activities with immigrant children, and so much more. Please contact us if you’d like to help at a future event via email at pennservesla@gmail.com or visit our website.

Read about our past events:

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, Guest blogger, Los Angeles, Penn Clubs, Penn Serves LA, Photos, Volunteering, West Coast Regional Office