Acts of Kindness are everywhere in Westchester/Playa

While the recent weeks have brought a lot of fear and uncertainty to everyone, it has also brought an unprecedented amount of people looking to help, volunteer, donate and give back. We’re heartened by the constant stream of reports about neighbors helping neighbors and people they’ve never met before: offering to pick up items for those that can’t go out; giving updates on what’s on store shelves; and sharing resources whether it’s gloves, toilet paper or information.

While we’d never have enough print space to highlight them all, below are just some of the ways that community members, organizations and businesses are sharing kindness with others.

Suzy Smith is one of many community members making cloth masks to donate to frontline workers and neighbors. Here she poses with her family in Westchester.

Making and donating cloth masks for those in need.

When Westchester mom Suzy Smith heard about hospital workers and first responders facing mask shortages, she sprang into action. A talented seamstress with a lot of fabric on hand, she found a pattern online and quickly got to work sewing.

After posting on Facebook that she was making masks for those in need, she got a flurry of requests from community members looking to protect themselves and their loved ones. People shared stories about immune compromised family members, heading to Skid Row to help with no face coverings, collecting masks for their medical offices and being worried about going to the grocery store.

“I ended up opening it up to everyone that wanted one,” said Smith. “I offered one per family, and it kind of blew up from there.”

Balancing working from home and helping her two daughters with schoolwork, she has now made and donated more than 300 masks that run the gamut of designs—from superheroes to pineapples to tigers. No matter what the design, however, the people she is able to help are grateful for her kindness.

While many have offered to donate money to help offset the cost, she’s happy to keep sewing and offering her services for free as long as she can. She’s excited for an upcoming delivery of 100 yards of elastic to be able to make even more masks.


Westchester Rotarians practice social distancing and get ready to deliver meals
as part of the Senior Support Coalition.

Nonprofits join forces to help seniors.

Not wanting to duplicate efforts and making sure they were sharing resources, some of the community’s top do-gooders–the leaders at Westside Pacific Villages (WPV), the Westchester Family YMCA, the LAX Coastal Chamber, Covenant Presbyterian Church, the Rotary Club of Westchester, the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation, Airport Marina Counseling Service and Culver Palms Meals-On Wheels–quickly mobilized to ensure that no local seniors would be left behind or alone during this crisis.

The result of their collaboration is the Senior Support Coalition, which is offering free help to seniors that need meal deliveries, grocery runs, essential errands and regular social support calls.

According to WPV Executive Director, Carol Kitabayashi, the benefit of contacting an organization like WPV for help is that it vets its volunteers, who must pass a background check.

“Sadly, there are a lot of scam artists out there,” said Kitabayashi. “But there are a lot of good people too, so it’s heartwarming for me to see that seniors are getting help. Seniors can often feel invisible—a lot of them are stuck at home and sometimes no one knows they’re even there.”

While all the organizations are working together, the Westchester Rotary with its army of volunteers, has already begun making no-contact deliveries of meals and homemade cards from local kids. For people requesting help that range well into their 90s, being able to count on deliveries of food and regular check-ins has been a blessing.

The group is also working on a senior needs assessment and tutorials to help seniors with technology like Zoom, so they can connect virtually.

“I’m so impressed by how resilient we are as a community. I’m so honored to be working and living here,” said Westchester Rotary president Darlene Fukuji. “Everyone is coming together and sharing their talents, resources and special skills, which is really cool to see.”

To receive or give help to the Senior Support Coalition, please visit
thewpv.org, call (310) 695-7030 or email WPVcares@thewpv.org. You can also view more info on page 2 of the HTN.


Businesses work together to support LAPD officers.

After getting a phone call from a local LAPD station that officers were having trouble getting food for their families after long shifts and having no luck finding basic items like milk and eggs, Chamber President/CEO Christina Davis, did what she does best: she started making calls and started connecting people who could help.

She reached out to Playa del Rey’s Todd and Julie Arutunian of Astro Food Service, who needed to distribute perishable food items usually reserved for their wholesale restaurant clients. Davis asked if they could put together pre-packaged food boxes for officers to take home to their families, and the Arutunians jumped on board to make it happen. Next, a phone call to the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation got the LAPD Pacific Booster Club a donation to enable them to purchase boxes for 80 officers and their families—helping both the protectors and a small local business.

Said LAPD Officer Robert Hoebink in an email, “What is that special something? It is the bringing together of our community to make a difference. Our first responders could not be more appreciative of all these efforts. One officer in particular stopped me to personally explain how much the food meant to him and his family, and that he had trouble finding certain groceries due to not being able to shop at stores during prime hours. His wife was not able to go out because she had to watch their small children and could not take them out to the store. The groceries that he received were exactly what he and his family needed.”


WAM helps artists through live-streaming home concerts.

Knowing that art can help lift people’s spirits during trying times, Westchester Arts & Music (WAM) Block Party producer John Sharpe is hoping to put a smile on people’s faces with online streaming concerts.

“I wanted to do something to support local artists and hopefully, bring folks a little respite from the stress and anxiety we’re all feeling,” said Sharpe.

Musicians will play music in their homes, which will be streamed on WAM’s Instagram Stories on Fridays in April at 6 p.m. Follow @wamblockparty to watch the concerts live. While the performances are free, donations to the artists are welcome.


WLS community creates cards for first responders.

Westchester Lutheran School has partnered with Operation Gratitude to say “thank you” to the heroes that risk their health each day to serve and care for those who are ill with COVID-19. Students, parents and teachers are making cards, and if you would like to join them in this effort, please first wash your hands with warm water and soap and get creative!

The cards could be made for a nurse, doctor, hospital worker, paramedic, police office or firefighter. Mail your card(s) by April 12 to Westchester Lutheran School, ATTN: Operation Gratitude at 7831 S. Sepulveda Blvd., LA, CA 90045.

For more info, email Emily Ingistov, Head of School at eingistov@wlcs.org.


Westchester Helpers aid neighbors that can’t leave their homes.

Worried about the community’s senior population, Dana Rogers decided to put thoughts into actions. With the Stay at Home order and seniors told to stay at home if possible, Rogers created a flyer to distribute to her neighbors and reached out to her network for help in spreading the word.

“For me, most of my family is on the East Coast,” said Rogers who has lived in Westchester for eight years and is the mom to elementary school-aged kids. “The inability to protect my own parents and grandparents made me want to help here.”

Creating an impressive spreadsheet, Rogers was able to coordinate with other local moms willing to help with grocery deliveries, prescription pick-ups and friendly phone calls. Connecting with Westside Pacific Villages, she was also able to collect cards made by local kids to include with the meals they are delivering.

“With the Safer at Home order, some people are responding with fear, but what I love seeing is turning that fear into an opportunity to help someone else,” said Rogers. “There is so much warmth in the community. You definitely see people tapping into the deepest parts of their hearts when something like this happens.”

To learn more, call or text (424) 341-3408 or email westchesterhelpers@mail.com.


Local organizations host blood drives.

The Westchester Family YMCA is hosting blood drives on Thursdays in April from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in their annex location to support much needed donations for the American Red Cross. Those interested in donating are encouraged to visit redcrossblood.org and use the sponsor code: YMCAWestchester. To streamline the donation process, visit redcrossblood.org/rapidpass to fill out a health questionnaire prior to your appointment.
The Westchester Elks Lodge will also be holding a blood drive this month on Monday, April 20 from 2 to 8 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, please sign-up online at cedars-sinai.org/giveblood and use code WELG.


Zacha Homes offers neighbors help.

Longtime Westchester resident, Robin Zacha, is a one-woman team offering help to her neighbors when it comes to errands, meals and item pick-ups. As the owner of Zacha Homes, she has also been helping worried homeowners with their questions and offering information about what government support is out there.

She can be reached at (310) 293-3043 and will do her best to answer your question or help with your request.


SoCalGas offers grants for nonprofits impacted by COVID-19.

SoCalGas’ parent company is offering grants through its COVID-19 Nonprofit Hardship Fund. Grants ranging from $500 to $50,000 will be awarded to small and medium-sized nonprofits. Organizations showing an increase in clients due to the pandemic, as well as organizations that need support to sustain their basic operations due to cancellation of major fundraisers, are encouraged to apply.

For more details, visit tinyurl.com/yx5nk247, which will take you to grantrequest.com to fill out an application.


Real estate company buys gift cards to support local restaurants.

The Suarez Real Estate team is buying $5,000 worth of gift cards to help support local restaurants. They’re asking community members to vote for their favorites, and the gift cards will be purchased from the top 10 restaurants with the most votes. The gift cards will then be donated to local charities to help those in need. Voting ends on April 16. Cast your vote at SuarezCommunityHelp.com.


A chalk rainbow in Westchester.
Photo by Zsuzsi Steiner.

Neighbors spread cheer with decorations, holiday lights and more.

While we’re all staying at home as much as possible these days, and trips outside often consist of a walk around the block, neighbors are spreading some much needed cheer by decorating their homes with holiday lights, putting things in their windows for families with young kids to spot and creating chalk drawings with positive messages or jokes.

If you’re interested in suggestions for what to put in your window, please see our Westchester/Playa Window Walk list on page 2.

In collaboration with WAM and the Living90045.com blog, the HTN is also holding a Chalk Art contest. Check out page 7 for more info or visit our post at facebook.com/thehtn.


Woman’s Club offers camaraderie and mask making.

The Westchester Woman’s Club is inviting local woman to learn more about their organization and get involved with their philanthropic and civic endeavors.

Members are working to offer their services virtually, from health and wellness tips to online group fitness classes. They’re also involved with making masks for those in need.
If you have any interest in these services or would like to volunteer to help with masks, please contact club president Margarita Diosomito at margarita.diosomito@yahoo.com.

We know acts of kindness–both big and small–are everywhere and touching all corners of Westchester/Playa. Please share your stories with us, so we can share with our readers and work to document this moment in time. Email us at westchesterhometown@yahoo.com.

Posted April 2020.