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Husband and wife team behind Bughouse get creative in Westchester

Westchester residents Rebecca Johnson and Jeff Klarin are the creative duo behind art and design studio, Bughouse. Both native Angelenos, the married couple love to create art in a variety of media and find inspiration everywhere, especially when it comes to the natural beauty of the area.

From fun paintings and graphic design work to custom furniture and photography, the two enjoy challenging themselves with new projects and hope to help bring more public art to the community.

Get the scoop on this month’s spotlight by reading below!

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Summer fun in 90045 and beyond

As the pandemic starts to appear in the rear-view mirror and vaccination numbers continue to rise, local businesses and organizations are beginning to plan and host events again. 

While last year every major summer happening was canceled or went virtual, as we move toward the state’s June 15 reopening date, more activities and events keep getting announced. With many organizations still working on finalizing their calendars for the next few months, here’s a snapshot of some of the exciting events and activities that have been announced so far for this summer! 

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Voting is now open for our 10th Annual Best Of list!

It’s time to show your support for your favorite local businesses and organizations in our 10th Anniversary Best Of Readers’ Poll!

The last year has been difficult for many businesses, so it’s more important than ever that we celebrate the best our community has to offer and let businesses know how much they mean to their fans.

Please vote for your favorites local businesses (from Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Marina del Rey and surrounding areas) in more than 80 categories. Voting should take about ten minutes to complete. While you don’t have to vote for everything on this list, you must vote in at least 10 categories for your vote to count.

Feel free to encourage your fans, friends and family to vote, but you may only vote once.

The top three vote-getters in each category–The “Best Of” and two runner-up “Favorites”– will be revealed in the August Best Of edition of the HomeTown News. 

Click HERE to vote or visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/htnbestof2021.

Voting closes Wednesday, July 7th at 11:59 p.m.!

DRALL Hit-A-Thon

Baseball teams headed to American Field on Saturday, March 27 to participate in the Del Rey America Little League’s (DRALL) Hit-A-Thon and Home Run Derby to help raise money for the league.

More than 125 players, as well as a few coaches and managers, battled it out to see who could hit the ball the furthest in the younger divisions and who could hit the most home runs in the Majors division, to the delight of parents and teammates who were eager to participate in this tradition.

The Home Run Derby came down to a nail-biter finish as the top two hitters headed into extra rounds. In the end, the Yankee’s Julian Knudsen took home the title of Majors Home Run Derby Champion with a total of 20 home runs. The Reds’ Mason Kenny took home a close second place. Best of all, however, was that DRALL was able to raise approximately $30,000 during the event through donations and pledges to help with their operating and maintenance costs!

“It feels amazing to see the kids playing baseball once again! Our board of directors has put in countless hours on Zoom since last March trying to figure out how we could make this season happen; our number one goal has been to get the kids back on the field as safely as possible,” said Vickie Farmer, DRALL’s Fundraising Director. “Things look a lot different this year––masks are required for everyone, the bleachers have turned into spaced-out dugouts for the players and fans spread out along the fenceline––but the kids are playing ball, and that’s really what matters! I really hope this is a sign that we are getting back to a sense of normalcy! This past year has been challenging in so many ways, so it feels absolutely amazing to see these kids in action again. They deserve it!”

DRALL is open to boys and girls ages 5 to 12 who live in parts of Westchester and Playa del Rey. To learn more, visit drall.org.

Posted April 2021.

Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.

Business spotlight: Galora encourages neighbors to share and sell fruits, veggies and more

Everyone’s business could use a little help these days, so every month we’re featuring a different small business to help promote shopping locally and to support community members.
When Ryan Xavier lost his job due to COVID in March, he decided to launch a new website that would not only solve the problem of having too much fruit in his yard with no easy way to share it, but would also help reduce backyard food waste across Los Angeles and beyond. Since launching the summer of last year, GoGalora.com now has more than 9,000 users across the U.S. who are sharing and selling their backyard fruit, veggies and more, while making meaningful connections with their neighbors.

Get the scoop on this month’s business spotlight by reading below!

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In your hometown with…the Vasquez Family

If you want to meet the Vasquez family, you will have to catch them first! This is a family that is always on the go, with sports, careers, volunteering, school, Girl Scouts, community activism and entrepreneurship! It would be an understatement to say that this busy family of five is quite an active bunch.

Rosalyn and Oliver Vasquez live in Westchester with their three children, Olivia and Sophia who are 9-year-old twins and Asher who is 7-years-old. A 2-year-old Labradoodle, Penelope and 15-year-old pup, Nuen, who was rescued after the tsunami in Thailand in 2004, complete the family.

Rosalyn was born in Vancouver but made the move to Southern California when she was in first grade. She grew up in Diamond Bar and considers herself a California local. After graduating from Southwestern University School of Law, she was looking for a new neighborhood when she heard about a wonderful, still affordable beach town called Playa del Rey.

She quickly fell in love with the area and moved into a condo so she could enjoy the beach life.
Oliver grew up in Northridge and is the first-generation son of a Guatemalan father and a Polish mother who met in night school while learning English. After attending California State University Northridge for his undergrad, Oliver headed to Southwestern University School of Law where he met Rosalyn on their moot court team. While traveling around the country competing in tournaments, their romance was born!

They soon got married and moved into the condo in Playa del Rey and had their twin girls. When Rosalyn became pregnant with Asher, they knew that they needed more space and moved into a home in Westchester. Their first Westchester residence proved to not be the right fit, so they rented in Playa Vista until they found their dream home in Kentwood.
“We love our neighborhood and our neighbors,” said Rosalyn. “We don’t ever want to move!”
This love of their community is a theme that runs through all that the Vasquez family does for 90045 and beyond.

Both Rosalyn and Oliver are practicing attorneys. Rosalyn specializes in employment and business law, but she is also working on a start-up called “The Attorney List.” This new website will give people access to lawyers’ services virtually and will specialize in lawyers who speak multiple languages.

“Minority communities have the legal barrier of cost as well as the ability to understand,” said Rosalyn. “We want to make legal services available at a flat rate so that people know exactly what it will cost them and then they can speak to someone who understands them face-to-face via Zoom or video chat.”

Rosalyn is very close to her Thai heritage and currently serves as the president of the Thai American Chamber of Commerce of California, a business organization that advocates for the interest of its members and the Thai business community in the state. She also is the President of the Thai New Year (Songkran) planning committee. This festival attracts 30,000 to 40,000 people annually to six blocks of Hollywood Blvd. in Thai Town to celebrate. Unfortunately, this year’s event has been postponed due to COVID, but Rosalyn is looking forward to working on the celebration once gatherings are allowed again. Another important part of honoring her heritage is speaking out to put a stop to the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate crimes that have increased over the last year. She recently attended a rally with the LAPD and other leaders from the AAPI community to encourage the reporting of hate crimes to the authorities.

Oliver is an insurance defense attorney and is the senior trial attorney for Hartford Insurance. He also teaches at Pacific Coast Law School and is a moot court adviser at Southwestern Law School. When he is not on the job, he loves coaching the kids in AYSO, Westchester Little League and Westchester Del Rey Little League, where he serves on the board of directors.

“Through sports in the community, we feel like we have gotten to know everyone in our neighborhood,” said Oliver. “I have built bonds of friendship and solid relationships through being involved in Little League and AYSO.”

Pre-COVID, another one of Oliver’s favorite pastimes was taking the kids to community events at local schools and places like the Elks Lodge.

The Vasquez children participate in so many activities, it is hard to keep track of them all! The independent and determined Olivia, and the shy but silly Sophia both play soccer and softball. Some of their other top activities are horseback riding, art classes, riding bikes and music lessons. The charismatic Asher plays baseball and soccer. He also likes playing guitar and making art.

When it comes to hobbies the whole family enjoys, they all light up at the mention of skiing and snowboarding. If the conditions are right, chances are they’ll be heading to June Mountain in Mammoth for a weekend of playing in the snow.

Olivia and Sophia are fourth-graders and Asher is a first-grader at Citizens of the World in Mar Vista, where Rosalyn is also a room parent. The kids are looking forward to returning to in-person school in three weeks.

“Online school has been OK, but it is just hard to focus at home,” explains Olivia.
Sophia can’t wait to be with her friends again.

Girl Scouts is another important part of the Vasquez family’s life. Rosalyn is the co-leader for Olivia and Sophia’s troop, which is specifically for twins. This troop was born out of Rosalyn’s involvement with the group West LA Parents of Multiples.

The girls are currently working on their Girl Scout cookie sales and have found it to be a challenge this year due to COVID restrictions. To help them reach their sales goals, Oliver has built a lemonade-type stand with a plexiglass barrier so they can sell Thin Mints and other cookies in front of their home to their neighbors, with whom they have great relationships.

“I love our ‘neighbor garden’ which is a garden we planted between our house and our neighbor’s house,” said Olivia. “Our neighbor built the garden boxes, and we all planted fruits and vegetables. The whole family takes care of the garden, and yesterday we picked strawberries!”

This tight-knit feel that is all over Westchester makes it a special place to live, says Rosalyn.

“I can walk around and see people that I know; it has a small community feel within a big city,” said Rosalyn. “I am also involved in moms’ groups online and everyone is so supportive of each other even though we may not have met in person. It is nice to know that you have a group that has your back, and they are always pro-active in doing positive things for the community.”

Posted April 2021.

By Lydia Smith. Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.

Celebrate Earth Month

1. Explore the native flowers and plants at Ballona Discovery Park

April is a great month to check out Playa Vista’s Ballona Discovery Park and the plethora of flowers in bloom. Walking around the two-acre habitat and admiring its pollinator, medicinal and native gardens, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of a bustling community. In addition to connecting to nature while you stroll through the park, which is part of the Ballona Wetlands ecosystem, make sure to take the time to read all the interpretive signs to learn about the history of the area, while listening to birds chirp and being on the lookout for local wildlife.
Ballona Discovery Park is located at 13110 Bluff Creek Drive in Playa Vista.

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Students share their “Reflections of COVID” to raise money for arts education in schools

Starting April 3, shop windows in the Westchester Triangle will be transformed into mini galleries to showcase the artwork of more than 100 local K-12 students for the LAX Coastal Education Foundation’s (LAXCEF) first annual Art Show and Competition. The drawings, paintings and collages on display were created with the theme “Reflections of COVID.”

“Everyone is feeling the impact of the pandemic, and obviously our school communities and students have been hit hard,” said LAXCEF vice president and event co-chair Lory Sarlo. “We felt that giving students an outlet to express themselves through art would help them process their emotions and start conversations with families and friends, as well as get them excited about the opportunity to share their work with the community.”

Seventeen of the foundation’s schools are participating in the competition. Schools were asked to hold their own contests and select the artwork that would then move on to the final round and be displayed at local businesses for the whole community to view through Sunday, April 18.

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Want to run for Neighborhood Council?

If you’ve ever wanted to run for the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa (NCWP) and make your voice heard when it comes to issues that impact Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista, now is your chance! Elections happen every two years, and the candidate filing period is now open through March 23.

The 15 positions up for election this go-round include the following seats: Education, Community Organization, Service, Youth, seven based on residence, two based on business location and two At-Large.

Read below to hear from three passionate volunteers who currently serve on the NCWP to learn about their experiences being neighborhood representatives and visit ncwpdr.org/run2021 for more details on how to apply.

Important NCWP election dates:

March 23: Last day to file to run
April 9-June 1: Stakeholder vote-by-mail request period
June 8: Election Day

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Westchester Pioneer Series: Ella Drollinger

Imagine please, stepping back in time, 80 years to the early 1940s during WWII. And imagine, then, just 20 years after women had received the national right to vote, business woman Ella Drollinger went out for a drive to explore a budding new neighborhood close to Mines Field, a dirt landing strip surrounded by bean fields that Frank H. Ayres told her would someday become one of the world’s largest airports. At a time when being a real estate developer was not a usual vocation for a woman, pioneering Ella Drollinger took a chance, purchased the land, and in 1944 funded construction of the first three commercial buildings in Westchester.

Ella Drollinger.

Ella was born in 1891, the only daughter of Robert and Alice Lewin, who immigrated to the United States from the Isle of Man in England. Robert arrived in 1856 with just a third-grade education and a deep admiration for statesman Abraham Lincoln, who would soon become president. He eventually found his way to the Land of Lincoln, Illinois, where he worked as a farmhand and eventually saved enough money to purchase his own farm.

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