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LiveYoga Wellness empowers students on their journey of personal growth, recovery and healing

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. 

Since 2010, Teri Roseman has helped her students find balance through yoga at her studio LiveYoga Wellness on the campus of Holy Nativity.

While COVID has moved all her classes online to Zoom, that has not slowed Roseman and her team down from sharing their holistic approach to wellness and the benefits of yoga, no matter your age or physical ability.

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

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Things to know about Westchester/Playa in 2021

Over the last few months, we’ve fielded a lot of questions from readers looking to get involved in their neighborhood, find ways to connect with others and curious about their community, so this year we’ve put together a list of FAQs we regularly get in our inbox! We also asked one resident of Westchester and one resident of Playa del Rey to share their favorite tips and recommendations to share with their neighbors.

Below is a partial list of things everyone should know about Westchester/Playa in 2021 (visit thehtn.com for more FAQs). We hope you learn something new, and if there’s a question you have about the community, please let us know! Have a tip you’d like to share? Please email us at westchesterhometown@yahoo.com. Happy New Year!

Q. When is the farmers’ market? A. Locally, there are three farmers’ markets: one in Westchester, one in Playa Vista and one in Marina del Rey. Each market has different vendors and products, so check them out to see which one fits your shopping needs.

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Westchester Family YMCA looks for new ways to help and engage community

The Westchester Family YMCA’s pool may be closed, and its workout equipment may be put away on racks, but if you think of the Y as just a gym, you’d be missing out on a large piece of what has made the organization an important part of the community for more than 60 years.

“The Y is so much more than a swim and gym,” said Gregg Goldfarb, Volunteer Chair of the Y’s Board of Managers. “We believe in programs that impact families and change lives.”

When the Y, like many businesses and organizations, was forced to close in mid-March due to the COVID pandemic, its leadership and volunteers quickly got to work planning on how they could address the needs of its members and neighborhood.

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In your hometown with…the Bost Family

Growing up in a small suburb of Indianapolis, Alyssa Bost grew up thinking that big cities like Los Angeles and New York were scary places where “normal” families didn’t live. But after getting into her dream school, Pepperdine University in Malibu, she started to realize that her idea of “normal” may not be everyone else’s. 

“I grew up thinking that if you grew up in L.A. you would have no sense of reality. That is definitely not true and I learned that pretty quick!” she said. 

So after college, armed with a psychology degree, Alyssa looked into programs where she could earn her teaching credential and masters while also teaching. She joined the NYC Teaching Fellows, one of the largest such programs in the U.S., and taught middle school at Frank D. Whalen and the Frederick Douglass Academy.

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Holiday Light Tour & Contest

Let’s Light up Westchester/Playa!

When the Westchester Mental Health Guild had to cancel their biggest fundraiser of the year, the annual Holiday Home Tour, the HomeTown News connected with them to share an idea. What if this year they hosted a Holiday Light Tour and Contest instead where they could encourage the community to go big with decorations and shared a map of the locations with the neighborhood? Guild President Linda Peterson and Fundraising Chair Janie Guthrie loved the idea and quickly got to work to make the event happen! 

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Westchester resident hopes to put goats on therapy animal map

Who would have thought that in 2020 goats would be trending? Well, they are! Goats became social media sweethearts back in 2018-2019 with the emergence of goat yoga and the endless videos of goats on trampolines, goats in pajamas and many more goat related viral sensations. It is true that goats are cute and cuddly and highly entertaining, but they also are becoming a new type of therapy animal that can enhance the human-animal bond while transforming lives and promoting healing. 

According to PetPartners.com, the leading organization in certifying therapy animals, “Therapy animals can provide physical, psychological and emotional benefits to those they interact with, typically in facility settings such as healthcare, assisted living and schools.” But Pet Partners and other certifying organizations do not yet recognize goats as suitable for certification as therapy animals. One Westchester resident is working to change that. After seeing the benefits that goats can provide, especially in school settings working with children with special needs, Adriana Jakobsen has set out to put goats on the therapeutic map.

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Vision for St. Bernard starts to come into focus with help from new programs and teachers

Just a stone’s throw from the beach in Playa del Rey, St. Bernard High School is witnessing a shifting of the sands. 

It wasn’t long ago that some wondered if the school, suffering from declining enrollment and a carousel of leaders who each pulled the school in different directions, was even going to survive. It seemed like nothing was working, and the school was in jeopardy of going under.

But three years ago, two men arrived with a plan to make St. Bernard one of the best high schools in the area.

“Not, ‘one of…’ the best school in the area,” said Carter Paysinger, who was hired as the school’s Executive Director of Institutional Advancement. “We have a lot of motivation to be the best. That’s where we’re coming from.”

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Ayara Thai lets creativity and passion flow to offer new dining experiences and delicious food

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. 

Since 2004, Ayara Thai has been delighting customers with their delicious, fresh and home-cooked dishes leading to a dedicated following of foodies throughout the community and beyond. Owned by the Asapahu family and led by Vanda Asapahu, the restaurant continues to innovate when it comes to offering new dining experiences for its customers.

Get the scoop on one of our favorite local restaurants by reading below!

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In your hometown with… the Lai family

For most families, the pandemic has been a time for challenges, changes and adjustments. So it’s been for the Lai family, but they’ve also received a special gift that most parents don’t get until their children are grown: validation that their parenting messages to their kids actually work! 

The Lai Family.

“We’re resilient, and we teach our children to roll with the punches and have a strong work ethic. Life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. We spend a lot of time talking about character and grit,” said Kelly Lai. “We did this before COVID, but the pandemic has really emphasized that things are hard, but we can make it OK.” 

Husband Hyrum added, “I think the stars of all this have been the kids. They’ve just rolled with the punches and adjusted. They’ve been real rock stars!”

A typical pandemic workday finds Kelly, a teacher at five schools in the West Hollywood area, bouncing between the living room and the garage while teaching her students online; 10-year-old Griffin attending online school in his room; Hyrum working remotely in the shed; and 5-year-old Vivienne going to kindergarten at the dining room table. 

“Vivienne is doing great with school. Alexa is the third parent,” Kelly laughs. “We set alerts to tell Vivienne when to log in.”

Both of the kids are still doing fun activities during Safer at Home. Vivienne is taking rhythmic gymnastics through the Artistico School of Dance and AYSO soccer. She played T-ball “for a hot second” right before the quarantine hit. Griffin, a fifth-grader at Kentwood plays first base and outfield for his DRALL team, water polo with the South Bay United Club Team and attends socially distanced Cub Scouts with Hyrum as his den leader. Griffin was also recently elected president of the Kentwood student council.

Kelly returned to teaching this fall after taking a leave of absence after having Vivienne. She has been a teacher with LAUSD since 2001, when she was recruited at a job fair while attending Southern Utah University in Cedar City. 

“They were going through a teacher shortage and I knew nothing about L.A., but I was ready for the challenge. After I graduated, I moved here. I didn’t know anyone so I stayed at a youth hostel in Santa Monica for a week,” Kelly said. 

She discovered she loved Los Angeles and met some very good friends and future husband Hyrum, so she ditched her initial plans of moving to San Diego, where she was born, after getting her California teaching credential. 

“One year turned into 20!” she said.

Hyrum grew up in Rowland Heights and attended USC as a business major. He spent two years in the Philippines on a church mission before returning to finish his education. He now works at an ad agency, Full Hearts, which specializes in marketing and advertising for nonprofits. Two of their biggest clients are Operation Smile and Mercy Ships. 

“I enjoy working from home because I get to see my kids more often. It’s been nice to slow down a little bit. Life doesn’t feel like such a rat race right now, but I’m ready for quarantine to be over,” he said.

Kelly’s job is a little more challenging to do online because she teaches adapted physical education for students with special needs. 

“I try to make it as fun as possible. We use exercise videos and live stuff with scarves and balls, things that most people have at home. And I use a lot of music,” she said. “It’s a wonderful job and so rewarding. Getting to do P.E. with kids who have special needs is the best job in the world. I’ve been in education in a lot of different settings, but this is the best job ever!”

Kelly began her career teaching physical education at Berendo Middle School and then got her special education credential. She has been working with students with special needs for 12 years. She also was recently certified in Adapted Physical Education. She taught at Kentwood Elementary for eight years after they bought their house in Westchester because Kelly wanted a job closer to home.

“After we got married and wanted to buy a house, we looked all over West L.A. and didn’t find anything we liked in our price range. Then Hyrum suggested this wonderful, cool little pocket neighborhood he knew about near the airport called Westchester. At first I wasn’t too sure about living near the airport, but as soon as I saw it, I fell immediately in love with the neighborhood,” said Kelly.

But getting a house in Westchester wasn’t as easy as they hoped and their bids were rejected over and over again.

 “We finally found our house, but there were 11 offers on it. So the owners asked all of us to write a letter as to why we wanted it,” Hyrum said. He felt the picture he included of Kelly, pregnant with Griffin, really won the sellers over.

“We were very excited to get the house and have loved every minute since. I grew up in a very small town so I would often get homesick for that small hometown feeling. But honestly, Westchester has that same feeling I experienced growing up. Everyone is so friendly and the fun little local traditions make it more special. We love being close to the beach and close to LMU. It’s such a fun university to have within walking distance. It’s just a real special place. Westchester pride runs deep,” Kelly said.

 Hyrum added, “We are so blessed to be in this neighborhood.”

As a way to show gratitude, the family likes to give back. The Scout troop and Vivienne make cards for seniors to lift their spirits and assemble hygiene kits for the homeless. They also enjoy volunteering with their church. 

“The pandemic has reminded us not to take relationships for granted. Whenever I see friends outside these days, it’s great. Even though you’re wearing masks and can’t get close, it’s great to be reminded that we’re not alone,” Hyrum said.

“Sometimes it gets hard and we want to be with our friends and go back to baseball and everything else. Then we remember how lucky we are that we have such a beautiful community. We can go on walks and bike rides and see our friends and neighbors from afar. We always see people we know and that peps you up and gives you energy to keep you going,” Kelly said. “We’re surrounded by so many good friends and neighbors in this community that we never feel alone.”

By Consuelo Israelson. Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.

Posted December 2020.

Shop local! Small businesses to support this holiday season

While it may be easy to order online from a national chain and have a box appear on your doorstep in two days, this holiday season we’re all about shopping small and shopping local when it comes to buying gifts. It’s been a hard year for most business owners, who have worked through closures, ever-changing regulations and helping customers during a pandemic, so if you’re able to, please consider shopping local this month. Small businesses are the backbone of the community and the ones we can count on when it comes to donating gift cards for school fundraisers, supporting community events and sponsoring the Little Leagues.

 Looking for other ways you can support your favorite community businesses? Follow your go-to restaurants, retailers and neighborhood entrepreneurs on social media, comment and like their posts, buy gift cards if you’re not ready to shop in person, share a review online and give them a shout out! Knowing that customers and the community are rallying behind them means a lot to small business owners.

Below is our list of some of our favorite local shops and retailers.

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