Interested in participating in the 20th anniversary of the Fourth of July Parade? Organizers are looking for community support to help make this Westchester tradition the best parade yet.
Hosted by the LAX Coastal Chamber, organizers are putting out the call for entries, volunteers and sponsors for this year’s celebration.
“The Fourth of July Parade was only supposed to be a one-time event to celebrate the millennium,” said LAX Coastal Chamber President/CEO Christina Davis. “So the fact that we’re now celebrating our 20th anniversary says a lot about the dedication of our volunteers and our community that supports this tradition year after year. It’s a special feeling to see Loyola Blvd. lined every July 4th with families, neighbors and people from across the city, and we’re dedicated to putting on an entertaining event for them.”
Applications to participate in the parade are due by May 17. Floats are especially encouraged, as well as entries with musical numbers. As this is a milestone year for the event, organizers are asking potential participants to put extra thought and creativity into their applications.
The theme for the 2019 parade is “America…Better Together” and symbolizes the importance of working together and focusing on what unites us to make a stronger community and nation.
The HomeTown News is proud to present its 8th Annual Best Of Readers’ Poll! Our Readers’ Poll is all about celebrating local small businesses and recognizing some of the best Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Del Rey, Marina del Rey and the surrounding areas have to offer!
This survey contains more than 90 categories and 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 Thursday, August 1 Best Of edition of the HomeTown News. Thank you for voting!
Do you know a Super Mom? We bet you know at least a few because we encounter these inspiring women every day in our community! Being a mom isn’t always easy, but somehow these women make it look effortless–juggling demanding careers, running their own businesses and friendships with homework help, sports schedules, school spirit week outfits and keeping the household running with clean laundry, warm meals and love.
This is the fifth year that we’ve asked our readers to nominate moms that are making a difference in the community through their dedication to their families, careers, volunteer work and education, and we always love reading the nominations that land in our inbox from supportive friends, husbands, kids and colleagues. With such a great pool to choose from, it’s hard to narrow down our honorees to just four each year!
Below are our 2019 Super Mom honorees, their original nominations and their “Super Mom Stats.” We hope you enjoy reading a little bit more about four awesome women in the community that all embody what it means to be a Super Mom!
A special thank you to Playa del Rey’s Ballerini Cooley Studios for partnering with us on our Super Moms’ issue and providing our honorees with a fabulous family photo shoot!
More than 2,000 families, students and community members came out to support local schools at the LAX Coastal Education Foundation’s (LAXCEF) 2nd Annual Rock Roll & Run in collaboration with Loyola Marymount University on Saturday, March 9.
The event raised funds for 21 participating K-12 schools and featured a 5K run around the beautiful campus of LMU, a 1K kid’s race and a lively expo. More than 40 community organizations, businesses and sponsors had booths at the event, which featured free food, a photo booth, arts & crafts, kids’ activities and giveaways, while music from classic rock tribute band Ab-soul-ute played in the background.
The Rock Roll & Run is the ed foundation’s premier fundraiser and is the only event that brings together all interested local schools for a chance to raise money for programs like P.E., art and field trips.
“We hope everyone had a great time at the event, whether they had a chance to participate in the 5K or 1K, or attended the expo,” said LAXCEF President Andrew Chereck. “We’re proud to have raised more than $80,000 that will go back to our local schools who increasingly need the support of the community and partners like our foundation to be able to fund important school programs. We look forward to continuing to raise more money in the future.”
The foundation, which launched in 2017, supports all local schools–public, private, charter and parochial–in the Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista and Marina del Rey areas. The foundation’s primary goals include aiding schools through fundraising, distributing grants and creating strategic partnerships. Since its inception, the foundation has given back more than $165,000 to local schools in direct funds and grants. Most recently, $15,000 in arts and beautification grants were awarded to nine schools. The foundation is kicking off the spring season accepting applications for STEM grants in partnership with SoCalGas and will announce literacy and teacher development grants in the coming months.
LAXCEF also supports the Teacher Eddy Awards, Teacher Mini-Grants, hosts the School Expo and is always looking for partners to collaborate with for future projects.
For more information, please visit laxcef.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out page 22-23 of the April HomeTown News for more photos from the race!
Thirty six second-graders lined up in anticipation to participate in the Inaugural Westchester Spelling Bee on Thursday, March 28 at Westchester Lutheran School.
The students had been practicing for over a month for the competition, which aimed to promote a growth mindset and create a platform for local schools to collaborate, something that has been sorely lacking in the community, according to WISH mom and spelling bee co-organizer, Stephanie Rosen.
“I love that we came together as a community for the spelling bee. I got to know teachers, principals and parents from other schools. I’m very grateful to everyone who participated and helped with this vision I had,” said Rosen. “It made us a stronger community, and the kids were pretty amazed by what they can do.”
The idea for the spelling bee sprung out of Rosen’s work as a tutor. When she saw that her students were struggling with spelling because they rely on spell-check, she went to her daughter’s second-grade teacher to encourage including it in the students’ word work curriculum. Soon, little spelling challenges became part of classroom activities and the idea to contact other schools for an official Spelling Bee was born.
Rosen reached out to Westchester Lutheran School (WLS) and was able to secure the help of Principal Emily Ingistov, who offered to host the event, as well as WLS parent, Lory Sarlo who came on board as the co-chair. Sarlo, who is also a member of the LAX Coastal Education Foundation, brought the idea to the board, which was eager to support the new event and encourages people to reach out with new ideas and partnership opportunities. The foundation agreed to sponsor dictionaries for all the participants, as well as prizes for the winners.
“We were so happy to host the first community spelling bee at Westchester Lutheran School. I thought it was a wonderful event giving children in our community an opportunity to learn, compete and build upon their spelling skills together,” said Ingistov. “And if you didn’t know how to spell ‘hippopotamus,’ you’re not alone. With a growth mindset, we can all learn how to spell that word.”
When they heard about the event, Open Magnet Charter and Paseo del Rey Elementary School quickly jumped on board to participate. A few schools weren’t able to attend this year due to scheduling, but were interested in competing next year.
Students were given a list of 100 words to practice for the spelling bee. Some teachers made practicing part of a mandatory homework assignment, while other schools made it optional, with students volunteering to give up their lunch breaks to study and compete in practice rounds.
When it came time for the competition at Westchester Lutheran, students were called up on stage one at a time and given words by moderator Dr. Darin Earley, head of the LMU Family of Schools. During the first two rounds of the bee, students were asked to spell words from their practice list.
As the third round began, more than 50% of the students remained, bravely prepared to spell words they hadn’t practiced in front of a packed crowd. Heading up to the podium in rapid succession, students were faced with words like “illustration,” “cinnamon,” “gymnastics” and “memorization,” leaving audience members on the edge of their seats, as students carefully articulated the words presented to them. Silent applause met the students who made it to the next round, and a few tears were shed by those disappointed they misspelled their word by a letter or two.
“I was thrilled to see these kids have the courage to get up in front of a group of strangers and be willing to take a risk and fail,” said Rosen. “For these kids at 8-years-old to be able to do what they did was spectacular.”
In the end, three students from Open Magnet Charter School swept the competition, taking first, second and third place. The winning students were presented with gift cards and all of the students who participated received gift bags.
“I’m feeling proud of myself and I’m feeling great,” said first place winner Aayansh Sharma. “It was hard studying, but I made it through.”
Added his mother Manju Sharma, “Thank you so much to all the organizers who put in the effort and the teachers who spent extra time with the kids to practice. I’m proud of all the kids who participated and made it through. I think that these collaborative efforts from different schools should happen more often. It brings all of us together and brings the opportunity to have the kids’ confidence boosted.”
With the success of the inaugural spelling bee, organizers are hoping to hold another event next year, with even more schools participating. The ed foundation is also looking into the feasibility of an area-wide science fair to promote even more school collaboration.
“I was very proud of every child that got up there. They were all winners,” said Rosen. “They got a chance to stretch their boundaries and that’s what it was all about—a bigger sense of what they can do and showing them how incredible they are. As a parent and an educator, it really filled my heart to see these kids be their best selves and show up and try.”
One thing we can all agree on is that our community, and our country, is better when we all work together! This year marks the 20th anniversary of the LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade, and organizers have selected, “America…Better Together” as the 2019 theme. With the goal of celebrating what connects us and promoting unity, the theme represents that working together makes us a stronger, more diverse and prosperous nation.
“The parade is such a positive community event, and with our 20th anniversary, we really wanted to highlight that great things can be accomplished when everyone comes together for common goals and collaboration,” said LAX Coastal Chamber President/CEO Christina Davis. “Our parade wouldn’t be possible without volunteers, neighbors, sponsors and our participants, and we’re excited to celebrate what unites us all as members of our community, our city and our country.”
Applications for participating in this year’s event are available at laxcoastal.com/parade and are due by May 17. Entries that include building a float and a musical component are especially appreciated.
Organizers are also looking for the National Anthem singer for this year’s event. Auditions will be held in April, and those interested in a tryout are asked to email email@example.com for more info.
“Since it’s an anniversary year for the parade, we’re working on a few special surprises for our community and spectators,” said Davis. “We’re also looking to book more musical entries and entertainment to make this our best year yet.”
To help commemorate the parade’s anniversary, the HomeTown News is holding an essay contest. Those interested in participating are asked to submit a 500-word or less essay answering “How is the Fourth of July Parade an important part of the fabric of the community?”; “How does the Fourth of July Parade bring the community together?” or “Why and what do you love about the Fourth of July Parade?”
Essays are due by Thursday, May 30, and two will be selected for publication in the July Parade edition of the HomeTown News. The writers of the winning essays will also receive a gift card to a local restaurant. Please email the essays to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the Westchester Town Center BID Ambassador, it’s Steve Rhodes job to know all the businesses in the Westchester business district, and there’s one that he knows particularly well: Soundsations. The music enthusiast says he stops in three to four times a month to check out the local record store’s inventory, which includes vinyl, DVDs, CDs and T-shirts.
“I don’t know what I’d do if this place didn’t exist,” said Steve who has lived in Playa del Rey since 1990. “I think music should be available to everyone and having a record store close by is awesome. I always find records here that I haven’t seen in ages, or forgot existed, and albums that are hard to find.”
As the dad of two sons, Jaren, 17, and Jacob, 12, stopping into the shop with his kids has been a great way to share his passion for music and find new bands that they can all enjoy listening to.
“I could come in here all the time,” said Steve as he reminisces about some of his favorite albums. “I can get lost in here. You end up getting into random conversations with people about music and that’s half the fun.”
Steve loves Soundsations and thinks you will, too. Check out Soundsations for all your music needs at 8701 La Tijera Blvd. in Westchester.
Pictured:Soundsations co-owner, Lee Wilson, and Steve Rhodes (right) show off some of their favorite albums.
Does your favorite local business deserve a shout out? Send us an email at email@example.com for a chance to share your favorite hometown spots with our readers.
Colorful mini-murals on utility boxes are popping up all over the neighborhood, thanks to talented artists who are helping bring more public art to the community and beautifying some of the area’s busiest thoroughfares.
Noticing that other areas in L.A. had artwork on their utility boxes, NCWP President Cyndi Hench thought bringing the program to Westchester/Playa would help transform the drab, gray boxes into cool, colorful additions to the neighborhood’s streetscapes. She connected with the newly formed Westchester/Playa Arts Committee for support on the project and a call for artists was put out early last year. The committee, which is made up of local residents, business leaders, community group representatives and artists, was delighted by the proposals they received.
“We were amazed at the level of artwork that was submitted,” said committee member and LMU Senior Director of Auxiliary and Business Services, Andy O’Reilly. “The selection of the mural artists was tough! There were so many incredibly unique interpretations of what this community represents. The utility box mural project, and the fact that this volunteer public art committee exists, speaks to the community’s commitment to public art and to our talented neighborhood artists.”
With funding from the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa (NCWP), Councilmember Mike Bonin’s office and the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation (DFCF), with support from the Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club, 11 designs were selected and approved by the committee, the NCWP and the city. Artists began painting in mid-January, and all of the boxes are anticipated to be completed by March.
“We’re already hearing great feedback from the community about how the boxes are resonating with people, making them proud of their community and interested in seeing increased beautification efforts,” said O’Reilly. “It’s great to hear that people are excited to see the art, and we’d like to thank the artists who have given their time and talent to help beautify our community.”
The Westchester/Playa Arts Committee is looking to secure additional funding and hopes to announce the next call for utility box artists in the spring.
Playa Vista artist, Jawsh Smyth, works as a graphic designer but in recent years has taken more of an interest in the fine arts.
His colorful, surreal and playful design depicts his alter-ego, Melting Man.
“Melting Man is a character that I started developing to address a couple of things on a global level—like climate change and global warming,” said Smyth, who got some help painting from his children. “But Melting Man has sort of became a representation of myself and dealing with the ups and downs of life. It’s sort of this multi-meaning character.”
Smyth is also the artist behind the 16-foot mural, “Oaxacan Dancer,” located at Westchester’s Cinco.
Check out Smyth’s utility box located on La Tijera Blvd. at Sepulveda Westway in Westchester.
Steve O’Loughlin has been a professional artist for more than 25 years and has been creating public art for more than 15.
A Westchester resident since the early 90s, O’Loughlin’s goal is to use his artistic skills to translate and express the spirit of the community. His utility box painting, which uses his signature knotwork patterns, is an homage to traffic as it flows smoothly and gets us safely to our destination.
“It’s a celebration of cooperation and watching out for your fellow man and following the rules,” said O’Loughlin. “I’ve used this design before, but never in such close proximity to actual traffic. It gave me a deeper appreciation of what the piece is about. I’ve worked with this pattern since I moved to L.A., and I think this is a great application for it.”
O’Loughlin has murals and artwork all over Westchester, including at Covenant Preschool, Holy Nativity Church, Wright Middle School and at numerous elementary schools.
Check out O’Loughlin’s artwork on the box located on Sepulveda Blvd. at Sepulveda Eastway in Westchester.
A toy designer by day, artist Valerie Gresham loves to draw and paint in her spare time, especially when it comes to sketching her dog, Sparky.
Gresham used Sparky, a Miniature Pinscher and his friend, Luna, as inspiration for her playful design that depicts the two playing in a local park while planes soar in the background.
“Having art in the community is a wonderful way to enhance the community. If the painting brings a smile to someone passing by, it is rewarding to them and to myself as the artist,” said Gresham. “As a resident in this community, I feel especially connected to this art project. For me as an artist, it is a great way to give back to the community I live in. I am enjoying seeing the other artists’ painting on the other boxes too.”
Check out Gresham’s design on the box located on Westchester Pkwy. at Pershing Dr. in Playa del Rey.
Gloria D. Lee, Leslie Lauerbach-Davis, Karen Taka and Marion Wong
Four local artists showed off their skills to complete a box in Playa del Rey showcasing the Ballona Wetlands. Artists Gloria D. Lee, Leslie Lauerbach-Davis, Karen Taka and Marion Wong are all members of the Westchester Senior Center Art Class and were the only group submission for this first round of utility box murals.
Lee has been teaching art classes in Westchester for more than 20 years, and the painters who submitted the design thought participating in the utility box mural project would be a great opportunity to give back to the community through art.
Check out the box, located on Pershing Dr. at Manchester Ave. in Playa del Rey, for scenes of the flora and fauna that help make up the Ballona Wetlands and the bike path.
The Emerson Avenue Community Garden (EACG) is readying to launch a capital campaign to raise money for improvements at the nearly 1-acre plot of land located at Wright STEAM Magnet. Through hard work and dedication, EACG volunteers have transformed what was once a neglected, weed-covered piece of land into a thriving green space with 38 garden/food plots that opened in 2011. The space is also home to a school garden that is used by Wright STEAM and WISH students and staff, a butterfly garden, a California native plant garden and over 50 trees. More than just a green space, the EACG hosts workshops, gardening days and the popular end-of-summer bash, the Westchester Arts & Music Block Party.
The EACG is able to use the space under a joint user agreement with LAUSD, which requires the nonprofit to make improvements to the property, including bringing the space into ADA compliance and adding new entry gates. To create a more park-like atmosphere, the group also plans to add seating areas, create better walking paths, install additional lighting and increase storage.
Sandra Kawahito is on a journey to help the women (and men) of Westchester heal, strengthen and restore themselves through Pilates, physical therapy, acupuncture and yoga at her boutique wellness center, Mamai.
Kawahito found her calling after suffering an injury that caused horrible pain during her third pregnancy. Passionate about sports and fitness, especially soccer, she was given the ok by her doctor to continue her exercise regime, which ended up causing an injury that could have been prevented.
Pregnant with her fourth child, she was determined to not suffer the same types of problems and with the recommendation of a friend, she sought out a physical therapist that specialized in women’s health issues and pre- and post-natal care. With the help of the physical therapist and the studio’s wellness team, Kawahito was able to heal from her injuries and felt better than she had before, something she didn’t think was possible after having four pregnancies so close together. Inspired by what she had learned during physical therapy and determined to help others, she became certified in Pilates and began the search for a place to start her own studio where she could share what she had learned with other women.Continue reading →