8th Annual Best Of Voting Now Open!

Vote for your favorite local businesses!

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!

Vote by clicking HERE and you will be taken to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/htnbestof19.

Community Spotlight: Westchester kid proves that it only takes one small change to make a difference

Justin Sather and Westside Neighborhood School Principal, Brad Zacuto, celebrate the installation of a Buddy Bench on the campus. Justin collected more than 200 pounds of plastic caps, which would have otherwise been headed to a landfill, to have the bench made.

Westchester resident, Justin Sather, is proving that no matter what your age, you can give back to your community and make a positive impact on the planet. What started off as a love of frogs and helping raise money to save amphibians has led 8-year-old Justin on his next environmental quest. He is turning plastic trash into treasure, while encouraging others to cut down on their waste consumption. Over the last few years, Justin has been able to raise more than $20,000 by selling toy frogs and through GoFundMe.com to enable him to work on eco-friendly projects like purchasing reusable snack bags and pencils made of recycled newspaper for his school. 

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Ballona in Bloom!

It might not be a super bloom, but if you love flowers, make sure to check out Playa Vista’s Ballona Discovery Park this month! The two-acre habitat is home to a plethora of native plants and wild flowers now in bloom, creating a colorful display that is uniquely Southern California. Follow the park’s walking trail to view the pollinator, native and medicinal plant gardens, while you learn about the Ballona Wetlands ecosystem and the history of the area in this “outdoor museum.”

California Poppy.

As you admire the colorful flowers, smell the different varieties of sage or do a little birdwatching, take time to read the interpretive signs and stop at the interactive stations located throughout. No visit to the park is complete without traveling through the “Willow Walk,” which leads visitors to the entrance of a Kiiy, a replica of a native Gabrielino/Tongva gathering house where you can listen to audio recordings of stories about the first people of the area.

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New murals bring life to Westchester alleyway

Next time you stop by Noodle World on Sepulveda or drop off your dry cleaning at Spring Cleaners, make sure to check out the alleyway connecting the building at 8636 Sepulveda Blvd. to the parking lot. 

What were once gray stucco walls have been transformed into four colorful panels, depicting some of Westchester’s most recognizable landmarks. Otis students in the Creative Action Program, led by instructor and muralist David Russell, researched, designed and painted the murals to help beautify the thoroughfare. Otis lecturer, Maura Condrick, also contributed to the design. This is the latest local public art piece for Russell, the artist behind the five-story “Welcome to Westchester” painting on the building at Westchester Pkwy. and Sepulveda Blvd., made possible through a partnership with the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation.

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Your summer can’t-miss event guide!

If you’re looking for what’s on tap this summer, we’ve got you covered! Our favorite season officially kicks off this month on June 21, and there’s no shortage of events happening in the community that the whole family can enjoy. 

Mark your calendars for these fun, free (or low-cost) local events, so when someone asks you “What’s happening this weekend?” you’ll be in the know. Below are our picks for the best summer events to keep your schedule packed through September! 

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Calling all community support for the Fourth of July Parade!

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.

For more information about participating, please visit laxcoastal.com/parade or call (310) 645-5151.

Honoring our Super Moms!

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!

Second annual Rock Roll & Run raises money for education

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.

1K runners start the race.

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.” 

Runners warm up before the 5K at LMU.

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 info@laxcoastaledfoundation.com.

Check out page 22-23 of the April HomeTown News for more photos from the race!

Posted April 2019. Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.

Save the date: Ballet Beyond Borders!

A new event is coming to Westchester! This August, Westchester will help host the 5th annual international cultural exchange and dance festival, Ballet Beyond Borders. The event has become a success in Missoula, Montana where it was founded, which also happens to be the second home of Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation President Karen Dial. Always looking to bring new arts and cultural events to the area, she convinced the event’s organizers to bring Ballet Beyond Borders to her hometown of Westchester.

The event will bring together accomplished artists from more than 25 countries for an international competition, with dancers showing off their skills in a variety of genres from ballet to hip hop and everything in

between. All ages and demographics are represented in the competition and the community is encouraged to become immersed in engaging topics and performances that are open to the public. 

Another important component of Ballet Beyond Borders is hosting workshops and special events on relevant global topics like human rights, justice and peace to foster understanding between cultures and helping identify shared values. 

Ballet Beyond Borders will take place August 7-10. The dance portion of the event will be held at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. On Saturday, August 10, the community is invited to attend the free “Creative Crossroads: Cultural Diplomacy in a Changing World” conference taking place at Loyola Marymount University.

Stay tuned for more details!

Posted April 2019. Photo Courtesy Ballet Beyond Borders.

In your hometown with…the Cherecks

By Consuelo Israelson

Relationships are what it’s all about for the Chereck family. Whether you’re talking about family, community or even sports, the most important thing is the connection between people. Andrew and Meghan Chereck nurture these relationships and have created a huge extended family in their adopted neighborhood of Westchester.

Meghan grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida and attended college in Boston, where she became a loyal Red Sox fan. She double-majored in business and sociology at Emmanuel College, which was invaluable for her career. 

“I love the clarity that business provides and sociology helps me understand demographics, people and their behavior and apply that to the business world,” she said. She works as Director of Major Gifts for St. John’s Health Center Foundation in nearby Santa Monica. 

Andrew is originally from Dallas, Texas and attended the University of Texas at Austin for undergrad and Southern Methodist University for law school. 

“Growing up in Texas, football is king and we’re huge Texas Longhorn fans. It’s a big part of our family, and we try to catch at least one game a year in person,” he said. 

A senior attorney at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP, an international law firm with offices in Santa Monica, Andrew’s practice focuses on franchise and distribution law and corporate transactions.

“My group focuses on building brands. We help large existing brands stay on top, as well as helping start-up companies,” he said. 

Andrew always dreamed of living in Southern California, so when it came time to look for a job after law school, he only interviewed with large firms that had offices in the Los Angeles area. He started at a Texas-based firm with a local office, and then transitioned to Bryan Cave.

The couple met in 2007 while playing in an adult kickball league. They were on opposite teams and friendly banter quickly turned to flirting and ended with phone numbers being exchanged at Marina del Rey’s Brennan’s Pub following the game. They’ve been inseparable ever since and married two years later.

While the Cherecks enjoyed living in Santa Monica initially, they began looking for a good community to raise a family and put down roots. Their friend, Ryan Gales, who grew up locally, suggested they check out Westchester. 

“We were driving through this neighborhood and falling in love with it, when we saw a family walking their dog and said that could be us! It turns out they live four houses down and their daughter has become one of our babysitters. It’s such a lovely small town community here,” Meghan said.

“One of the challenges of being a young family in a city where neither one of you grew up, is not having that family base,” said Andrew. “Not to sound corny, but that is why we love Westchester and the surrounding area. We have our support and our family-away-from-home out here.” 

Meghan added, “Our friends are as close to family as you can get.”

The Cherecks have two children: Rylan, 6 and Emma, 4. Rylan attends kindergarten at St. Anastasia Catholic School and Emma is in preschool at First Flight Child Development Center. She will be joining her brother at St. Anastasia in the fall. Meghan grew up Catholic and heard about St. Anastasia from a friend, so the family began going to church there and looked into the school for Rylan. 

“The more we got to know them, the better fit they seemed for us. It’s very much a community school. The vast majority of the kids live in the area. They do a great job educating our kids,” Andrew said. 

“Through St. A’s we have met so many amazing families,” Meghan added.

Both kids are involved in various pursuits. Rylan plays AYSO soccer, Westchester Lacrosse and Del Rey American Little League. 

Meghan said that since the family loves the Boston Red Sox baseball team and the local Dodgers, Rylan was in quite a quandary when the teams met last year in the World Series.

“It stressed him out so much because he didn’t know who to root for! He ended up in tears,” said Meghan.

 Emma also plays AYSO soccer and takes dance classes at So Fly Kids.

The family enjoys lots of activities together as well. 

“We have a power boat in the Marina and spend a lot of time at the California Yacht Club, where we have a group of other boating families,” said Meghan. “When we have time, we like to do weekends in Catalina. Emma says Catalina is a magical island.”

They are also a big skiing family and both kids are learning the sport. 

“I took a year off before law school to be a ski bum in Colorado,” says Andrew. “I loved it! And we try to get back there every year during ski season.” 

They also visit both sides of the family in Florida and Texas when they can, to give their own parents a “grandparent fix.”

The Cherecks believe strongly in giving back to this community that has given them so much. Meghan is on the board at St. Anastasia and Andrew was recently named the President of the LAX Coastal Education Foundation.

“My immediate goal is getting our message out to the community,” Andrew said. “The other main goal is to show tangible improvement and support for all our local schools. We want to be able to point to concrete examples of things we’ve improved and how we’ve literally changed children’s lives or at least improved their schooling.” 

Andrew is also on the LAX Coastal Chamber board and executive committee.

“We love this area and it’s important to us that we’re invested in the community. We want to help nurture what it has been over the years and help it grow,” Meghan said. “That’s why we’re so involved in neighborhood activities we’re passionate about, including the ed foundation and local schools. We love being a part of this community and helping add to it.”

“What’s important to us is our family and our community,” said Andrew. “Those are the two biggest parts of our lives.”

Posted April 2019. Photo by Zsuzsi Steiner.