Tag: homeless children

Jan 9

Vittorio’s Ristorante Brings Joy to Homeless Children – Palisades News

For 62 homeless children who live in shelters in Long Beach, Torrance, Sylmar, Los Angeles, Canoga Park and Venice, December 18 was one of their happiest days in 2017.

After the kids were bused to Vittorio’s Ristorante on Marquez Avenue and served a lunch of pizza and garlic rolls, Santa came with wrapped gifts for each child. In addition to the toys, each youngster left with a large decorated cookie.

Marie Steckmest, who organizes an annual Holiday Spirit Toy Drive through Palisades Cares, sees that half of the toys collected go to these children. “This is one of my favorite events of the year,” said the former Citizen of the Year.

Hank Elder, a member of the Sons of the American Legion (SAL), said that his organization paid for the buses.

“For the first time, SAL members decorated Vittorio’s with Christmas decorations in anticipation of the Homeless Children’s Christmas party,” Elder said.“I saw a miracle. I cannot think of anything in Pacific Palisades as special as this event this time of year.”

Elder said that each age-appropriate gift is chosen for a child and then wrapped. The goal was for each child to receive four gifts.“These were most likely the only ones the children would receive for Christmas,” Elder said.

Steckmest and Elder pointed out the two people truly responsible for this event: Vittorio’s owner Mercedes Pellegrini and her daughter Vanessa, who have sponsored it the past seven years.

“We are so blessed and grateful to everyone who comes out to help wrap gifts, give gifts and volunteer that day,” Vanessa said.

This celebration came out of pain, after Vanessa was diagnosed with CNS (central nervous system) lupus in December 2010 and hospitalized for two weeks.

“We weren’t sure I was going to pull through, since the disease was attacking the blood vessels in my brain,” Vanessa said.“ My mother, being a devout Catholic, prayed to Nossa Senhora de Aparecida in Brazil. She performs miracles, according to local legend, and so my mother prayed.”

(Her mother was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and met her husband Ron while he was traveling to Rio de Janeiro for Carnivale. The couple married and Mercedes came to the United States, where she started Mercedes’ Continental Delights, a bakery in the San Fernando Valley. In 1984, she opened Vittorio’s Ristorante with a partner, but when Giovanni Mazzola left to open a new restaurant in Malibu, Mercedes kept Vittorio’s.)

Mercedes’ prayers were answered and after a few weeks of intensive care in the hospital, Vanessa was sent home, well on the way to recovery.

“As an offering, we both promised to give back to the less fortunate children, who are innocent and often times are the victims of circumstance,” Vanessa said. “I had worked with School on Wheels since 1999 and I was intimately involved with kids who were living in abused homes, homeless shelters and transitory houses. These were the children that were forgotten, and so, the Holiday Luncheon was born.”

School on Wheels provides academic tutoring to children living in shelters, motels, cars, group foster homes and on the streets with the hope of having them achieve educational success, so they can break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.

Vanessa, who attended a parochial school in the Valley and then graduated from Pepperdine, told the News in a December 26 email, “I’m still fighting the battle [with lupus].” She works with her mom in the restaurant and at the Palisades office of Pacific Union Realty (formerly Gibson International). She has two sisters, Sabrina and Pia.

“The luncheon is an amazing day for us, for the kids and for the community!” Vanessa said. “We have no plans to stop this wonderful tradition.”

Read the article on Palisades News here.

Nov 6

March to End Homelessness

Registration is now Open!

Students, Staff, Parents, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends will be participating in the 11th Annual HomeWalk hosted by UnitedWay of LA.

Skip the lines and head straight to our booth to pick up your T-Shirt and Bib!

The 5k walk will begin at 8:45 am.

If you are registering more than one person, please choose ‘Other’ and enter amount ($25 per person -children under 12 are FREE).

View flyer here.

View photos from the event here.

Aug 14

For Homeless Children, Lessons In Stability – 500Pens.org

Story by Susan Hoffmann
Photos by Gina Long

Every Wednesday, Lisa Rodriguez drives to a homeless shelter to tutor *Alma. When the weather’s nice, they sit outside on the wide front porch. “She likes to do science projects, so it’s perfect to be outdoors.”

Rodriguez is a tutor for the Los Angeles-based nonprofit School on Wheels. She’s one of roughly two thousand volunteers working with a nearly invisible population: children growing up homeless.

“These children are at an unimaginable disadvantage,” said Catherine Meek, executive director of School on Wheels. “Their families may move two or three times a year, uprooting the children, causing gaps in their learning.” School on Wheels removes barriers that keep these children out of school — tracking down lost records needed to enroll, filling backpacks with school supplies, and providing weekly one-on-one tutoring sessions.

Volunteer tutors are at the heart of their program. Rigorously screened, they agree to a minimum one-year commitment. School on Wheels then matches them with a student, based on the volunteer’s skills and the needs of the student. “We know the better the match,” said  Meek, “the greater the long-term success.”

Mona Tse, another School on Wheels volunteer, has tutored 15-year-old *Martin for two years. Once a week, she leaves work and walks to the public library down the street.

“Mona helps me in stuff I need help in,” Martin said of his tutor. “She puts a lot of effort to help me strive.”

His school recommended the program to his mother as a way to keep him on track. His grades have improved with tutoring and he’s found acceptance at school. “I was just elected to the Associated Student Body,” he said. “I get to set up fun activities like pep rallies and dances.”

This family had a specific need. “We didn’t have the internet,” Martin’s mother explained. They came to the library for a connection but still couldn’t keep up. “If you missed an online assignment or teacher report, you might slip behind by weeks.”

“Teachers assume you have electronics,” Martin said. “And if you tell them you don’t have them, they don’t believe you.”

For homeless families, acquiring the materials and skills to succeed in a digital learning environment is crucial for a child’s success. Many schools, like the one Martin attends, are setting aside textbooks, with their printed examples and worksheets, in favor of homework posted online. With Tse’s help, the family has become savvy with technology. “Mona has helped us stay on track. I’m so grateful for that,” said Martin’s mother.

Tse admitted her good luck being matched with Martin, who comes every week, eager to learn. She had volunteered before, she said, in high school and college, but had taken a break to establish her career. “I was itching to get back into the community,” she said. “I know I can only do so much, but having this impact on the community to help people, that’s something I wanted to be a part of.”

Last year, School on Wheels sent their volunteers to libraries and shelters and public places to tutor more than three thousand students across Southern California. But this effort is only part of a solution to a mounting emergency in this region, where rising rents and stagnant incomes are driving more people from their homes.

Read the full story from 500Pens.org here.

Apr 28

Former Teacher Becomes Volunteer Tutor

Chris Kuritzkes is a pre-K teacher and recently moved to California from Philadelphia. She read a flyer about School on Wheels and was intrigued to find out more. She trained as a tutor and was recently matched with Giselle (10). Chris says that Giselle is a very hard worker and enjoys learning. Since Giselle loves to learn, she is excited to review and further explore the concepts she is learning about in the classroom.
Chris said that she was completely humbled by the outpouring of resources and the positive impacts School on Wheels has on its students and families. “I am honored to be a tutor with a program that offers hope and makes a difference in the lives of so many.”

If you would like to make a difference like Chris, click below!

Apr 5

Students of the Month – April 2017

Online Tutoring:

Vyctoria (3rd Grade) LOVES online tutoring. When other students are absent and cannot attend their online tutoring sessions, Vyctoria is always ready to jump in! Some of Vyctoria’s favorite things to do with her online tutors include reading stories, solving math puzzles, drawing and playing hangman! Vyctoria’s thirst for learning is contagious. Go Vyctoria!
– Skid Row Learning Center

 

Skid Row Learning Center:

Jasmine (6th Grade)  is a creative, imaginative, hardworking 6th grader who’s love for reading rivals our huge love for her! Jasmine has merged her love for reading and her creativity to make a fantastic Harry Potter pillow. Jasmine just celebrated her birthday and we want to wish her a fantastic Happy Birthday!
Jason Wright–Skid Row Learning Center Specialist

 

Region 6:

Trinity (1st Grade)  loves to draw. About this masterpiece, she said, “It’s me picking flowers in the rain. I like rainbows and flowers and the sky because it’s a pretty blue.” She also likes reading books, especially if they are funny or silly.  Trinity sometimes has to work hard on a new book. But it’s worth the effort when her (toothless!) smile appears with every word that is correctly sounded out. It’s so fun to hear Trinity read a book she has practiced and mastered. The pride in herself can be heard in her voice as she reads.
Karen Mooney –Tutor

 

Region 8:

Helen (3rd grade) What I like most about Helen is that she is a steady learner. She might not understand a concept at first but she can easily build up her knowledge as I ask her increasingly harder questions. This will be very important for her in the future when she is exposed to more challenging topics. I’m very confident that she will keep learning and have a bright future. Goooo Helen!
Alexandria Taylor – Tutor

 

Region 9:

Jeremiah (6th Grade)  While I am tutoring Jeremiah, I can say that he is tutoring me how to be patient, calm, and creative. During our sessions, Jeremiah has shown me to be surprisingly empathetic, humble, attentive and hardworking during our studies. And to my amazement, he’s quite an artist too! He had drawn me a Pokemon as a gift, which has constantly reminded me how awesomely rewarding it is to commit an hour of my week to tutor a child like Jeremiah.
Dave Lindqvist– Tutor

 

Region 4:

Caylee (7th Grade)  I have only worked with School on Wheels for around 4 months, but in those 4 months, I was able to see my impact on Caylee, my student, as well as find my passion for helping people. Caylee is wonderful to work with, she is always eager to learn, and I enjoy tutoring her and seeing her progress.
Audrey Hsu – Tutor

 

 

Region 5:

Joshua (10th grade) is a very self-motivated and determined student. When I first started working with him, his biggest issues academically stemmed from a lack of organization and a tendency to rush through his work. Since then, he has improved in both areas and has been able to maintain passing grades in all of his classes. I look forward to continuing to work with him and am confident that he has a bright future ahead of him!
Chris Klein – Tutor