Donation shortages could affect the most needy at Thanksgiving

imageAt the Midnight Mission, they’re gearing up for a huge Thanksgiving Day celebration aimed at providing a hearty meal for the homeless in the heart of Skid Row.

“We are like the mothers and the fathers of the people that no longer have that kind of network,” stresses Mai Lee, a spokesperson for The Midnight Mission.

But a big drop in donations due to the economic downturn is seriously affecting the work of many non-profit organizations whose priority is helping the less fortunate – particularly during the holiday season.

“We have been seeing about a 20 percent drop in donations overall and we have been seeing an 18 percent rise in the costs of meals alone,” shares Lee.

Many agencies are facing donation shortages and it’s likely to cause a chain reaction of need, as people seek help at other organizations they normally wouldn’t turn to.

Organizations such as the Midnight Mission will likely feel the impact of the shortage when people are turned away from other places because they don’t have enough food to provide to those in need.
“We would be in the same situation if we hadn’t of been better prepared,” says Lee.

Luckily, The Midnight Mission started preparing for the holidays over the summer.

“With The Midnight Mission, we start getting ready for the holiday season in June and we work with our community partners,” explains Lee. “We work with a variety of partners asking them if they will commit to getting all of the turkeys or will they commit to getting the hams.”

According to Lee, if a sponsor cannot commit to the full amount of an item, then the mission asks another organization if they can sponsor half of that item.

One factor has played a huge role in helping the mission thrive since 1914.

“Being that we are privately funded most of the impact due to budgetary crisis haven’t really impacted us in the sense that we are not receiving direct monies from the government,” Lee noted. “Our private donors and private dollars haven’t been impacted.”

This Thanksgiving, the mission is expecting roughly 2500 people to show up for their holiday celebration, but it is prepared to feed 4500 people.

“We understand that it takes everybody to roll up their sleeves and help and we can’t do this alone,” insists Lee. “However, we are committed as an organization to keeping our levels of services up to date because this is not the time to cut back in services, this is not the time to reduce service hours. This is when people need it the most.”

City Councilman Bernard Parks discusses the future of Marlton Square

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imageFor years, Marlton Square has been an eye-sore for the Crenshaw community. That’s one of the issues City Councilman Bernard Parks will talk about tonight when he delivers the 9th Annual “State of the Eighth” address. Check out an interview with park with Annenberg Radio News to hear about what’s next for the square and Crenshaw.

Richland Farms community proves there’s more to Compton than gangs

There are no gunshots to be heard or gangster rap music blaring from low-riding Chevys. Instead, roosters crowing and horses’ hooves going click-clack click-clack are heard throughout the paved streets. It’s a different world in the tight knit-community of Richland Farms inside the city of Compton.

The single-story homes are painted in bright colors. There are no bars on the windows. Some lawns are manicured and cut to perfection where others have slightly out grown grass. It’s what’s in the backyards of most of the homes in the neighborhood that may surprise outsiders. Homeowners in this 10-block enclave own livestock such as horses, chickens, ducks, goats, cows and other animals.

Retired school teacher Lloyd Bertrand Wilkins has lived in Compton for 61 years. He loves living in Richland Farms.

Lloyd Bertrand Wilkins, a 73-year old retired school teacher and Compton resident for 61 years, for example, owns two properties in Richland Farms where he keeps 10 horses and two hybrid wolves. “You would never know what’s in the backs of these houses,” Wilkins says with a grin. “Richland Farms should be in the forefront of Compton’s image and it would change the public façade of the city dramatically.” He points out Richland Farms is one of the few places in the country that still looks like farmland and allows residents to keep animals freely.

The largest urban agricultural zone in Los Angeles County, Richland Farms is home to 435 families and hundreds of farm animals. The community is located between Wilmington Avenue and South Alameda Street and West Greenleaf Boulevard and West Alondra Boulevard. Each house sits on at least half an acre of land, where homeowners are free to own a livestock based on the size of their land.

Community members like 47-year old Priscilla Hoskinds ride pristine horses through the streets freely.

imageRichland Farms resident Priscilla Hoskinds tends to her horses.

For the last six years, Hoskinds has been taking care of four horses that had been abused by previous owners. Her love for the animals is even embedded on her skin – horse tattoos are branded on her arm and chest. “I do a lot of farm stuff everyday,” Hoskinds says. “ It’s a daily thing to take care of these animals, but I love nature and love these animals.”

Unlike the changing faces of many areas in Los Angeles, Richland Farms has stayed the same over the years. Griffith Compton, founder of the city, donated the land that now carries his name in 1888. Richland Farms has been zoned specifically for agricultural use.

Business owner Mayisha Akbar said she was blown away when she first learned the area was zoned specifically for agricultural uses. Akbar, who is a Harbor City, CA native and was raised around animals, operates the Compton Jr. Posse, an afterschool equestrian program for the inner-city youth.

She wanted to raise her children in an environment similar to the one she was raised in and Richland Farms was the perfect fit, so she moved to the area in 1988. After buying the land and a few horses, soon neighborhood children came to play. She insisted the children needed to go to school in order for them to spend time on her ranch. That’s how the Compton Jr. Posse was born.

“The Compton Jr. Posse grew out of a need for the community,” Akbar said. “We are an oasis and safe haven for kids and this program is a world of opportunity for them.”

Akbar’s family owns three houses in a row in Richland Farms, so they combined the land in the backyards to create the ranch where children in the community can come afterschool and weekends to enjoy a safe environment.

“I believe that the reason there are few racial barriers in Richland Farms is because of the commonality of the soil and the animals that give human beings a new respect for life, which makes it less likely for there to be violence and aggressiveness in this area,” Akbar says.

Wilkins agrees. “Richland Farms is an area where you have a group – two minority groups – that have been generally disenfranchised who are now trying to work together to make changes.”

In recent years, the racial demographics of Compton have changed dramatically. African-Americans, who were once the majority of the city, have become a minority. Now, Hispanics inhabit the 10 square miles of land with over 56 percent occupying the “Hub City” – Compton’s nickname due to its central location in Los Angeles. Tension between the two ethnicities can sometimes be felt within the community, especially when the economy is down and jobs are scarce. But Richland Farms is an area where Hispanics and Blacks comingle without any drama.

“Blacks and Mexicans have always been in competition with each other for jobs and recognition,” Wilkins says. “That’s why they don’t like each other. We are consolidating and bringing together the Blacks and Mexicans so they can work and live together.”

Compton is constantly battling its negative image in the media, which tends to see it only as a place where gang members are at war. But thanks to programs like Akbar’s and Wilkins’ community activism, Richland Farms is an area that is truly rich with cultural and pride within Compton.

That’s why, Akbar says, it’s important to keep in mind that “there is a lot of good stuff going on in Compton.”

Serene atmosphere in the heart of Skid Row

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In the heart of Skid Row in Los Angeles, Midnight Mission is a safe haven for homeless people to come and receive the necessities of life. Once a month they hold an art session where the homeless can enjoy a calm atmosphere while creating works of art and enjoy live music. The homeless take full advantage of the supplies which include crayons, water colors, paints and an array of markers.

A new organization seeks to change the 2012 election process

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imageAmerican Elect, a non-profit organization, thinks it knows a way to get people excited about the presidential election – get a nominee on the ticket that answers directly to voters. Check out this interview where Regina Graham speaks with Elliot Ackerman, the chief operating officer for Americans Elect. Ackerman explains what the organization is about and why the election process in America needs to change.

Cricket team teaches sportsmanship in Compton

What looks like a weird game of baseball is really the game of cricket and its being played in Compton. The Homies & POPz, a local Compton team, has traveled around the world competing against more experienced players. Their matches can be challenging, but so is their bigger goal: giving young people a positive alternative to gangs and violence in Compton and South Los Angeles.

Cricket, formally nicknamed “the gentleman’s game”, is a bat and ball sport that originated in England in the early 16th century.

The Homies & POPz have received funding through sponsorships from various companies including Prudential Life Insurance, BUM Equipment, Tommy Boy Records and more.

In 1995, The Homies & POPz, originally called the LA Krickets, began to play at the Dome Village community for the homeless in Downtown Los Angeles. When the team was created by Ted Hayes, a homeless activist, and Katy Haber, a film producer, neither of them knew that it would grow into what it has become today.

imageHaber, who enjoyed the game of cricket, needed an extra player for a random weekend game and called upon Hayes, a fellow volunteer at the Dome Village. A newcomer to the game, Hayes stepped onto the field for his first time and began a love affair with cricket.

“I went out and played with the team and liked what I saw,” said Hayes. “But more importantly I liked the etiquette of the game and saw it as a tool to help change peoples lives.”

He came up with the idea to bring the game to the homeless community to teach the its members sportsmanship.

Shortly there after, the first all homeless and all-American cricket team was born and they began touring the world beginning with England.

In 1996, Haber and Hayes decided to expand their horizons and bring the game to Compton where they thought young people could benefit from the game that teaches proper etiquette and sportsmanship. They began by teaching a workshop on how to play the game at Willowbrooke Middle School. Some of those students grew up on the team and are still active on the green grassy fields. They love to play, but they also enjoy helping change the city’s negative reputation.

“We have given Compton in the last 15 years very good publicity,” said Hayes.

Team member Sergio Pinales has been playing the sport since 1997 and said that at first , he had never seen anything like it before.

“I like how they catch with their bare hands and not use gloves,” said Pinales, while taking a break during the game. “It was one of those things that caught my eye.”

Pinales, who grew up playing baseball in his front yard with his bare hands, says that cricket quickly became second nature.

“The thing that took the cake was that they told me that I could hit the ball in a 360 degree angle anywhere you want,” said Pinales. “That’s what sold me right there; I could hit anywhere on the field.”

Today the diverse group of men plays together in weekly Sunday matches at Woodley Park in Burbank.

The team has won the British Cup twice and a trophy from The LA Social Cricket League. In addition to this, the hub city team toured the United Kingdom in 1997, 1999 and 2001 sponsored by organizations such as British Petroleum, Channel 4,, Lashings and Maxim Magazine.

The Homies & POPz just recently traveled in February to play down under in Australia against local and university teams in Melbourne and Sydney.

“It was a great thing to go to Australia,” said Hayes. “But it has to happen more. It has to expand more and we need to get more of these young men involved and that is going to take funds.”

Haber says the Los Angeles Police Department has reached out to the team and wants them to teach them how to play the game in hopes to assist in their counter-terrorism program within the Muslim communities.

“We are just trying to open the eyes of people and tell them look there’s more to life than just gangsters out here,” said Pinales. “What we are trying to do is something for the future. Anything to make a positive step for anybody and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

For one long-time resident, Compton offers the best of both worlds

Cleo Turner has lived in Compton for more than 50 years and has seen the drastic changes that The Hub City has gone through. He shares with us the inside of his home and what it is really like to live in Compton.

Judge Kelvin Filer talks growing up in Compton


Kelvin D. Filer is a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge in Compton.

A native of the hub city, Judge Filer has been on the bench since 2002 after being appointed by former Gov. Gray Davis.

We sat down with Judge Filer inside his Compton chambers.


Photo courtesy of University of California Santa Cruz

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