by, Jenny Lapidus
Our Community Engagement program remained strong throughout the 2019-2020 school year. Although it was a year of unique challenges with the wildfires during the fall season and the pandemic in the spring, our entire community is to be commended for their dedication and generosity.
Two new projects were Baby 2 Baby and thanking our essential workers and first responders. Baby 2 Baby’s inaugural visit was in February. At their headquarters, 13 LES parents packed up items for children in the Foster Care system. We focused on our essential workers and first responders during At-Home Learning. Students created handmade notes filled with gratitude for the risks these heroes take every day.
Fortunately, we were able to participate in the JDRF One Walk in person. It was our 10th year, and we are regularly recognized as the largest school team with over 150 participants! Many activities are held with our sixth-graders leading up to the Walk, including the field trip to the JDRF headquarters, and an information Q&A with parents and Dr. Fran Kaufman, a world-renowned expert in the field. Special thanks to the Platt family for adding to our day with a wonderful brunch.
We were also able to recognize our local firefighters at Station 83. We asked our community to drop donations in a coin jar which enabled us to deliver two dinners during the wildfires and one dinner during the pandemic. The meals were accompanied by handmade thank-you notes that our students created.
The North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry was the recipient of both a fall and winter drive which generated donations of several hundred canned food items. Our second graders also spent one morning packing up bags of food for those experiencing food insecurity, and they included the peanut butter and cold cereal from their food drive.
LA Family Housing was adopted for our Winter Holiday Drive, aka the “Holiday Workshop.” This school-wide event provides children and teens who are transitioning from homelessness with new bedding and hygiene items.
Operation Gratitude is one of my favorite traditions. Each student writes and decorates a holiday note with news from home, and the organization mails them to our active military. Can you imagine how sweet it is to be stationed far away and open a note of thanks from an elementary student in Encino, CA?
Our annual gently-used clothing drive was also an enormous success. We collected and delivered over 90 bags of clothing to MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity).
The New Friends of the Homeless is another wonderful organization we support each year. It’s the group that meets regularly at St. Nicholas Church. We were fortunate to be able to supply them with an assortment of fresh turkeys, pies, and more Thanksgiving favorites, all donated by the always-generous members of our LES community!
We were soon separated by the stay-at-home orders, but that didn’t slow down our giving efforts. LA West Division Police Officers received a carload of snacks and beverages, along with students’ handmade thank-you notes.
National Nurses’ Week in May prompted us to make more handmade notes and deliver them with delicious gift baskets to our frontline workers at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center.
With everyone at home, we found ourselves with an abundance of Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, that we wouldn’t be needing. I’m happy to report that we were able to donate our reserve of masks to local essential workers.
During several Friday morning flagpole assemblies on Zoom, we welcomed veterans from our own community for Veteran’s Day, as well as representatives from LAPD, LAFD, and a nurse to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Our mission is to empower our students to be change agents and this continues to be an integral part of our learning, whether it’s On-Campus or At-Home.
As always, our outreach was warmly welcomed, and the gratitude expressed by our local community was moving. As Robert Fulghum famously said, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” I’m proud that we set good examples for community engagement and find creative ways to involve the students. I know the children will hold these values long after they leave LES.
Thank you to everyone for your support!