What would Ive do? (referring to the founder and former CEO of Penny Lane Ivelise Markovits) This is the question I asked myself during certain situations in my life. Because she is brilliant, wise, and full of love. This is why every accomplishment in my life is because of Penny Lane Centers. Throughout my childhood I just needed to seize to exist. Growing up in a physically violent home which lead me to suicidal ideation and attempts, starting to drink at the age of 6 not to get drunk but to black out and forget about everything, to ending up in five psychiatric wards was my coping strategies for my life. At the age of 16 I went to Penny Lane and my life changed. Transitioning from being a patient (like I had become accustomed in lockdown facilities for months on end), to now being a resident was the first change. The staff of Penny Lane gave me unconditional love, hope, and compassion. My therapist, Carol Goldberg, even educated me on the reality of what I thought was my “normal” childhood. She told me I lived through one of the worst cases of child abuse in California history. Penny Lane program director, Elin Bradley, took me to my first AA meeting, at age 17, and I am happy to say I have been sober since then (over 31 years). When I left Penny Lane, at that time they didn’t have transitional housing, I became homeless. I didn’t have any life skills but neither did I succumb to alcohol as I relied on the fundamentals taught to me at Penny Lane.
I have been with my incredibly beautiful, supporting, and over all amazing wife for almost 30 years and we have two beautiful, incredible, and happy children that we adore. Due to falling through the cracks in the educational system, I only have an elementary school education, but never have I stopped learning. 11 books are currently sitting on my night stand. My business partner, a dad of three, and I, a dad of two, have a successful children’s book publishing company named Dads Publishing; dadspublishing.com. We’ll be releasing my tenth children’s book on March 22nd. Thus far, I have done interviews that have reached well over 20 million people worldwide. Our next goal is to institutionalize these books because they aren’t just books, but manuals on how to be better parents/ better people. I started writing because of my daughter. When she was an infant, I tried to see life through her eyes. Writing children’s books was a medium that both allowed me to give children as well as their parents the gifts of hope, optimism, and unconditional love, which I received so graciously at Penny Lane. It doesn’t matter how small and powerless we feel in this world, we do have absolute control over our response to people, places, and things. I traveled the world with my parents but never received a simple hug. Ive gave me hugs and honestly, I would replace my globetrotting anytime for a hug from somebody that loved me.
Today besides writing children’s books, (40 books so far), I work with individuals that society deems unfixable/unworthy like inmates in the L.A. county jail system, kids at juvenile halls, inmates on death row, and school shooters. As Penny Lane did for me, I give them hope, learn why they are in that situation, and figure out how the actions they took could be prevented in the future. I figured out to get through some of the toughest situations was by simply asking myself, “What would Ive do?”
If I could give advice or say something to the youth at Penny Lane it would simply be, “I am jealous that you are at Penny Lane because of the incredible memories I have of being there. Take advantage of being in a safe and loving place. The love and compassion I received from being there is the reason I say that every accomplishment in my life is because of Penny Lane. I was loved by all the staff at Penny Lane before I knew how to love myself, or even that I was worthy of it. It is going to be tough but don’t allow your childhood or past define your future or who you are. Penny Lane will be with you for a very long time, the longest relationship I’ve had in my life is with Elin Bradley. We still get together today, and I still ask her for advice. It’s been 33 years and still going strong.”