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April 30, 2023

The Passing of Lois Starr

It is with a heavy heart that I let you know we lost one of our own. Lois Starr was an Abbey Road board member but she was so much more. Lois put up a valiant fight, but did succumb to her illness surrounded by family on April 18th.

Considered an expert in Non-Profit Housing, Lois spent 40 years in the affordable housing field.  She worked at the  Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles overseeing the Housing Development and Preservation Department for over 15 years as well as 10 years at the Los Angeles area office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  More recently she was the Executive Director Administration at PATH Ventures.  A native of Los Angeles, Lois completed her undergraduate work at California State Northridge (CSUN) and graduate work at Pepperdine.

From early on, Lois believed that everyone had a right to feel a sense of belonging and to have equal access to housing.  She was one of the first to insist that people not only needed a safe place to live but also needed services attached to housing to break the cycle of homelessness.    She knew that creating a sense of community and wellbeing was the key to keeping people off the streets.  She was outspoken when the matter needed a loud voice.  Her voice was the strongest and most persistent around treating people with dignity and respect regardless of skin color or who you loved.   She was also an unrelenting advocate for transitional housing for transition age youth, especially for those who had special needs.  

Lois was known as great connector.  She had a way with people and knew who to connect with whom.  She helped develop many successful partnerships. Back in the early 90s when Penny Lane was trying to find a way to house our former foster youth, Lois was more than willing to  introduce us to the right people to show us a path forward.  We credit her for helping us start housing at Penny Lane.  

But her greatest legacy was as a grandmother and mother of two wonderful young men, one of whom is a valued employee at Penny Lane, Andrew Starr.  

Abbey Road is currently looking for ways to honor Lois. We are thinking to name our Pasadena apartments “The Starr”.   Painted in lots of bright colors, she would love that it is providing students a safe place to live.

-Wendy Carpenter, Penny Lane Centers

Our Antelope Valley Supported Employment Program- Part II

Hello, my name is Jessica Rojas, Supported Employment Clinical Supervisor, in the AV.  I wanted to expand and share more about the Supported Employment program.  Last month, I focused on the referral process and what the program does.  This month, I would like to share that other departments such as the TAY Center that also provides Supported Employment services to their clients to better assist them and prepare them for interviews and employment.

See what one of our Employment Specialists has to say:  

Hello, my name is Ally Humphrey, and I am the Employment Specialist for the AV TAY Center.  The TAY Center serves youth ages 16-25. Our youth come to us at all stages of their employment journey.  Some youth have no work experience and others have years of experience in various industries. With each youth, we focus on their personal needs and create a plan.  A large part of the population we serve are experiencing housing insecurities.  Because of that often their employment journey starts with securing documents like an ID or a Social Security Card. We work on building confidence and professionalism and problem-solving with team-building exercises. We work on the basics like resumes, skills building, mock interviews, and all things to help our youth be successful!
Recently we had a youth drop-in feeling down on his luck, unable to land employment, and unsure what that meant for his future. We sat down together and discussed what current hiring opportunities he was qualified for. We updated his resume and applied to multiple job openings. Three days later the youth was contacted for an interview. We went to work then on interviewing skills and being more confident. That youth landed the job as a Driver Helper for Sygma and had his first day on March 13th! This has given the youth a great sense of accomplishment and helped him realize he IS capable of achieving his goals.

The Supported Employment program is geared to provide opportunities for the clients to speak with hiring managers to build confidence and continue building their skills to be successfully employed and improve their overall well-being.  Job development is crucial to help build connections with hiring managers in the community and helps empower the clients.  

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about Penny Lane’s Supported Employment program. The team is available if you want more information or need employment resources in the Antelope Valley.

-Jessica Rojas, Penny Lane Centers

April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month & Denim Day!

“Freedom from sexual assault is a basic human right.  Yet tens of millions of Americans —- our family and friends, colleagues, neighbors, and classmates —- carry the trauma of sexual assault with them.   National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is an important time to speak out, stand with courageous survivors, and finally change the culture that has allowed sexual violence to exist for far too long." – President Joe Biden

This is a time for advocates, survivors, their loved ones, and the community to come together to talk openly about sexual violence to support survivors, increase knowledge and awareness, and identify strategies and resources to prevent sexual violence.  It is important for us to have these conversations and build awareness.  We need to talk to one another, provide resources and educate the community.  It is incumbent on us to teach our young people about the sexual assault: how to spot red flags, being aware of one’s environment, knowing how to protect yourself and support the survivors.

During the month of April, we acknowledge Denim Day, but what is Denim Day and how does it tie to Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

How Denim Day started:

“The campaign began after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped the person who raped her remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Peace Over Violence developed the Denim Day campaign in response to this case and the activism surrounding it. Since then, what started as a local campaign to bring awareness to victims blaming and destructive myths that surround sexual violence has grown into a movement. As the longest running sexual violence prevention and education campaign in history, Denim Day asks community members, elected officials, businesses, and students to make a social statement with their fashion statement by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual violence.”

Inspired by these events, Patricia Giggans, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (now Peace Over Violence), established Denim Day in Los Angeles in 1999.

Like all injustices, we must stand as a community, in defense of these women who are so often blamed for crimes perpetrated against them.

-Judy Grant, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some more photos below!

Anti-Racism and Erase Hate Assembly at Gledhill Elementary School

Penny Lane has taken our message and program about Diversity and Inclusion “on the road” and out to the public.   We transform lives through our service to the community which includes people who live in our communities but may not be getting direct services from Penny Lane’s programs.  April was a busy month for us in terms of activities with Gledhill Elementary School.

On Monday, April 3rd Penny Lane conducted “Erase Hate”, which is our Racial Justice presentation created specifically for schools/children.  Joined by 75 5th graders, faculty and staff Erase Hate addressed feelings associated with discrimination as well as feelings associated with inclusivity.  Students shared their personal experiences, engaged in interactive activities, and acknowledged their unique qualities.  

On Tuesday, April 18th Penny Lane conducted Creating an Anti-Racist Classroom.  Faculty and paraprofessionals gathered to address ways in which they can create antiracist classrooms and curriculum.  Faculty were asked to address their implicit biases and acknowledge how that can impact the work they do with their students.  Faculty was provided with practical interventions to begin the conversation in the classroom as well as activities to promote inclusivity.

On Friday, April 28th Penny Lane presented Raising Anti-Racist Children during Coffee with the Principal.  Parents joined in the conversation as they were presented with ways to engage their children in discussions around race and given resources and activities in which they can teach their children how to embrace differences.  

Penny Lane is proud to have had an opportunity to collaborate with Gledhill to talk about these issues.  We must teach our children the power and importance of inclusivity.  Help us to spread this message to the next generation in hopes that they will live in a world where hate is erased and there is equity for all.

-Judy Grant, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some more photos below!

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Outreach Events

The Penny Lane Centers Outpatient Substance Use Disorder Program (SUD) was invited to a few tabling events during the month of April.  April started at the Stephen Sorensen Park in Lake Los Angeles with the annual “Health Parks Fair” on April 1st. On April 7th was the Jackie Robinson Park annual “Jubilee” celebration. The combined goal for these events was to help the Lake Los Angeles and Littlerock communities have access to low cost/free services from numerous community partners. The events were filled with Easter-egg hunts, music, magic shows, fun crafts, family games, food as well as provided local resources for the community.

SUD represented Penny Lane as a whole, providing families with other program flyers depending on their needs.

On April 15th, SUD was out once again at the “Seventh Annual Many Families, One Community Resource Fair” that was held in the Golden Valley High School Gym in Santa Clarita. Their goal was to further support and strengthen students and families in the Sulphur Springs and William S. Hart Union High School Districts.  Many community resources were provided at this event for the surrounding areas of Santa Clarita. Both the Sulphur Springs and William S. Hart school district are dedicated to ensuring that students and their families are provided resources to enhance and strengthen youths’ learning, both academically and socially. Both districts are committed making sure children and youth have an opportunity to being successful, reaching their fullest potential.

-Jeniffer Barraza-Garcia, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some more photos below!

AV TBS Team Day- "Smell The Flowers!"

In TBS we support self-care and recognize that it is just as important as the work itself. Every 1st Thursday of the month we take some time to get together and “smell the flowers”. It is a time to talk, reflect, laugh, and just enjoy each other and spend some bonding time as a team. Yesterday we had the opportunity to really enjoy some beauty here in the AV (I know, it’s hard to believe that there is any beauty here). We took a visit to the Poppy Fields to celebrate our time with one of our wonderful specialists who will be moving on to a therapist role. We toasted with apple cider, enjoyed cupcakes and sandwiches, and we all said a speech to share our appreciation for our fellow TBS specialist in this bitter/sweet moment. Best of all we got to enjoy a 1st experience together as many of us had never visited the poppy fields. It truly was a beautiful experience connecting to each other and nature. TBS would like to encourage all of you to take some time out from the challenging work that we all do every day, take a deep breath, reflect on the beauty of life, appreciate the moment in time, and stop to “smell the flowers”.

-Fanta Ritchie, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some more photos below!

Anthem Blue Cross Volunteer Event

On Wednesday, 04/26/2023, our Foster Family Agency staff attended a volunteer event coordinated by Anthem blue Cross in Van Nuys. The event was specifically for us! They made about 100 ‘care bags’ for our kids in care. The bags included a variety of items including clothes, books, and toys. The staff from all three locations attended and spent the day meeting the Anthem staff, helping package the items, and spreading the word about the great work we do at Penny Lane Centers. If you have a child or family in need of a care bag, let us know, we are happy to share! Please contact Charito at cguerrero@pennylane.org

-Charito Guerrero, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some more photos below!