It takes a village to support a community. At the Los Angeles Community Outreach Center, this statement couldn’t be more true.
On Sunday, May 13th 2012, Via Trading had the honor of attending the LA Community Outreach Center’s Mother’s Day Lunch, put together by the shelter’s volunteer director, residents and fellow volunteers.
The LACOC provides a roof over the heads of men, women and women with children under 12, a food distribution program, a bus token transportation program, clothing distribution, employment and health service resources and hot meals to the community nightly.
Established in 1990 to address the needs of the homeless men, women and children of South Central Los Angeles, the original building was burned down during the Los Angeles riots of 1992. It was then rebuilt by its very own residents and 22 years later, the shelter is home to 21 people among which a 9 month old baby boy named Michael and an 11 year old girl.
A branch of Church on the Move (a Missionary Baptist Church on Vermont Ave), the Los Angeles Community Outreach center functions exclusively on the time and care of volunteers and resident members. Each person plays an integral role in feeding, clothing, rehabilitating and caring for the community.
Frances Rodriguez, the shelter’s newly appointed volunteer director welcomed us with open arms as we entered the building on Sunday to show our support for their organization and to spend a few hours celebrating Mother’s Day.
The long hallway to the community’s communal area echoed with the laughter of young and old residents alike. We walked right into a white elephant gift-giving ceremony that had each resident choose an unknown gift out of a basket when his or her name was called. The Pastor held up a woman’s swimsuit with an infectious smile, and laughter ensued when the gag gifts didn’t quite fit the recipient. We were welcomed with hugs and ample thanks for the donation of cleaning supplies we had made to this heart-warming organization earlier in the week.
We were offered a seat and a heaping plate of nachos with cheese while we all waited for the homemade meal to finish cooking.
As we sat and watched the celebration of motherhood unfold, we were introduced to residents who confirmed that it really does take a village. Each and every day, residents assume the responsibilities that help keep the shelter alive. From cooking duty, food pickup duty, cleaning duty, donation collection duty, passing out of transportation token duty and more, everyone has a job, a purpose to fulfill within the organization and a strong sense of belonging. It felt more like a big, loud and animated family than it did a place where people turn when all other options are exhausted.
The resilience of the human spirit shone brightly as we listened to each individual’s story and celebrated with the generous community that makes this shelter possible.
Via Trading encourages you to get involved in your local community, in Los Angeles or wherever you are. Whether you are able to donate funds or material goods to help clothe and feed, or a few minutes of your time to lend a caring ear, we urge you to join us in counting our blessings and paying it forward.