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Friday, Jun 2, 2023

Teens Get a Helping Hand from Local Businesses

Seven Los Angeles-area non-profit organizations whose missions are focused on helping middle- and high school students split $400,000 in grant money awarded by the NBC Universal Foundation on July 31. School on Wheels, based in Malibu, received $75,000, the largest share of the awards, according to spokeswoman Sinead Chilton. “Part of the grant was to enhance our program working with teenagers and high school children,” said Chilton. “This program is more commonly known as BUS Believe, Understand, Succeed.” The School on Wheels coverage area runs from Santa Barbara all the way to Long Beach and has as its mission helping children who are in foster care, or whose families are homeless, to succeed in school. Chilton said the organization, celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, has more than 800 volunteers, each of whom are matched with a child. Generally, the mentor meets with the child once a week for an hour to work with them one-on-one. Every child is given a backpack and school supplies and they usually develop a relationship with their volunteer mentor that continues even if the family moves or the child transfers from one foster care setting to another. “We’re not affiliated with the shelters or schools,” said Chilton, “So they see us as an island in the sea of bureaucracy sometimes.” In the Valley, about 50 active volunteers meet with their students in 14 different locations, but because of a couple of group tutoring sites about 75 kids are benefiting, said Steve Hibbert, tutor coordinator for the San Fernando Valley. “They’re at various shelters throughout the Valley.” School on Wheels receives no government funding, just private donations, “so it’s nice to be recognized by people like NBC Universal,” said Hibbert. Thanks to the grant, they’re going to be expanding their efforts in the region and are looking for additional volunteers to join. Anyone over 18 who can survive a Lifescan background check and provide two personal references; is willing to complete a brief training session; and can commit to one hour a week is welcome to apply. Visit www.schoolonwheels.org for more info, to sign up, or to donate. Stuffing the Bus Canoga Park High School was the recipient of thousands of dollars of school supplies thanks to the efforts of California United Bank. A small mob of CUB staff and customers gathered in the school’s courtyard on a Saturday morning and spent three hours accepting donations of money and supplies, filling a school bus with everything from computers, monitors and printers to old-fashioned pens, paper and hole punches. “The copier won’t fit in the bus,” laughed CUB’s project coordinator, Shawndra Rutledge. The Valley Economic Development Center donated a copier and also arranged for it to be delivered to the school, she added. Rutledge, whose day job is vice president and compliance manager for the Encino-based bank, is also is a member of CUB’s Community Reinvestment Act committee. All federally-insured banks and thrifts have been required since 1977 to reinvest in their communities using a formula based on assets and other things. But, she said, this is more a labor of love than filling some mandated obligation, noting that CUB has been doing its part to give back before it was required to do so. “Our president, Dave Rainer, is absolutely, positively the most supportive employer you can come up with,” Rutledge enthused. “He’s all about ‘do what you have to do to get it right’ and ‘do the right thing.'” Bank employees have put in at least a couple hundred hours of their personal and work time, Rutledge estimated, and many of the bank’s directors have also put a significant effort into the project. “Our board of directors has been very supportive,” she said, “and our CRA chairman (Robert C. Bills) is just phenomenal.” Promoting Nonviolence Chatsworth-based Topco Sales, manufacturer of adult and other novelties, donated “selected products” items to fill celebrity gift bags for the Until the Violence Stops Los Angeles festival that ran between July 27 and Aug. 9. UTVSLA is a coalition that has as its mission making Los Angeles “the safety city for women and girls.” This is a regular feature on philanthropic activities by Valley-area businesspeople and companies.

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