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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023

Santa Hitches Charter Ride on Van Nuys Chopper

Santa Claus goes by a lot of names: Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, to name a few. In Pacoima, he also goes by the moniker Lou Marino. Marino, a 79-year-old attorney, dons a red coat and hat each year to play St. Nick for some of the 1,350 families that receive household items and gifts from MEND – Meeting Each Need with Dignity during its Christmas basket program. This year, as Marino did his thing on Dec. 15, he arrived in style – via helicopter. Van Nuys charter flight company Group 3 Aviation Inc. was unable to donate money to the cause, but the business said it would be happy to give Santa a lift – a substantial in-kind gift. “We had contacted them asking about a donation,” said MEND Chief Executive Marianne Haver Hill. “They said, ‘Well, we can’t do that, but … ’ So they offered this and we thought, ‘That would be wonderful.’” Santa’s helicopter touched down across the street from MEND, and Santa then took a short ride in a Cadillac secured by Pacoima Whiteman Airport Manager Andrew Marino (not related to Santa Claus). The annual event by the nonprofit Pacoima social service agency provides food, blankets and gifts donated by area churches, businesses and individuals. The items help supplement meager holiday incomes and include boxes of chicken, produce and canned food items. “It’s quite a lot of stuff they walk out with,” Hill said. Leading Edge Group 3 wasn’t the only Valley airline charter to provide the gift of flight this month. JetEdge International, based out of Van Nuys Airport, provided transportation from Los Angeles to the San Francisco bay area for former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, following a conference in Los Angeles. The Dec. 10 event was the first in the World Leader Series and was held at USC. The conference was co-sponsored by Glendale’s Nestle USA and CentroFox, a leadership center and the library of former Mexican president Vicente Fox. Rice and Fox were keynote speakers at the event, which discussed U.S.-Mexican relations and was attended by about 350 people, including representatives of the Valley business community. David Pritchard, executive vice president at JetEdge, said the discussion between Rice and Fox was relevant not only to the nation but to the local community. “It was a great dialogue between the two, for things relating to U.S.-Mexico relations,” he said. About 20 percent of the proceeds, which reached about $250,000, were given to Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission in Sun Valley. JetEdge donated valuable in-kind flight services in place of cash. Pritchard said the company was happy to help. “To be able to help out our local county community is great,” he said. “It’s an easy way for us to get involved and we’re happy to do it.” Banking on Community Several Valley nonprofits were recognized by area branches of Wells Fargo & Co. at the bank’s annual breakfast. Each nonprofit was selected by a branch manager, who provided the organization with a check for $1,000. A total of 56 L.A. organizations received donations and were feted at the Nov. 30 event. Among the nonprofits that received donations were: Computech for Humanity of North Hollywood, which provides computers to low-income families and the disabled; Children of the Night of Van Nuys and ZOE Children’s Homes of Santa Clarita, which work to free children from prostitution; Bridges to Ability Foundation, a Santa Clarita provider of social and career services to teenagers and adults with disabilities; and Power Woman Business Center, a Santa Clarita incubator for entrepreneurs and startups. Santa’s Helpers The Granada Hills branch of Boston Private Bank & Trust Co. collected more than 200 toys, which it donated Dec. 15 to Devonshire Police Activity League Supporters (PALS), a program supported by Los Angeles Police Department that offers services to at-risk youth. Hank Miller, vice president of the Granada Hills bank branch, serves on the board for PALS. … Children’s Hunger Fund, a Sylmar nonprofit that donates food to area community members, hosted a “Toy Wrap Frenzy” in late November and early December. Volunteers wrapped 75,000 stuffed animals donated by Ty Inc. of Westmont, Ill. … Glendale Fire Department partnered with KABC-TV (Channel 7) for its “Spark of Love” toy drive. Firefighters collected $5,000 worth of toys donated by Glendale printing company 4Over Inc. on Dec. 14. Staff reporter Bailey Brewer can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or by email at bbrewer@sfvbj.com.

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