I was recently invited to be a part of a blogger lunch and learn for the Hard Rock Cafe 5K. I was so excited to attend since this will be my second year participating in this 5K.
The first part of the lunch and learn was the lunch section of it. We were brought back into a private room at the Hard Rock Cafe at Hollywood and Highland and we were given a sample of some of their appetizers.
It was all super delicious (and my share of what was on our table was pretty much my meal for the day).
While we were eating, I was seated with 2 other bloggers and a representative from My Friend’s Place. My Friend’s Place is a center for homeless youth and is the official charity for the Hard Rock Cafe 5K. They were actually the charity for last year as well, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I signed up for the race because I wanted the medal and not because of the charity.
During lunch I learned a lot about My Friend’s Place including some of the programs that they offer to help get youth off of the streets and into safe places. I also learned that they are one of the rare homeless organizations that will let people bring their pets with them (although the pets do stay outside).
I was so interested to learn more about My Friend’s Place and fortunately the second half of the Lunch and Learn was a tour of the facility and to learn even more about it!
It was a short drive over and as soon as I got inside, I noticed how different it looked from other homeless organizations I’ve seen around LA.
They make it as cheerful and homey as possible. We started our tour in the entry room where people come in each day (sadly, the center is only open during the daytime and weekdays right now).
At the front desk, everyone can get clean socks and underwear. It’s the little things that can make you feel like a new person. We learned that they have to buy men’s briefs because they are cheaper, but they would love a donation of new boxers to give out (I’m hoping to make a Costco run to pick some up to donate). At the front they also have a mail service. Anyone who wants to get mail at their address can do so. And they can use the address to get a state ID card. I never thought about it before, but you cannot get an ID without an address.
Next on the tour was a room right off of the entry way. And it was not something I was expecting to see.
A circus classroom! Cirque du Monde is a program that was created by Cirque du Soleil. While it might seem silly to have a circus program at a homeless shelter, there is a lot of good that can come from people learning circus tricks. Many of the homeless youth have not been in environments where they can trust others. But in Cirque du Monde, they have to be able to trust the instructors and have respect for the lessons.
After we learned a bit about the program, we were given a chance to walk on the wire in the room. I jumped up and was the first to go.
It was awesome! I was able to go up and back and it felt amazing. After I went, all the other bloggers tried it out and realized how great of a confidence booster an activity like this is.
Next we toured the classroom where they have GED classes and tutoring as well as computers for the youth to use.
Next to that was the clothing room.
While it looks full, they can always use more donations of clothes and shoes.
We then headed upstairs to see the mothering program room.
They have parenting classes and are able to provide diapers for little kids. And they mentioned an amazing idea for people to donate diapers. When your kid outgrows the size of diapers you have at home, donate the extra ones so that they will have some to give out! They don’t mind that it isn’t a full box. Any diapers are helpful.
We also learned about some of the other programs that are available at the center such as legal aid, health services, life skills (like finding a job and permanent housing), and counseling.
Honestly, while I have volunteered at homeless shelters before, I never learned as much about homelessness (and homeless youth) as I did during the Lunch and Learn. I know that when I have money to donate to charity, this is going to be one of the first places on my list to get money. These kids need help and many times they don’t have anywhere else to turn.
I highly encourage everyone to learn more about My Friend’s Place and donate either goods or money if you can. And if you want to join me for the Hard Rock Cafe 5K, you can still register and get an awesome medal as well as help an incredible organization.