All posts by Andrew Veis

Shakespeare by the Sea returns to L.A. County for a summer of outdoor theatre

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Stephanie Coltrin still recalls the magical evening at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro just a few summers ago.

She was directing an outdoor performance of “King Lear,” and as if on cue, the fog rolled in at exactly the right moment.

“We had a scene where a character was describing to the king the world outside, and when that fog rolled in, it set the mood,” said Coltrin. “I got goosebumps!”

This summer, Los Angeles County residents can once again enjoy outdoor theatre, courtesy of the nonprofit organization Shakespeare by the Sea. The group kicks off their 18th season on June 18 at Point Fermin Park with “As You Like It,” and will later feature “The Tempest” on June 25 at the same location.

“I’m proud to once again support this incredible showcase that connects young teens and their families with some of the greatest literature ever written,” said Supervisor Don Knabe. “There is no better setting for a re-enactment of classic Shakespeare tales than the cliffs above the sea as the sun sets.”

Both shows will make stops at parks around the county through August, and even travel south to a few locations in Orange County.

Lisa Coffi, founder and producing artistic director for Shakespeare by the Sea, has seen the tour grow through the years. She came up with the concept as part of her Long Beach State thesis project and has hustled to gather the funds and staffing for every summer since that initial test.

“Shakespeare really was for every man,” said Coffi. “So it’s fitting our shows are offered for free to anyone who wants to enjoy an evening of theatre under the stars.”

Coffi delights in seeing the diverse audiences her shows draw during the summer months. She says on any given night, she’ll see young families, teens, elderly couples, and individuals of all ethnicities and backgrounds.

“It’s truly a communal experience,” said Coffi. “To sit in a park with hundreds of people being utterly quiet to listen to Shakespeare is quite the experience.”

Each season, a small cast is selected in the spring. They rehearse, build the set and then set out to tour in June. This year, 18 individuals will cover a total of 45 roles in the two productions. Coltrin, now an associate festival producer, will serve as director for “The Tempest.” Patrick Vest is directing “As You Like It.”

Coffi, meanwhile, will start booking shows for the following summer, and is always working to secure funds. She now resides in Northern California, but feels so passionate about Shakespeare by the Sea, she has continued to oversee and manage the productions from afar. Still, she comes down for the summers to see the fruits of her hard work. Coffi also runs Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro’s Art District.

“It’s a lot to take on, and I often feel like we are working against the grain,” said Coffi. “But we seem to make it every year, and when I come down to watch the shows, I see we really do inspire people – and many families return every summer.”

To see the complete summer schedule for Shakespeare by the Sea, visit http://www.shakespearebythesea.org. You can additionally learn how to make a donation and keep the summer performances alive in LA County via the website.

Third Baby Girl Safely Surrendered at Los Angeles County Hospital in May

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe is proud to announce that the County’s Safe Surrender Program celebrated success for the seventh time this year and third time this month with the report of a safely surrendered newborn baby girl this week. This most recent Safe Surrender occurred on May 27, 2015 at a hospital in Los Angeles. Earlier this month, a baby girl was safely surrendered at a hospital in Lynwood on May 2 and another baby girl was safely surrendered at a Los Angeles area hospital on May 8.

As is standard practice, the newborn is in protective custody and will be placed with families approved for adoption by the Department of Children and Family Services.

“It is incredible to know that three young, innocent lives have been saved this month because of the Safe Surrender program,” said Supervisor Knabe. “Because of the courage of the mothers, who found themselves in desperate situations, these three baby girls have a second chance at life and the opportunity to grow up in a loving family. If other people, who may be in a similar situation know that there are options, they too can make the better choice for their baby and safely surrender them at any hospital or fire station—No shame. No blame. No names.”

This is the seventh Safe Surrender in Los Angeles County in 2015, and the 131st since the program began nearly 14 years ago. The program was initiated by Supervisor Knabe and approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in 2001. It allows someone to surrender an infant that is no more than three days old, as long as the infant shows no signs of abuse.

To learn more about the Safe Surrender Program, visit BabySafeLA.org.

Victims of Trafficking Finally Receive Justice

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Today, the House of Representatives passed, on a 420 to 3 vote, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. Washington finally put aside its partisan politics and passed a bill to support the victims of child sex trafficking.  This action will provide more desperately needed resources to local governments, which are responsible for our most vulnerable children.  It will also give local authorities the ability to penalize those who buy and sell young girls, rather than punishing those who are exploited by adults for profit.  If each level of government – local, state and federal – plays its role, we can end the exploitation of innocent children and make a difference in the lives of the victims of this heinous crime.

Locally, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also unanimously passed my motions to allocate $250,000 to increase training for County staff and increase advocacy for more state funding dedicated to counties to help serve the victims of child sex trafficking.  On Friday, I will lead an event with Metro officials to launch its “Don’t Be Silent” campaign, an updated trafficking awareness campaign urging metro riders to be alert to suspicious activity on buses, trains and at stations.

The War on Child Sex Trafficking Continues

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Los Angeles County’s war on child sex trafficking continues this week with a slate of activities aimed at raising awareness of this heinous crime and training our staff to spot the warning signs.

At today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, I’ll put forth a motion requesting $250,000 to increase training for County staff and community partners to build awareness and better identify victims. I’ll also ask for additional advocacy to increase state funding dedicated to counties to help serve the victims of child sex trafficking.

Then on Friday, I will lead an event with Metro to launch our “Don’t Be Silent” campaign, an updated awareness campaign urging metro riders to be alert to suspicious activity on buses, trains and at stations. In addition, Metro will be training all 10,000 of their employees on what to do if they encounter a child sex trafficking victim. I am glad Metro has once again committed resources to launching a new awareness campaign, which the private sector has generously stepped up to support.

We also need our state and federal partners to not just talk about ending child exploitation, but to provide the funding we need to support the victims of this horrific crime.  It will take every segment of our community, public and private, working together to protect our most vulnerable children.

L.A. County Continues Aggressive Fight to End Child Sex Trafficking

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Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe announced a busy week ahead in the war on child sex trafficking, including two motions at the Board of Supervisors and a new awareness campaign with Metro:

•Knabe will request $250,000 to increase training for County staff and community partners to build awareness and better identify victims: http://bit.ly/csec-training

•He will ask for additional advocacy to increase state funding dedicated to counties to help serve the victims of child sex trafficking: http://bit.ly/csec-funding

•On Friday, Knabe will lead an event with Metro officials to launch its “Don’t Be Silent” campaign, an updated awareness campaign urging metro riders to be alert to suspicious activity on buses, trains and at stations: http://www.metro.net/riding/rescue/

“Los Angeles County has become a national leader in the fight to end child sex trafficking, but our work has really just begun,” said Knabe. “We will not let up on our efforts and we know that we cannot do it alone. In our own house, we must continue training our employees and community partners who may unknowingly be interacting with victims. I am also thrilled that Metro will be training all 10,000 of its staff. Each person we train is another set of eyes and ears that can spot children in danger.

“Metro has once again committed resources to launching a new awareness campaign, which the private sector has generously stepped up to support. We also need our state and federal partners to not just talk about ending child exploitation, but to provide the funding we need to support the victims of this horrific crime. It will take every segment of our community, public and private, working together to protect our most vulnerable children.”

Richstone helps young women make leap from foster care to independence

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“Initially, these women are typically closed off emotionally and have low self-esteem,” said Prate.  “The fact they have come here says a lot about the circumstances they’ve come from, and the lack of support in their lives.”

But, when these same women leave Richstone one to two years later, Prate says she sees smiles and hope. She sees women securing employment and on their way to completing a college degree.

“I love to build them up, love to help them see things within themselves that they never thought would be possible,” said Prate. “When you look at the women we help a year with transitional living, the numbers are small, but the impact is huge.”

Richstone Family Center, a nonprofit social services agency based in Hawthorne, is best known for its after-school programs and counseling services dedicated to treating and preventing child abuse. But for more than a decade, the center has also committed itself to supporting young women coming out of the foster care system with housing, counseling and resources to help them establish a stable and productive life with its Transitional Living Program.

“These emancipated foster kids are at risk of living on the streets,” said Prate. “Unfortunately, when their foster home families stop receiving funds, these women must fend for themselves – and that is really hard to do as young adults just starting out in the world.”

Richstone’s program offers free housing for seven women, aged between 18 and 24 years. Individuals interested in the program must apply and interview for a spot in one of two Hawthorne-based homes. Prate and team work to assess the candidate’s circumstances, goals and compatibility with the other housemates.

In exchange for the free housing, the young women must enroll in school and/or secure employment. Half of the wages they earn are set aside in a personal savings account, so women leave the program with a small nest egg.

Generally, Richstone staff members receive in excess of 50 applications each year, but can only accommodate seven individuals given the space constraints and funding. Budget for the Transitional Living Program has diminished over the years, and the nonprofit has turned to private donations to keep it alive.

“Similar to all of our Richstone programs, our Transitional Living Program is designed to break a cycle,” said Roger Van Remmen, president and CEO of Richstone. “This is life-altering work and can change an individual’s path. It can make the difference between a young woman struggling to survive on the streets and instead place her on the path to success and making good choices.”

Beyond the Transitional Living Program, Richstone staff members work closely with the Hawthorne School District, offer multiple education, counseling and outreach programs throughout Los Angeles County, and offer a traveling van to meet parents and kids at convenient on-site locations to discuss violence prevention and offer insights into forming a happy, healthy family life.

“We continue to see an increased demand for our services in Hawthorne and the surrounding cities,” said Van Remmen. “We need to be there for our community, and thankfully our agency has a big heart and people committed to making a difference.”

To learn more about the Richstone Family Center or how you can support one of its many programs, visit www.richstonefamily.org.

Baby Girl Safely Surrendered at Hospital in Los Angeles

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe is proud to announce that the County’s Safe Surrender Program celebrated success for the sixth time this year and second time this month with the report of a safely surrendered newborn baby girl over the weekend. This most recent Safe Surrender occurred on May 8, 2015 at a hospital in Los Angeles. A baby girl was safely surrendered at a hospital in Lynwood on May 2.

As is standard practice, the newborn is in protective custody and will be placed with families approved for adoption by the Department of Children and Family Services.

“It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to give up a child, but these mothers bravely made the better choice for their baby girls—No shame. No blame. No names,” said Supervisor Knabe. “Though we’ve been able to save the lives of 130 babies so far, we need to continue spreading the word that there is a safe, secure and anonymous way for mothers, who find themselves in a desperate situation, to get their baby into safe hands—at any fire station or hospital, any time—and protect them from abandonment.”

This is the sixth Safe Surrender in Los Angeles County in 2015, and the 130th since the program began nearly 14 years ago. The program was initiated by Supervisor Knabe and approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in 2001. It allows someone to surrender an infant that is no more than three days old, as long as the infant shows no signs of abuse.

To learn more about the Safe Surrender Program, visit BabySafeLA.org.

LA’s Coro Fellowship Program Creates Problem Solvers of Future

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What do Bruce Corwin, chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Theatres Corporation, Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State, and Gene Siskel, former film critic of the popular duo Siskel and Ebert have in common?

While each notable individual went on to enjoy successful careers in their respective fields, all were graduates of Los Angeles’ elite Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs.

Coro, a national nonprofit with an office in Los Angeles, was built on a unique curriculum of core leadership skill-building paired with real-world experiences that rely on the “city as the classroom.”

“In many ways, Coro may seem like a secret society,” said Tu-Han Phan, director of outreach for Coro’s Southern California program. “But we are very connected, and we work closely with the mayor, local businesses, and leaders throughout the LA community to solve problems and innovate.”

Coro originated in San Francisco in 1942 to train young veterans in the leadership skills necessary to assure the democratic system of government could more effectively meet the needs of its citizens. Since then, Coro has grown to include centers in six cities, including Los Angeles, which formed in 1957.

Coro program participants learn about the “real world in the real world” – by actively questioning, interacting with diverse constituents, challenging assumptions, and coming up with innovative solutions to the problems faced by their communities.

At least 10,000 program alumni are currently serving as leaders in local, regional and national/global businesses, nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and elected public office. A healthy base of those alumni spent their fellowship year serving and learning within Los Angeles County.

“This year, fellows have looked at various topics like transportation and water conservation,” said Phan. “The key with Coro, however, is that we try to bring together a very diverse group of individuals to talk about the issues to see if we can come up with holistic solutions that have never been considered.”

In the case of the drought, Coro has helped orchestrate a water conference for the past six years, convening people from different spaces to talk about water.

“We’ve brought opposing views together on the Peripheral Canal, on whether or not to take water from the Delta, and most recently we’ve been working to congregate people who are not even directly related to water to come talk about water,” said Phan. “We had people from local corporations like Boeing and Anheuser-Busch share how they are handling water conservation within their own respective environments to see if we can glean any insights.”

Coro’s role is to help facilitate those discussions and interactions.

“We’re like a third-party connector to different silos, bringing a wide array of voices and perspectives to an issue,” said Phan.

Only 12 Southern California fellows are selected to go through the program each year, and they typically spend 80 hours per week learning and working in the community through workshops, focus groups and meetings.

The Coro Fellowship program in Los Angeles selects from a nationwide pool, with regional applications from individuals in Arizona, Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. A bachelor’s degree is really the only pre-requisite, but the competition for a spot is intense, and the review panel aims to create a fellow team comprised of diverse individuals from all backgrounds.

Each class of fellows goes out seeking to assist in the community, engaging in civic projects. Occasionally, local government and businesses call upon the organization when they are looking for some guidance to solve a problem.

“Los Angeles County and in particular, my office, has had a strong relationship with Coro for many years,” said Supervisor Don Knabe. “We’ve been proud to hire Coro fellows to work on local policy issues that really impact residents living in the community.”

“Our region faces serious challenges. To meet these challenges head on, Coro training builds bridges across sectors by working with differing points of view in the spirit of problem solving,” said Wesley Farrow, Executive Director of Coro Southern California and alumnus of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs. “Our inquiry-based experiential training is demanding and even life changing.”

Fellows for the 2015-16 program will be announced soon. Application deadlines for each year are typically in January.

To learn more about Coro, visit www.coroLA.org.

Baby Girl Safely Surrendered at Lynwood Hospital

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe is proud to announce that the County’s Safe Surrender Program celebrated success for the fifth time this year with the report of a safely surrendered newborn baby girl over the weekend. This most recent Safe Surrender occurred on May 2, 2015 at a hospital in Lynwood.

As is standard practice, the newborn is in protective custody and will be placed with families approved for adoption by the Department of Children and Family Services.

“It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to give up a child, but this mother bravely made the better choice for her baby girl—No shame. No blame. No names,” said Supervisor Knabe. “Though we’ve been able to save the lives of 129 babies so far, we need to continue spreading the word that there is a safe, secure and anonymous way for mothers, who find themselves in a desperate situation, to get their baby into safe hands—at any fire station or hospital, any time—and protect them from abandonment.”

This is the fifth Safe Surrender in Los Angeles County in 2015, and the 129th since the program began nearly 14 years ago. The program was initiated by Supervisor Knabe and approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in 2001. It allows someone to surrender an infant that is no more than three days old, as long as the infant shows no signs of abuse.

To learn more about the Safe Surrender Program, visit BabySafeLA.org.

Free Emergency Preparedness Fair at Schabarum Park

Understanding that emergencies and disasters can happen at any moment, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe is inviting residents to learn valuable life-saving skills at a free community emergency preparedness fair on Saturday May 2 from 9:00am to 1:00pm at Schabarum Regional Park in Rowland Heights.

“We live in a region that is susceptible to fires and earthquakes, and residents must be prudent in ensuring they are ready in case of an emergency,” said Supervisor Knabe. “Given the tragedy that has unfolded this week in Nepal, I encourage all residents to attend this free event. In the event of a disaster, it’s critical to have a plan to get themselves and their families out of harm’s way.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, CHP, Office of Emergency Management, Animal Care & Control, Public Works, Public Health, Red Cross and many more organizations will be available to demonstrate life-saving techniques, like CPR, and provide informational handouts. A representative from Cal Tech will deliver a keynote address on earthquake preparation in southern California. Fair attendees will also have the opportunity to purchase emergency equipment and supplies, including first aid kits, water, food, and generators.