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Voices from Willowbrook

Willowbrook, a community near Watts and Compton, originally was a farming area settled in the 1800s that derived its name from the willow trees and rambling brook that decorated its landscape. This year, we are featuring Willowbrook on our website to highlight its vibrant community and burgeoning development.

Thanks to a $600 million-investment from Los Angeles County in new gardens, building, public art and infrastructure, the community is poised to emerge as a regional hub for health care, transportation, culture and civic activity. Catalyzing its resurgence is the development of three modernist buildings on the New Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus: A Center for Public Health, the new MLK Outpatient Center and a new state-of-the-art hospital.  To date we have featured Wilowbrook in our monthly architectural feature and with the digital version of the book, Willowbrook Is… Willowbrook Es.

But nothing is more valuable than the voices from the community. Willowbrook is home to residents and retains an old fashioned sense of neighborhood. For the next two months we will be featuring one interview each week with a Willowbrook resident.  The interviews were recorded by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; each voice is unique but the common thread is the pride residents have in their homes and community.

Anna Moore

I moved here 47 years ago, and I started working at the library in 1981. A lot of changes have been made here. It used to be an open field out there. Now we have new homes. We have children coming into the library checking out books. They really enjoy it. And I try reward them when they read books. They tell me what they have read. And I have prizes for them that I bought with my own money.

I talk with the kids and they look forward to coming and meeting Mrs. Moore. If she’s not there they say, “I’ll come back later.”

Things like that really touch my heart. I love people and I like to do whatever I can for the community.

Delores Glass

Community, family and God — that’s everything to me.

I’ve been a resident of Willowbrook for 49 years. I came to Los Angeles as a small child from Arkansas. As a result of our family being from a rural setting, we sought out a similar neighborhood. Willowbrook was known for being the country in the city, so to speak, having 350 foot by 50 foot lots. And so that’s where my family decided to purchase property. And our family has had property here ever since.

We have a rich history. The name Willowbrook came forth as a result of this land being a marsh land with these stream and willow trees that originally was part of a ranchero situation because of the fact that most of the people that purchased property here purchased that property because they wanted to raise livestock. They wanted to have the extended garden areas and a lot of space for them and their families.

I still reside in Willowbrook. I have no intention of living any other place. I still marvel at the fact that many of the families from Willowbrook to Mona and Imperial to El Segundo. They’ve been there for fifty plus years and they still maintain their property there. It’s a good feeling to know that the comraderie is still here. The sense of community is still here.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution at MLK Outpatient Center

Eight-year-old Kelso Gaines proudly examined the plate of food before him. Then he ate every last bite of the freshly made spaghetti and meatballs—even though it was barely 9 a.m. – and declared he had never tasted a better red sauce than the one he had just made with garlic, basil and tomatoes

“It was the best because I was the chef and my classmates were too,” said Gaines, a second grader at the Barack Obama Charter School in South Los Angeles. “This tastes so good because of all the good stuff we put in it.”

That is exactly the kind of attitude that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver hopes to impart with his Big Rig Teaching Kitchen, a mobile kitchen with seven cooking stations that has traveled throughout California on a mission to teach children and their families how to prepare healthy, homemade meals. Oliver knows that if kids make it, they are more likely to eat it.

The Big Rig will be setting up shop at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center until April 25, taking in local school children, families, groups and anyone else interested in learning the basics of good cooking. Although Oliver is not on hand to cook, he was there in spirit.

The Big Rig Teaching Kitchen, which launched in South Los Angeles three years ago, will roll into other communities with the message that healthy eating is easy fun and empowering.

“When children make their own food, something magical happens,” said Scott Bottemer, operations manager for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. “They eat what they prepare. Our mantra is educate, empower and inspire.”

Recent reports suggest that this generation of children will be the first in the history of the U.S. to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents—if eating habits and lifestyle choices don’t change.

The Big Rig’s recent stop at the new Outpatient Center, set to open this spring, was not by accident. As part of its mission, the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital and Outpatient Center will form part of a wellness campus that emphasizes prevention and healthy lifestyles.

As he stirred some eggs and bread crumbs into the ground beef for the meatballs, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the crowd of students that healthy eating would keep them out of the hospital.

“Eating well keeps you feeling better,” he said. “Now when you go home, you can show your families how to cook.”

Indeed, stirring spoon in hand, seven-year-old Akeyla Tate wiggled with anticipation at the thought of the delectable spaghetti sauce and freshly made meatball recipe she would be showing off to her family.

“Now, I get to go home and say to my mom, “Can I fix something for you?” smiled Tate.

To sign up for classes please visit: http://bit.ly/1qri54k

Message from MRT, April 2014

Welcome to our April 2014 Newsletter.

Join us today for an afternoon of family fun as we open the newly renovated Lennox Library and Constituent Service Center with entertainment for the entire family, including activities for children and teens, and refreshments. The new library will have a children’s section and teen study room and of course, an adult reading area. There will be nine new public access computers and a community meeting room with seating for 75 people. This new facility promises to be a civic center and community hub for the residents of Lennox.

Protecting our children extends beyond our streets. You may remember last year in response to a range of systematic failures with children in the care of the county, the Board of Supervisors appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission to rigorously examine child protection reforms at the Department of Children and Family Services. On April 18, that commission will present a final report that will serve as a comprehensive roadmap to improve child safety throughout the county. Please check back on our website for the final report and other updates.

As you know, April 22 marks Earth Day. And throughout the month of April we invite you to join with us in a variety of events throughout the county aimed at protecting our earth. Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Earth Day, we encourage you to use the day as an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to protecting our planet during the month of April and throughout the year.

Lastly, we close out the month by sustaining our commitment to end sex trafficking of children.  At 9:30 a.m. on April 26, we will continue our march against trafficking along Western Avenue. Many of you joined us in November on Long Beach Boulevard to let it be known that our children our not for sale, and we invite you to stand with us again. So long as such a serious violation of human rights continues to plague our community, we will continue to stand together. Join me and Mayor Eric Garcetti, and hundreds of concerned residents as we march to protect children and take back communities. Register here.

As always, thank you for your attention. I look forward to seeing you again in May.

With hope,

Young Musicians Hitting All Chords

Alexandria Garcia, 15, cannot imagine life without her trumpet. Now thanks to the seven year old Youth Orchestra LA program (YOLA), brainchild of LA Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, the petite freshman at Foshay Learning Center in South Los Angeles does not have to. For the past five years she’s been practicing at least 2 hours a day, every day, honing her technique, musicianship and abilities so that in a few years she can attend a conservatory and eventually, play professionally in an orchestra.

“When I tried the trumpet, it was just calling my name,” she said. As it is now, she can’t imagine her life without her trumpet or music. “Music gives children something productive to do with their lives instead of sit at home and play video games. I don’t know what I would be doing if I didn’t have music.”

Garcia is one of the more than 600 students whose lives have been forever changed by the youth orchestra program. Inspired by Venezuela’s revolutionary El Sistema, a rigorous music instruction program that also teaches children about leadership, teamwork and becoming thriving citizens, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its community partners — Harmony Project and the EXPO Center, a Los Angeles recreation and parks center, Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) and the LA County High School for the Arts –provide free instruments, intensive music training and academic support to a select group of students every day of the week.

One of the YOLA sites includes three orchestras that rehearse at the Expo Center in South Los Angeles. Each orchestra is made up of children ranging in ability from several schools from the area. On May 10, six of YOLA’s orchestras will perform at Walt Disney Hall for their families. This year, 10 of the advanced orchestra students, including eight from the Second District, were selected to travel to Boston where they met the famous cellist, Yo-Yo Ma and were coached by musicians from one of the city’s world-renowned music conservatories. Then the students themselves coached younger musicians in community music schools and performed an open rehearsal under Dudamel’s baton at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They enjoyed visiting the conservatories, but to some of the students, mingling with Dudamel and Ma is just par for the course of being a YOLA musician.

“The kids are almost celebrities around here,” said Belinda Jackson, executive director of the Expo Center, where three YOLA orchestras practice every day of the week. “I mean, they have played at the Hollywood Bowl.”

But nothing gets the students more excited than the music. At a recent rehearsal, the students fluttered like a flock of birds at feeding time when it was time to play Mexican composer Arturo Marquez’s Danzon No. 2. Conductor Bruce Kiesling, tapped his baton on the music stand and brought the room to order. Then clarinet and the oboe began, weaving together in perfect harmony, slowly building as the violins swooned into a rising tempo. As the brass joined in, the room exploded into a tropical danzon, with the children dancing in their chairs, unable to contain themselves.

“I move so much that my butt is going to fall out of my chair,” Garcia noted, whose favorite piece is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2. “Moving just shows the real passion I have for music.”

Earthquake Drill in View Park

Earthquake safety has become a primary topic of conversation following the 5.1 magnitude earthquake and series of aftershocks responsible for shaking the Los Angeles area last week.

So, on Saturday, April 5 at Monteith Park in the View Park neighborhood, the Los Angeles County Fire Department gave residents who completed a free Community Emergency Response Team class the opportunity to apply what they learned in a stimulated earthquake drill. As part of the drill, CERT members made Monteith Park their command post and organized themselves into teams to survey the neighborhood. Under the supervision of Los Angeles County firefighters, CERT members went into homes, searched for injured victims, triaged the victims and moved them to a treatment area where they received care.

Maria Grycan, Community Services Liaison for L.A. County Fire Division 7, whose jurisdiction includes View Park, noted that the drill was designed to reinforce what residents learned in their CERT trainings, empowering them to be less reliant on first responders.

“Residents are going to have to come together to help one another because first responders are not going to be there to help them,” Gryan said. “They need to help themselves.” She also noted that in the View Park and Ladera Heights area there are only nine firefighters who serve the needs of nearly 20,000 people on a daily basis; those same firefighters will not be able to meet all the immediate needs of the community should a significant earthquake occur.

“We encourage residents to watch CERT members participate in the drill with the hope that they will want to go through the CERT training,” said Grycan.

Ramona La France, 52, a View Park resident and an emergency response team member, decided two years ago to enroll in a free CERT class with seven of her neighbors. There, the former police sergeant and mother of three learned techniques on how to put out small fires, administer first aid and conduct search and rescue.

La France knows that assistance from fire and emergency crews may not be available for 48-hours depending on where the most drastic emergencies are located. She recalls the streets of South Los Angeles and Inglewood during the L.A. Riots when food and water were scarce.

“People were reliant upon their neighbors, the Red Cross or had to travel to other counties to get food or water, which is not practical,” said La France. “It’s good that neighbors shared their food and water but it’s also bad because they exhausted their own resources.”

La France says residents have decided to make it an annual event and they are the only community where real homes are used in the drills.

“We want to protect life during and after a major disaster,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We want to make sure residents know what to do to sustain themselves and others.”

For additional upcoming CERT Classes, please visit: Fire.lacounty.gov/cert