Palisades Optimists Give $27,500 to Local Groups

By Sue Pascoe
Editor

The happiest place in Pacific Palisades on the morning of June 6 was the Optimist Club meeting, when the club announced that 21 groups will share $27,500 in grants.

The money represents the net proceeds from the 2016 Palisades Will Rogers 5/10K Run Foundation, donated annually to local nonprofits and organizations that support youth.

Since 1987, the optimists have partnered with the Will Rogers 5/10K Race Foundation (also known as the Ridge Runners) on the Fourth of July. Club members arrive as early as 6 a.m. to help register runners and then provide water at stations during the race and hand out t-shirts afterwards. After expenses are paid, the money from registration fees goes to the optimists.

This year’s largest grant went to the Optimist Youth Home, located in Highland Park and Woodland Hills, the largest provider of residential services to youth placed on probation in the state of California.

Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Arnie Wishnick (left) accepts a check from Optimist John Peterson (right) for the Mr. and Miss Palisades pageant. This year's winners were Daniel Allen and Maude Tipton. Credit: Richard Wilken

Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Arnie Wishnick (left) accepts a check from Optimist John Peterson (right) for the Mr. and Miss Palisades pageant. This year’s winners were Daniel Allen and Maude Tipton. Credit: Richard Wilken

The Optimist Home provides extensive individual, group and family therapy; education; recreation and athletic activities for 650 children and families each day. Of the youth who are tracked through the agency’s aftercare program, 65 percent are crime-free and no longer in need of any type of out-of-home placement one year after discharge.

Palisades Cares, the Crayon Collection, Palisades Beautiful and Movies in the Park each received a $500 grant.

Marie Steckmest, founder of Palisades Cares, started a gardening program at Marquez Elementary School. “I have children eating kale, broccoli and chives,” said Steckmest, who hosted her first gardening program at the Palisades Library on July 15.

At Temescal Gateway School, which serves at-risk high school students, the Palisades Beautiful grant will be used to buy a grain mill. “I want to teach them to plan in advance,” said Kristine Doty, who noted that gardening can promote this skill in three ways: planting with the season, harvesting, and turning the grain into flour to be used for making bread. While in the garden with her students, she also provides a sounding board and acts as a tutor/mentor.

The Palisades High School Band, a Pacific Palisades Baseball Association team, the Palisades Community Center (which oversees the Field of Dreams) and Bryan’s Smile also received $500 grants. In December, when the Palisades Optimists stand at various locations in the business district and ring the bell on behalf of the Salvation Army, PaliHi band members join them. Optimist member Bill Skinner expressed his appreciation for the music.

In accepting the check, band director Alex Dale said, “I have a memory of coming to breakfast with Ms. Hernandez [former PaliHi band director] when I was a student.”

This year, Dale brought junior Daniel Gottesman, who advanced to the Optimist Oratorical World Championships in 2016. Gottesman said, “The band is one big family and we thank you for your support.”

Dr. Melanie Gullet accepted for Bryan’s Smile. Since her son’s accidental heroin overdose three years ago, she has devoted herself to educating parents and their children and helping them talk about drugs. She urged everyone in the audience to either lock up their medicine cabinets or get rid of addictive pain medications.“It’s an epidemic. People have become addicted to pain pills. Once their doctor doesn’t prescribe them any more they buy them on the street. But oxycontin is expensive and people start using heroin.”

Gullet also warned about teens going to “skittling” parties. “They bring drugs they find in medicine cabinets to the party and those pills go in a bowl—the kids reach in and take whatever they grab.”

The Village Green, PAPA (the parade, concert and fireworks committee) and California Poets in Schools also received $500. Michelle Bitting accepted the check on behalf of her poetry program. “I go into Pali Elementary and Marquez, where I teach the kids about famous and historical poets. They then write poems. The students love and appreciate the chance to open up and express themselves.”

Bob (left) and Marge Gold accept a check from Optimist Stu Kaiser. Credit: Richard Wilken

Bob (left) and Marge Gold accept a check from Optimist Stu Kaiser. Credit: Richard Wilken

The YMCA-Optimist track meet, the chamber of commerce teen contest and the Palisades Park Improvement Committee each received $1,000.

Hand-held radios will be purchased for the city’s recreation center, so that when there’s an emergency at the park on Alma Real, staffers can react quickly.

Also receiving $1,000 was Palisades Lutheran Church, which the Optimists use for meetings and special events, such as the Optimist oratorical contest.

The Revere Roads to the Future program, started six years ago by the Optimists, received $1,000. Every month in the town hall or the auditorium in Paul Revere Charter Middle School, a professional speaks to between 50 and 150 middle school students about possible career paths.

The PaliHi Roads to the Future program, which began three years ago, received $1,500, as did Better Angels (which works with low-income PaliHi students to help them prepare for SAT and ACT testing) and the Experience Learning Support with Animals (ELSA) organization.

ELSA pays to transport special-needs kids (autism and other mental and physical disorders) from PaliHi to a ranch environment in the Calabasas area. Most of these kids have never seen a horse, but they get to groom and walk them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *