LA Beneficial

LA. They call it the “City of Angels.” I was there to find out if there were any. A troublemaking newshawk hunting and pecking his way along the dad blog beat. A newshawk in need of a story. Stories are funny. Stories can come out of nowhere and pop you in the kisser just as you’re looking the other way. Yeah, stories are funny like that. I should know. Happens to me all the time, the last time being a few weeks back.

It was another hot Houston night. Hot enough you don’t even fight it anymore. Even the Shirley Temple sitting on my desk was sweating. I had downed who knows how many of them, each sip breaking the irregular rhythm of my hesitant fingers as they fumbled all over the keys of a second-hand Royal mill that I won from this rube in a game of Go Fish.

Clack. Clack. Clikety, clack, clack. DING! Ziiip. A cold swig of grenadine. Clickety, clack, clack …clack. Clack. DING! Ziiiiip. I lifted the glass to my mouth and POW! The phone’s ringer hits me like chin music right on the mug. I jerk back. My drink spills.

On the other end of the receiver a voice tells me there’s a story in LA. I wonder if the wetness I feel through my shirt is from sweat or the contents of my drink. Tell them I'm in. Yeah, stories are funny like that. They make laugh.

I’m laughing again in the cab when the driver tells me how cool the LA summer has been. Cool until today that is.

“This whole weekend’s gonna be up ‘round a hundred degrees,” he says, grinning into the mirror. “Must’ve brought it with you from Houston, mister.”

Maybe I did, pal. I pull a handkerchief from my pocket and wipe sweat from my forehead. The windows in the’48 Packard are rolled down, but hitting every traffic light on Hollywood Boulevard doesn’t make for much of a breeze. Now I know why cabs are called boilers. At least it has a radio.

Chet Baker’s singing about finding the silver lining. Guy’s got some pipes. Other than the heat and my throat screaming for a Shirley Temple, there are plenty of silver linings—I’ve got a story, a place to stay, and a ride to get there all thanks to some very serious people—ConAgra, Feeding America, and Schools Fight Hunger. Serious people dedicated to a serious cause—Child Hunger Ends Here.

I knew the country was in a bad way these days. I didn’t know how bad.

  • Almost one in four children not getting enough food to be healthy and active
  • A 50% increase in kids relying on food banks for services since 2006
  • 17 million hungry kids, roughly the combined total populations of The Big Apple, Tinsel Town, The Windy City, and my current home, Houston!

Later I’d learn that in Harris County, where Houston is located, 27.2% of the children have no idea where their next meal is coming from! I'm floored by this.

In this economy, you don’t know who’s affected. The newest face of hungry kids comes from those living in two-income homes. All those kids out there that seem fine, they might not be. They might be going without meals, and not because of poverty or out-of-work parents either.

Makes your guts churn, and mine were. Soon the cabbie pulled up to the Roosevelt Hotel. The guy seemed like a good egg so I slapped a fin into his mitt before walking inside.

The Roosevelt Hotel. Now there’s some history for you. Built in ’27. Named after that Rough Riddin’ son of a gun, president, Teddy. Home of the first Oscar’s Night. I took off my lid and whistled after giving the joint a good up and down. Definitely not your average flop house.

“Old Hollywood.” That’s what a playwright friend of mine called the place when we met in the Spanish-styled lobby the next morning on our way grabbing a stack of wheats. I’ll say. Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable—all regular guests. Errol Flynn used to mix hootch in a back room here during Prohibition.

What a time. Nowadays all you hear about is these young guys and gals—guys and gals I’d be doing some work with. That would be later. Right now I had people to meet and places to be.

Upstairs, I walked into a room full of heavy-hitting bloggers—Caryn Bailey (Rockin Mama), Mary Fischer (The Mommyologist), Peira Jolly (Jolly Mom), Linsey Knerl (Lille Punkin), Jennifer Leet (The Dirty T Shirt), Danielle Smith (Extraordinary Mommy), Molly Snyder (The Snyder 5), Laura Thornquist (The DFW Mommy), and fellow dad, Lamar Tyler (Black and Married with Kids). I felt a bit behind the eight-ball running with this crew. No time to think about that. We had business across town, specifically getting the slant on the LA Regional Food Bank.

The Food Bank is a big place. Has to be if it’s gonna support a network of over 600 charitable agencies with more than 1,000 sites and service programs. 1.2 million—that’s the number of meals the place provides each week! But we’re not there just for a sweet little tour. We’re there to work too.

Work turned out to be sorting through four pallets of tomatoes to find ones that would go into smaller crates for distribution around town.

“Pick out the ones you’d feed to your family,” the warehouse boss said. “Toss the rest into those trash cans.”

Five minutes later he said we were being too picky. The criteria changed to, “Pick out the ones you’d feed to your family if were in need of food.” Sobering. Everyone got busy and didn’t stop until every last tomato made it into a crate. We walked out of there smelling like a Heinz factory, but we did so with big old happy grins on our mugs. Not that it was a lot of work by comparison, but in my mind, a few Shirley Temples were in order.

The next day was supposed to be the main event—packing bags of food alongside some Hollywood celebs. Like I said, today’s stars, are all kids to this middle-aged goof with an alderman hanging over his belt. I ain’t wise to none of ‘em, but this one guy, Mark Salling, is said to be a darb crooner and actor—sorta like James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, but with less “dandy” and more mohawk.

Salling mugged for some photos and then spent a few minutes chinning to the crowd about the ways parents and schools can get involved with ending child hunger. How?

  • Host or participate in a food drive to collect up pantry items for your local food bank to help ConAgra reach its goal of collecting 2 million pounds of food for Child Hunger Ends Here
  • Collect UPC codes from specified ConAgra Food brands and turn them in because each code represents a meal that ConAgra will donate to Feeding America

Oh, and for those registered schools, they’re eligible for several prizes to include ten grand for a field trip—nothing hinky about it either.

Yeah, the whole event was quite the shin dig. Put stars like Salling, Samantha Harris, Dr. Jim Sears, Kristen Aldridge, Jillian Rose Reed, Kate Mansi, Grace Phipps, and others out on a busiest street in town to promote a good cause like Child Hunger Ends Here, and you’re gonna draw a crowd even when the sun’s putting the screw to you. Sure, it may have been hot as Hades outside, but this bunch along with ConAgra, Feeding America, and Schools Fight Hunger proved that LA does have angels in it, angels concerned about that which is beneficial to others.

But angels are needed everywhere there’s a hungry child. Are you one of those angels? You can be. Find out how easy it is.

* * *

To comply with the regs laid down by the Feds, I'm required to inform you that ConAgra compensated me for this campaign, to include travel, lodging, and meals. The Shirley Temples were on my own dime.

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