Locals share in the spirit of giving

Malibu Labor Exchange director Oscar Mondragon (center) unloads food from HOWS Market. Devon Meyers / TMT

From food to toys and monetary donations, Malibuites work together to help the less fortunate.

By Kim Devore / The Malibu Times

The holiday spirit is alive and well throughout Malibu with locals pitching in to help those less fortunate.

Volunteers from the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue are stuffing trucks full of goodies at HOWS Market. The food is then distributed through the Malibu Labor Exchange. For the past 10 years, volunteers have been picking up leftover produce and day-old bakery items from the store to help those in need.

Lori Gray, who organizes the program, said the response has been fantastic.

“The amount of food wasted and thrown away in this country is staggering, and there are often corporate loopholes and liability questions involved when requesting discarded food stuffs,” she said, “so it has been an incredibly rewarding experience to have HOWS participate in this community action because it makes so much sense.”

The group gathers and distributes the food on Mondays and Thursdays.

“If there were enough volunteers, we could do this every day, there is so much surplus,” Gray said, adding that the community effort has never been more important. “The current economic situation has resulted in more men and women than ever seeking work at the Labor Exchange, and with the bulk of them leaving each day with no employment. At least thanks to the food distribution, they don’t always go home empty handed.”

Although the future of HOWS is uncertain and the Trancas market may soon be up for sale, Gray hopes to continue her program. “I’d love to get other markets involved,” she said. “It’s especially important at this time of year when so many have so little.”

Gray usually works with her husband Larry on her weekly mission. Other involved in the mission this year are Less Moss, Veda Kaplan, Jill Greenberg, Richard Erkes, Janet Ettenger, Cindy Vandor, Jay Scott, Barbara O’Neil, Gina Burrell and Patricia Hill.

“We take the trunk and totally fill it, often with beautiful produce, organic salads, day-old bread and so much more, to the delight of the men and woman at the Labor Exchange who unload the goodies,” Gray said. “We always leave with a smile on our face.”

Meanwhile, the Malibu Navy League teamed with the U.S. Marine Corps and First Bank of Malibu for the Toys For Tots collection last Thursday. “The event was a big success, with caroling, trumpet fan fare, and home-made appetizers shared to the delight of over 100 children and attendees,” John Payne, Navy League president, said.

Staff Sgt. Hector Flores estimated that more than $2,000 in toys was received.

The Marines will hand deliver the toys to needy parents to give as Christmas gifts to their children.

Local actress Jane Leeves meantime is lending a helping hand to children. Next Tuesday, she will be in Oxnard to participate in the donation of thousands of dollars worth of soaps and shampoos to benefit Foodshare. Together with partner Ron Lewis, she helped found a cosmetic company, which raises money for needy families. A portion of all profits from the sale of their Tellurian Baby products line is donated to charities helping children throughout the world. Leeves said that one definition of Tellurian is “an inhabitant of earth.” “We chose this because we felt it reflected our belief in the interconnectedness of all mankind and the humanitarian motivation for our venture,” Leeves said. “We believe that children everywhere deserve to live a life of opportunity, dignity and hope.”

The organization helps support emergency relief, health and nutrition, medical programs, housing and education.

Whether it’s emergency donations or a simple gift of food, giving on the holidays has special meaning.

Said Gray, “We can all do a small thing from the heart to help one person at a time. Giving back just makes us feel good.”