Hope-Net head has love for Larchmont, family

| November 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

Ninette Ayala

Hope-Net’s new executive director Ninette Ayala has a long history with Larchmont and with helping those in need.

She began her young working life behind the counter at Landis General Store and scooping frozen yogurt at Penguin’s on Larchmont Blvd.

She went on to become a teacher’s assistant at Melrose Avenue and Vine Street elementary schools, where one of the students, who lived at an orphanage, asked Ninette to be her counselor.

Not yet 21, Ninette had to wait to move in to the then-residential facility, where, as counselor, she eventually would watch over eight girls ages five to 12, including the little girl she initially befriended.

Ninette remembers walking the group across Melrose Ave. to stores on Larchmont and teaching them accounting skills using their pocket money.

Her love of children goes back to her native El Salvador, where she would often babysit. “I always loved kids. My goal was to help children some way or another.”

In her new post, she oversees an annual $200,000 budget to feed 300,000 people a year and to keep the shelves stocked at 13 food pantries across Mid-Wilshire, Silver Lake, Hollywood and Koreatown. Wilshire Presbyterian and St. James Episcopal churches and Wilshire Boulevard Temple are among the local providers of food pantries.

Hope-Net also benefits from “Taste of Larchmont,” held the past 25 summers (and initially organized by the Larchmont Chronicle), where locals and friends sample food and drink from participating restaurants.

“Taste” proceeds support Hope-Net’s mission to provide free nutritious foods, such as fresh meats and vegetables, as well as prepared foods.

The need continues to be great and is growing, said Ayala.

“There’s a large number of people who live on a fixed income.” Many have to choose between paying a utility bill, the rent or buying food, she says. Others are homeless.

Besides expanding Hope-Net’s offerings, Ayala hopes to provide case management and other services at Hope-West, affordable housing in a 17-unit building on West Blvd.

After graduating from Fairfax High, Ninette majored in psychology at UCLA and received a master’s degree from Pepperdine University.

She was a child-care counselor at the orphanage, Hollygrove, until the agency (now called Uplift Family Services) dismantled its live-on-site program. Most recently, she secured grants and developed programs for teen pregnancy prevention and mentorships at Penny Lane Centers.

Larchmont resident and Hope-Net board member Bill Gaddy recommended her for the executive director position left vacant after Douglas Ferraro retired earlier this year.

How long did it take Ninette to accept?

“Immediately,” she said. “I knew I was in love.”

Coming back to Larchmont was another plus, said the mother of two teenage daughters.

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Category: People

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