‘Taste of Larchmont’ aids Hope-Net mission

| August 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

RESIDENTS gather for the 2017 Taste of Larchmont.

Readers of the Larchmont Chronicle were calling in frustration.  “What are we going to do about the homeless? They are panhandling up and down the boulevard.”

The newspaper’s publishers were aware of the problem, but not the solution. They urged readers not to give money, but a voucher for a meal at McDonalds instead.

It was 1993, the 30th anniversary of the Chronicle, and the publishers (this writer and the late Dawne Goodwin) wanted to have a celebration to mark the milestone.

That’s when fate stepped in, in the form of Bruce Friedman, chairman of the board of a non-profit agency called Hope-Net.

Hope-Net, which provides food distribution at local churches and temples, was looking for a fundraiser. Bruce suggested a “Taste of Larchmont,” utilizing the many eateries on the boulevard.

The food establishments agreed to give out samples of their cuisine, and the event included a jazz band, dessert pavilion and chances on raffle prizes. The late KCET celebrity, Huell Howser, was named honorary chairman. Proceeds went to the Hope-Net treasury for its mission to feed the hungry.

The 2017 “Taste of Larchmont” took place on Mon., Aug. 28.

Hope-Net’s founding

Hope-Net began in 1988 when the Mid-Wilshire Parish, a coalition of 12 churches and a temple, formed Hope-Net. The Parish members donated to the new agency and also received a grant from the Federal Emergency Manpower Agency.

Food pantries were set up at eight locations and were staffed by volunteers. Some locations offered clothing, job and housing referrals as well.

In 1992, the Hope-Net board expanded the mission when the members built a 17-unit housing project so that low-income families could live in safe, affordable apartments.

Sandy Boeck, Brookside, was on the board at the time. She located empty land on West St. across from a park. Sandy, who continues her support of Hope-Net as a “Taste” volunteer, said the project was quite an undertaking. “We had no idea of the amount of city, state and federal regulations,” she recalled.

Today, the agency has 12 food pantries serving about 275,000 people each year.

Led by locals

COUNCILMAN David Ryu stands with local agent Anne Loveland, who served as one of the evening’s volunteers.

Tom Patterson, Norton Ave., is current chairman of the board. He believes very strongly in the Hope-Net mission.

“A great many people that it assists hold jobs, but struggle to provide food for their families on low-income or part-time work. Many of us are involved in or support a variety of charities, but for me the compelling draw of Hope-Net is that it is very local. The pantries are within a few miles of Larchmont Blvd., and the people Hope-Net serves are our neighbors.”

“Taste of Larchmont” is the key fundraiser for the organization. Past executive directors Larry Hixson, Candace Whalen and Douglas Ferraro have guided the agency during its 29-year history. Ferraro stepped down recently after 13 years, and the agency is looking forward to welcoming a new executive director.

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