"I've been in WRAP Family Services for about two years," wrote Leeza, a 13-year-old from a troubled Long Beach family. In her neatly printed letter, Leeza wanted Times readers to know that the Westchester-based agency, which provides mental health services to Asian and Pacific Islander youths and families, had made a huge difference in her life. WRAP counselors "taught me about having self-confidence.... They also help me with my homework.... Most important of all, they've showed me their kindness and that they are caring by visiting me at home."
Last year, WRAP Family Services was one of dozens of local agencies that generous readers helped through the Los Angeles Times Holiday Fund. Now in its third year, the Holiday Fund, like the older Summer Camp Program, focuses on improving the lives of disadvantaged children, ages 7 to 17.
Southern California sadly has far too many children whose families can't provide even the basics, like food, clothing and shelter. Others need hands-on help to cope with disabilities or the scars from a parent's drug problems or violent temper. Still others teeter on the edge of addiction, violence or homelessness.
Last year, the Holiday Fund provided more than $1 million to 76 nonprofit groups in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
The Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center in South Los Angeles is another Holiday Fund beneficiary. The 30 to 50 school-age children who arrive each afternoon can get help with their homework, use the center's library and computers and talk with a counselor. Without the center, many neighborhood children with working parents would have no place to go and nothing to do except make trouble.
The McCormick Tribune Foundation will match the first $800,000 in donations at 50 cents on the dollar. That means $800,000 will become $1.2 million; 100% of the donations and all the matching funds go directly to services for at-risk children because The Times and the McCormick Tribune Foundation absorb all of the administrative and fund-raising costs.
Today is a good day to make your donation. Before your house fills with the aroma of roasting turkey and the laughter of children, think of the thousands of local families for which Thanksgiving holds little respite from despair. Give to the Los Angeles Times Holiday Fund.
To Take Action: For information or to make a donation, call (800) LATimes, ext. 75771, or go to latimes.com/extras/holidayfund/.