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On the Town: Nonprofit expo makes impressive debut in Glendale

On the Town: Nonprofit expo makes impressive debut in Glendale
At the 2019 Nonprofit Expo, Las Candelas Recording Secretary Monica Sierra and President J.C. Byer hand out information about the vulnerable children served by their organization. (Ruth Sowby Rands)

The 2019 Nonprofit Expo premiered at the Oakmont Country Club on June 4 with more than 200 visitors. Forty booths manned by leaders of Glendale’s most productive nonprofits “represented more than 1 million hours of volunteerism,” according to Rick Dinger, owner of Crescenta Valley Insurance, one of the expo’s sponsors.

As a founder of the expo, Dinger’s purpose is to provide the opportunity for more collaboration among the nonprofit organizations and to show the community what each group is doing.

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Every booth was free to the nonprofit organization, and entry to the expo was free to the public.

HealWithin International President Liza Boubari, center, won the nonprofit raffle. She is joined by, from left, Michael Velazquez, partner, the Accountancy; Michael Leon, Leadership Council; Rick Dinger, owner, Crescenta Valley Insurance; and Mercy Velazquez.
HealWithin International President Liza Boubari, center, won the nonprofit raffle. She is joined by, from left, Michael Velazquez, partner, the Accountancy; Michael Leon, Leadership Council; Rick Dinger, owner, Crescenta Valley Insurance; and Mercy Velazquez. (Ruth Sowby Rands)

Among the nonprofits participating were Las Candelas, with its booth manned by J.C. Byer, the organization’s president, and Monica Sierra, the group’s recording secretary; the Assistance League, represented by member Danette Erickson; HealWithin International with Liza Boubari, president/founder; Wellness Works, led by Camille Levee; and the Community Scholarship Foundation, represented by Karen Mathison.

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Even the Glendale International Film Festival got into the act. Fest founder Velvet Rhodes announced that students from the Glendale Unified School District and Glendale Community College can enter their films in this year’s event.

Besides Crescenta Valley Insurance, the other expo sponsors were the Accountancy, Amtrust Financial, Glendale Sunrise Rotary and the Glendale Kiwanis Club.

Exactly 100 film buffs recently filled the 100 seats in an auditorium at Glendale’s Laemmle Theatre recently. Some were there because they were documentary lovers, some were foodies and others were merely curious.

Local company DishDivvy and Glendale Tech on Tap, a department within the city of Glendale’s economic development division, presented a screening of “Soufra,” a documentary about a group of unlikely entrepreneurs — all women from a Palestinian refugee camp south of Beirut, Lebanon.

Glendale residents Adrine Novshadyan and Elaine Sawitskas are early arrivals at the Glendale Laemmle Theatre to see the documentary “Soufra.”
Glendale residents Adrine Novshadyan and Elaine Sawitskas are early arrivals at the Glendale Laemmle Theatre to see the documentary “Soufra.” (Ruth Sowby Rands)

In the film, they are seen preparing food for their families, launching a successful catering company and selling their home-based meals from their own food truck.

A soufra is a long tablecloth that is laden with food and spread out on the floor.

In her remarks before the film, Ani Torosyan, chief executive and co-founder DishDivvy, described seeing the film while on a 12-hour flight to Argentina.

Because she hires area women who prepare home-based meals for sale to neighbors, Torosyan immediately identified with the subject matter of the film.

The film, directed by Thomas Morgan and executive-produced by actress Susan Sarandon, focuses on refugee and entrepreneur Mariam Shaar, who refused to give up her dreams against overwhelming odds of poverty and patriarchy.

As Shaar and her friends create their Middle-Eastern delicacies on screen, audience members enjoyed “Soufra”-inspired boxed meals prepared by local DishDivvy home cooks who share similar experiences with the women in the film.

Two attendees from Glendale, Adrine Novshadyan and Elaine Sawitskas, said they were happy to give up their popcorn in favor of sampling msakhan rolls, kibbeh and coconut namoura.

Torosyan considers Dish Divvy a tech company that provides a platform between “hungry neighbors” and home cooks.

After the screening, Fr. Vazken Movsesian of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church led a “thought discussion” with audience members and Torosyan.

Movsesian provided context for the film by telling the audience that there are 2 million Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Torosyan told the audience that the day of the event marked the 34th anniversary of her family’s arrival in the United States from Iran.

At the end of the discussion, Lala Klopping, chief of staff of the Pilgrim Media Group, announced that “Soufra” is currently streaming on Hulu and shown on flights on American Airlines.

Ruth Sowby Rands may be reached at ruthasowby@gmail.com.

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