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On the Town: Two local women prove to be robust leaders in their own ways

Velvet Rhodes
Velvet Rhodes, Glendale International Film Festival Executive Director, is a recipient of many awards. Her latest is Glendale’s “Mayor’s Commendation” for the festival.
(Ruth Sowby Rands)

Among many others, there are two female powerhouses in town — Jaime Fritz and Velvet Rhodes. Both are Glendale residents.

At 17 years old and a senior at Glendale High School, Fritz may not be what you would call a mover and shaker. But that she is.

Last year, she started an Adopt A Family Club at her school. Beginning fundraising for the organization, Fritz tried unsuccessfully to find sponsors. Her mother suggested raising money through GoFundMe, an online fundraising platform.

During the first two weeks in December, almost $2,000 was raised.

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To the tune of $200 each, Fritz was now able to complete the Christmas lists of 10 needy, community children.

 Jamie Fritz
A senior at Glendale High School, Jamie Fritz, 17, has become fundraiser extraordinaire, giving Christmas gifts for children in need.
(Ruth Sowby Rands)

Lisa Solomon, from the city of Glendale’s Planning and Neighborhood Services, gave Fritz the children’s names, and Fritz took it from there.

As president of the Adopt a Family Club, she works with about 20 more Glendale High School students. Wrapping each gift took all the manpower Fritz could muster.

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Gifts included Sephora “starter” mascara for some preteens, Michael’s art supplies for the artistic bunch and an economic karaoke machine from Target for a musical enthusiast — all to meet the goal of giving the kids what they wanted and not an adult’s view of Christmas toys.

When Fritz is not raising money, she has a 4.37 grade-point average, she’s captain of her varsity water polo team, is the Associated Student Body’s director of fundraising and an Assisteen through the Glendale Assistance League.

In her spare time, Fritz babysits and is a summer lifeguard at the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena. She is also in the process of filling out applications and writing personal essays for 12 colleges in hopes of enrolling at one of them.

After working with the league’s Adopt A Child Abuse Case and a weeklong internship at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Fritz’s career goals turned from surgeon to nurse.

Her hours spent in the hospital’s neonatal intensive-care unit were “life changing,” Fritz said. “Nurses make the difference in people’s lives.”

Fritz also has “a pretty severe” case of attention deficit disorder, or ADD, which sets her accomplishments on an even higher level.

“Tests at school are difficult,” she said.

According to Fritz, “My mom has raised me to be polite, grateful and outgoing. The words people need to hear that I like to say are ‘thank you’ and ‘I love you.’”

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As founder and executive director of the Glendale International Film Festival, Rhodes may be considered a mature version of Fritz. She also raises money for good causes.

Her efforts result in “positive, lift-them-up” films, she said. London-born Rhodes’ background includes ballet, theater, music, art, poetry and, of course, filmmaking.

The festival, which will run from Oct. 10 through 17, was just given a Mayor’s Commendation from the city of Glendale.

“I am so grateful to the city I love,” Rhodes said.

She is now including a special student-film screening within the fest. The Glendale Laemmle will run an afternoon of short films by student filmmakers from all the schools within the Glendale Unified School District.

Rhodes said she will donate the proceeds to the district.

“The students get to show their work and be in a film festival,” Rhodes said. “That’s one of my dreams come true.”

Her advice to students is “be where you stand and go forward. Don’t ever give up.”

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To help coordinate the fest’s film screenings, Rhodes uses plenty of volunteers. Among those are Down syndrome clients from the Campbell Center. Each client is accompanied by a supervisor.

Rhodes is also the chief executive of Velvet Rhodes Prods. Premiering at last year’s festival was her film, “Vintage, Glorious Glendale.” She is currently raising funds for its sequel, “Vintage Crescenta Valley.”

“I create films like I make dinner. I ask myself ‘what’s in the fridge — not much. Good, I’ll create something,’” she said.

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

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