By Rachel Stich
Over 300 guests gathered at Safe Place for Youth (SPY)’s new drop-in center on Lincoln Blvd, Venice, Thursday June 16, for the grand opening gala.
The benefit celebrated SPY’s significant growth and their one-year anniversary at the new location. Founded in 2011, SPY provides immediate and lasting solutions to homeless and at-risk youth aged 12- 25 in West Los Angeles.
This year, nearly 1,000 youth received services across the organization’s continuum of care that includes case management services, physical and mental health care, education and employment support, street outreach, and basic survival needs of food, clothing and hygiene.
The gala honored Dorit and Avi Reichental, who have been instrumental in the success of SPY since day one, through their generous contributions, and Snapchat, who just sponsored the costs to have showers installed at the drop-in center – they also provide meals for the youth on a regular basis.
A special dedication in memory of the late-L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl was presented by sitting Councilmember Mike Bonin. Rosendahl was one of the organization’s first big supporters, helping build the foundation of SPY through a generous donation taken from leftover campaign funds. Rosendahl also helped SPY secure their first drop-in center location; the Senior Center on Westminster.
“After a week of so much ugliness, it is great to be in a place of so much beauty, celebrating the amazing work of a group that is making our neighborhood a better place to live – for everybody,” said Councilmember Bonin. “It is an honor to join Safe Places for Youth at the gala, and especially to help dedicate ‘Bill’s Wellness Center’ after my friend and predecessor Bill Rosendahl. Bill loved SPY, was one of their earliest supporters and it is especially fitting that SPY’s continued work on the Westside will carry Bill’s name and legacy forward for generations to come.”
Bill’s Wellness Center is SPY’s onsite clinic that provides health screenings, information and referrals, dental services, HIV testing, health workshops and Medi-Cal registration in partnership with Venice Family Clinic. 681 homeless youth have visited the clinic since it opened two years ago in Bill’s honor. At the Gala, a plaque in his memory was presented to permanently hang above the door of the center.
A special recognition was also given to SPY’s neighbors, the Church of Saint Mark. Since SPY has moved to its new location, St. Mark’s regularly donates food and clothing, holds fundraising drives, and has incorporated the issue of homelessness into their school’s learning curriculum.
The gala featured food and drinks donated by Venice’s top restaurants. There were also incredible drinks by cocktail chef Matthew Biancaniello from Eat Your Drink, a silent auction, and live music performed by Marley Munroe.
Event organizers said the evening’s sponsors, Gjelina, Tasting Kitchen, Superba Food + Bread, The Butcher’s Daughter, Dudley Market, Osteria Venice West, Renew Juicery, Lodge Bread, Wurstkuche, Blue Star Donuts, C & O Cucina, Rockenwagner, Sweet Rose Creamery, Charcoal Venice, Dave’s Catering and Event Planning, and Sierra Nevada allowed all of the $175,000 raised to go directly towards SPY’s life-saving services for homeless youth in West Los Angeles.