The holidays are a time for generosity, reflection and giving back. From celebrity guest bartending gigs to benefit Children's Hospital Los Angeles to Hurricane relief efforts spearheaded by our Los Cabos and Turks and Caicos offices, our agents and staff have been at the ready to offer their resources to those in need. In the spirit of the season, we caught up with our team to learn more about the causes they hold dear and the ways they are making a difference.
With the support of philanthropic funders, known as Partners in Play, Children's Hospital Los Angeles works in partnership with doctors, nurses, social workers and others to help fund vital resources such as counseling, playrooms, teen lounges and other facilities to benefit patients and their families during difficult times. “The most meaningful gift I ever received was a gift I gave,” says Craig Knizek, Co-Managing Director of The Agency’s Sherman Oaks office. As a board member for CHLA’s "Child Life — Partners in Play” program, Craig committed to a five-year annual donation from The Adam Hunter Knizek Memorial Foundation, which is dedicated to the memory of his first born infant son who passed away in 1995. Recently, our CEO and Co-Founder, Mauricio Umansky, served as a celebrity guest bartender to raise funds for the hospital and our Chief Technology Officer, Shane Farkas, will be organizing a CHLA toy drive at our Beverly Hills headquarters and a donation drive at our upcoming holiday party. For more information about contributing or becoming a Partner in Play, visit CHLA's website.
Over the years, Leonard Rabinowitz has been a major benefactor of The Accelerated Schools Los Angeles, a thriving community of public charter schools in South Central Los Angeles serving 1,750 students. The elementary school was named School of the Year by Time Magazine, and their Wallis Annenberg High School boasts a graduation rate of over 90%, with a similar amount pursuing higher education. This past year, Leonard chaired the Capital Campaign, helping to raise $38 million to complete the construction of its newest building for the Accelerated Elementary Charter School, a dual language school for English Language Learners.
P.S. ARTS is dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing high-quality arts education to California’s underserved public schools and communities. Its annual fundraiser gives 1,500 adults and children an opportunity to experience the joy and creativity that nearly 25,000 students discover every day in California’s P.S. classrooms. Cindy Ambuel is an avid supporter of P.S. ARTS, sponsoring an arts and crafts booth at the event each year. “There is no limit to the long-term, positive impact art education can have on shaping a child’s mind and creativity,” says Cindy. “It is for this reason that I’m such a strong supporter of P.S. ARTS.”
Founded by Ryland Engelhart, Co-Owner of the popular, plant-based eateries Gratitude, Cafe Gratitude, and Gracias Madre, and by Finian Makepeace, Kiss the Ground creates media, educational curriculum, and creative campaigns to raise awareness of regenerative living and the restoration of soil worldwide, empowering people to take action. It’s a cause particularly dear to The Agency’s President and Co-Founder, Billy Rose, who serves on the nonprofit's Board of Directors. “Healthy soil has the amazing ability to sequester carbon, leading to clean water, nutritious food, drought resistance, and restored habitats,” he says. “For anyone who cares about the future of our planet and appreciates clean, healthy food, Kiss the Ground’s message resonates.” A new book, aptly titled Kiss the Ground, written by celebrated documentary filmmaker Josh Tickell, is racing up the best seller charts. Visit this link to learn more about this important message and to obtain your own copy of the book.
A “secret society of philanthropists” known formally as The Secret 7X7, this San Francisco-based organization, supported by Rachel Swann, Managing Partner of The Agency’s San Francisco office, gathers each holiday season for a private dinner event to raise money for underprivileged children in the area. The organization seeks out liaisons in the community, mainly through schools or other nonprofits, to help them identify children and families who are going through a particularly hard time during the holiday season and therefore may not be able to celebrate or provide the basic necessities for their family. The organization surprises their liaisons, arriving unannounced, “secret santa style,” to help bring holiday cheer to those in need.
Operation Rainbow is an organization dedicated to performing free orthopedic surgery for children and young adults in developing countries worldwide who don’t have access to related medical procedures or equipment. The organization also provides continuing education to international health care providers to encourage medical self-sufficiency. An avid supporter of Operation Rainbow, agent Michelle Long recently joined the organization on a medical mission to Mexico.
Prostate1000 was founded by Gideon Lang-Laddie to raise awareness of and funds for prostate cancer research. Having lost his father in 2008 to Small Cell Prostate Cancer, a particularly aggressive cancer with very little funding for research, Gideon set out to make a difference, structuring Prostate1000 as a feeder fund to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. In honor of his father, an avid cycler, the organization held its first fundraising event in 2009 with a 100-mile bike ride from Manhattan to Montauk, raising over $65,000 for the cause. The next event is being drawn up for Spring-Summer 2018.
Raised in Mexico, Gloria Castellanos regularly returns to her roots as the founder of Sunshine Alegria Outreach, a nonprofit organization that assists underprivileged children and families in Mexico by providing food, clothing and basic necessities through a core of volunteers working closely with local churches and their representatives. "What I hope to instill in these children and parents is that no matter what advantages or disadvantages the world has given you, there's always somebody who will believe in you,” she says. “If that person is not found outside of yourself, then you can find that person inside yourself.”
Vistas for Children (formerly Vistas for the Blind Children Center, Inc.) is a distinguished philanthropic organization comprised of a 100% volunteer group of women from the Greater South Bay area, including The Agency’s Josephine Balzano, who serves on the board as Vice President and Sharon Umansky Benton, an active community supporter. The mission of Vistas for Children is to raise funds to help special needs children and to be a system of support for these children and their families. Since its inception in 1978, the hallmark of Vistas has been its unconditional commitment to children with special needs throughout the community. This includes, but is not limited to, children who are multi-disabled, abused, homeless, terminally ill, suffer from pediatric illnesses, or born with retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye). As a result of its hard work, the organization has appropriated over $7,000,000 to deserving charities, helping over 30,000 children in need.
Plastic Pollution Coalition is a growing global alliance of individuals, organizations, business and policymakers working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals, waterways, oceans, and the environment. Supported by Daniel Stevenson, the organization’s growing coalition of individuals seeks to increase understanding of the plastic pollution problem and to find sustainable solutions, empowering people and organizations to live plastic-free.
MDA’s mission is to free individuals and the families who love them from the harm of muscular dystrophy, ALS and related muscle-debilitating diseases. Supported by Michael Grady, who serves on MDA's National Community Advisory Committee, the organization uses its collective strength to help kids and adults live longer and grow stronger by finding research breakthroughs across diseases, caring for individuals, and empowering families with services and support.
The Southeast Rio Vista Y operates from two locations in Southeast Los Angeles and has served over 14,000 children, teens, families, adults and seniors in the city’s most under-resourced communities. The YMCA provides community programs to improve health and well-being, nurture the potential of children and teens, and empower its members to give back. It is a cause particularly dear to Carlos Castillo, who serves as the Board Chair of the Southwest Rio Vista YMCA in Maywood. To make a difference, visit its website.
As families, businesses, and individuals struggle to regain footing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Tropical Storm Lidia, The Agency has offered its support to those affected in Texas, Florida, Mexico, The Caribbean and elsewhere. Our Los Cabos agents brought water and supplies to victims of Tropical Storm Lidia and a company-wide fundraiser was implemented to benefit Turks and Caicos. Michelle Schwartz, Co-Managing Director of our Sherman Oaks office, along with agents Zachary Sklar and Rebekah Schwartz Sklar, made cash donations to Mexico relief for everyone who visited their open house at 2552 Benedict Canyon Drive.