January 5, 2006
Jennifer Chadorchi: The Hunger to Help
At 6:30 p.m. on a chilly Wednesday night in December, more than 30 young Jewish professionals gathered on the corner of Sycamore Avenue and Romaine Street in West Hollywood to feed homeless people waiting in line for a hot meal.
There on behalf of the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, the volunteers looked with surprise at the growing line of nearly 200 people waiting for food -- a sight already familiar to Jennifer Chadorchi, the young Persian Jewish woman who had single-handedly recruited the evening's volunteers.
"The turnout of volunteers was amazing that night," said Chadorchi, who regularly organizes volunteer groups for the Coalition. "It makes me feel so great to share the experience of helping others by bringing them in to volunteer."
For the last eight years, Chadorchi, a Beverly Hills resident in her 20s, has become a rare jewel in the Persian Jewish community, quietly mobilizing a small army of friends, family members and local students to respond to the plight of the homeless in Los Angeles.
"Her compassion and her actions are contagious," said Lida Tabibian, a volunteer recruited by Chadorchi. "She not only changes thousands of lives, but she's also inspiring a whole generation to be leaders for this cause."
Chadorchi's journey in aiding the homeless began when she was 16, when, on a rainy night while driving in her brand-new car, she spotted Coalition volunteers serving food to the homeless.
"What caught my eye was the long line of these people just standing in the pouring rain with only newspapers over their heads," Chadorchi said. "It didn't seem fair to me that I had so much and they had nothing, so I decided I had to help." Since 1987, coalition volunteers have been handing out excess food donated by Los Angeles area hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and caterers. In 2000, the coalition joined forces with UCLA medical students, who offer medical aid to sick, homeless individuals gathering at the street corner.
Chadorchi's efforts also have included raising funds for the coalition, and she has organized clothing drives in her Beverly Hills neighborhood. She was also instrumental in organizing Project Feed, a campaign allowing Beverly Hills school district students to donate food and time to the coalition in exchange for school credit.
"She has had a tremendous impact on our organization. What she did was build a bridge between our group and Beverly Hills, especially the Iranian Jewish community," said Ted Landreth, one of the coalition's founders. "Without her I doubt we could have made these important connections."
Those familiar with Chadorchi's volunteer efforts said they wished she would enter the public sector and work with local government officials to help alleviate Los Angeles County's difficulties with the homeless.
"I've known Jennifer since she was a junior at Beverly Hills High School. I think she is one of the most dedicated, incredible and passionate young people out there," said former U.S. presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. "The people working out there [L.A. city officials] are doing alright, but if she was in charge of the homeless problem in Los Angeles County, I promise you'd see some real changes."
Chadorchi said she is frequently approached by Jews in the community who question her for helping a non-Jewish cause like the coalition.
"It is our duty as Jews to heal the world one person at a time -- tikkun olam," Chadorchi said. "I'm here to let people out there know that one person can really make a difference."
Individuals interested in joining Chadorchi's efforts can contact her at (310) 288-0090.