Two years ago, my sister and I were invited by our mutual friend Jennifer Chadorchi, a Beverly Hills Iranian Jewish resident, to volunteer our time one night to feed the homeless in West Hollywood. I was not only surprised by the large turnout of homeless individuals waiting for food, but more shocked to see the larger contingency of volunteers who were local Iranian Jews in their 20’s and 30’s. I soon discovered that Chadorchi has been almost single handedly spearheading the volunteer efforts on behalf of the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition for nearly the last 10 years. Her dedication to the cause and the dedication of other young local Iranian Jews was truly inspiring.
In fact, I covered Chadorchi in 2005 as one of the Jewish Journal’s “mensches” for her work on behalf of the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition in organizing a small army of volunteers. Her enthusiasm for aiding the homeless has become contagious and motivated her volunteers to form their own volunteer groups in feeding the homeless. Chadorchi also headed “Project Feed”, a campaign allowing Beverly Hills school district students to donate food and time to the coalition in exchange for school credit. Her unselfish work for this important cause is a symbol of how Iranian Jews are now beginning to give back and also advancing Tikkun Olam.
More importantly, Chadorchi makes me proud to be an Iranian American Jew because she represents the generous and loving spirit of our community. Unfortunately there are many in the Southern California Iranian Jewish community who because of their wealth are often arrogant, flashy and down right rude—but by in large we are a very giving Jewish community when it comes to social causes and Israel. I am still baffled at how the Beverly Hills City Council has still NOT honored and formally recognized Chadorchi for her tireless efforts all of these years!
Earlier this year, Reza Moosavi, a local Iranian Muslim filmmaker completed a short film called Guardians of Hope about the homeless in Los Angeles. This emotional film highlights the problems of homelessness in L.A. as well as the efforts of Chadorchi and other groups that have responded to the plight of the homeless.
I recently sat down to chat with Jennifer about the “10 days before Thanksgiving” program which the Coalition has launched this year to help attract more volunteers to help them:
What is the 10 days before Thanksgiving program about?
What we’re doing instead of having one large group of people volunteering during the holidays is we’re breaking up the days so there is more for them to do and have the hands on experience. We could essentially divide it up so there could be 10 to 20 people coming out each day to help.
What is the experience like for a person who wants to volunteer?
They show up at Sycamore and Romaine at six o’clock, the truck shows up between six o’clock and six fifteen. A line of 200 to 250 show up to get foods. There is a security guard checking people in and out, the volunteers are given gloves, stand behind a folded table and do various tasks from handing out orange juice to handing out soup or the main dish. The food is replenish and people can keep coming back into line as much as they’d like. When we have extra food we often box it up for people to take it with them.
Can people who can’t make it out to physically help also donate money?
People who want to donate can do so by sending their checks to our mailing address. Every single dollar we receive goes to the population it’s intended for—we don’t have any one on staff except for a driver. All of our items and food we use have been donated.
What are some of the unique successes the Coalition has had this year?
Reza Moosavi’s movie came out this year which profiled the Coalition. Many of the people who have seen the movie at the premiere came up to me and asked how they can get involved. Also a lot people that have come down to help have started formed their own groups and used their own resources to help us in any way they can. We’ve had doctors that are now volunteering with the mobile clinic next to were we hand out the food. Also had students from the Marlborough School come down to volunteer and even sponsored one of the days before Thanksgiving.
How does one get in touch with the Coalition?
They can contact our volunteer hotline at 310-288-0090.