Haircuts and Human Touch: A Stop on the Beauty Bus Journey

April 8, 2013

Beauty BusWe connected with Beauty Bus Foundation during the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch program. Founder Wendy Levine shared the Beauty Bus story in her outstanding 3-minute pitch at the competition (watch here). Today fellow founder Alicia Marantz Liotta, shares with us another story from their amazing journey! 

Getting to the barber takes planning and coordination, just finding a babysitter for his young twin boys can be a tough venture and that’s only the first step. Scott Lew and his wheelchair are loaded, along with his ventilation gear, into the family van. Wife, Annabel, and caregiver file in after. For the Lews, safety is of utmost importance when taking trips outside the home. All possible variables are taken into account – Scott’s head shaking loose during the car ride, a vent hose popping out, suctioning of saliva and manual breathing assistance during his barber visit. The trip is possible, but it’s not easy.

Scott Lew, loving husband, father, and avid writer, has been living with ALS for the past 8 years. The neuromuscular disease, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, has taken over his ability to move his body (he is quadriplegic), speak, swallow or breathe. Everyday use of mechanical aids to carry out his life-supporting needs is routine and communication via a speech device that tracks his eye movements allows Scott to continue verbalizing his sharp wit.

Scott’s struggles with a luxury that is so often taken for granted – the ability to leave the house, get to the barber shop, take a seat, receive a haircut and leave feeling renewed – are more than an able bodied person may imagine. In learning of Beauty Bus Foundation, Scott’s interest was piqued at the ease of receiving an in-home haircut and a compassionate human touch.

“I still want to look my best at all times. Call me vain, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people who see me, look past my wheelchair and ventilator face-mask, and say stuff like, ‘Man, your hair’s getting long.’ Either because of my partial baldness, which exaggerates my otherwise bushy hair when it goes bad, or because of the genuine goodness of people, who don’t want to comment on my obvious disabilities and are just trying to make small-talk – I’m not sure, but it’s clear – I need regular haircuts.”

Scott was unsure of what was to come in his first Beauty Bus visit, only hoping for an experience that left him comfortable and safe.

“Beauty Bus volunteer Janine exceeded all expectations. At 5 feet tall and 100 lbs. soaking wet, with her nose ring and punk-rock cute skull and crossbones sweater, Janine packed a lot of personality into her small person and, I discovered, talent. Not only did she give me a great haircut (I’m easy, just short please), she also gave my wife, who has layered wavy hair that makes styling her difficult, an excellent cut as well.”

Beauty Bus client Scott Lew

“I can’t say enough positive things about the Beauty Bus. We found their service so extraordinary and helpful. I’m sure there are thousands of people with disabilities and special needs who could use their help.”

Beauty Bus Foundation delivers dignity, hope and respite to chronically or terminally ill men, women and children and their caregivers through complimentary beauty and grooming services and pampering products. Please visit their website at for more information on their programs, services and how to give or contact them directly at (310)392-0900.

You can also purchase tickets for their annual Beauty Drive coming up on May 5 by clicking here.

Partner Q & A: Keith Kegley

January 8, 2013

Keith Kegley, SVP PartnerKeith Kegley is a technology entrepreneur and philanthropist. He joined Social Venture Partners in Seattle in 1997 and has been an active partner in Los Angeles since 2006.

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?

Keith: I heard about it soon after Paul Brainerd and Scott Oki came up with the idea of it in 1997 and joined as soon as I met Paul Shoemaker.

Q: Why did you decide to get involved and what have your roles been with SVP over time?

Keith: I was inspired by the core mission to train and develop savvy philanthropists and felt a deep connection with that agenda, so I began as the first partner education lead. A group of us designed the early philanthropy curriculum in Seattle.  We recruited a roster of notable experts and innovative philanthropists to lead a series of workshops and programs and were offering about 40 courses a year. I led the partner orientation workshops for the first 8 years and have co-led a series of those here in Los Angeles as well.  I’ve served as a lead partner for 2 investees and as a board member in Los Angeles and actively contribute in various ways to SVPI.

Q: What is your favorite part of being involved in LASVP?

Keith: Learning about the sector, working with social entrepreneurs and investees, collaborating with partners, and teaching partners how to upgrade their philanthropic confidence and savvy.

Q: What is the most memorable experience that you’ve had so far with LASVP?

Keith: Working with Healthy Child Healthy World as a lead partner, feeling confident in our ability to help them and be a resourceful change agent in their transformation as an organization.

Q: What did you dream of when you were a kid?

Keith: I read lots of science fiction, spy novels or political thrillers, so mostly I imagined how the future would be very different and how exciting that was going to be. I got a glimpse of the accelerating pace of technology, won a national invention competition and earned my first patent when I was 15. To me, the future was going to be full of socially transformative inventions and institutions.

Q: What do you look forward to on the weekends?

Keith: Time at home with my wife Ali.

Q: What social issue are you most passionate about?

Keith: I began as a true Earth First tree hugger after hiking through clear-cuts the north cascades, then evolved to realize the environment was an economic justice issue and have progressed to realize that as human beings move into the middle class they care more about the quality of the air, the water, the food and the health of their communities. I believe that for the planet to support a multi-billion person, modern, global society we need as many people in that middle class as we can manage because that’s what stabilizes populations, shifts resources to address those issues, and generates the demand for policies that take care of those concerns.

You can read more about our Partners here on our website.

GrowingGreat Has New Energy

January 8, 2013

Get Healthy with GrowingGreat!GrowingGreat‘s mission is to inspire children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits through innovative classroom nutrition lessons, school gardens, and community events. The organization has been an LASVP investee since late 2009.

GrowingGreat has a new team, which is bringing fresh energy to take the organization to the next level. Executive Director, Burgandie Onekea officially started at the end of May, and has been driving positive change to advance the mission of GrowingGreat. Burgandie is a seasoned, skilled, and accomplished nonprofit Executive leader who has dedicated her career to improving the health and lives of the people and their communities for over 15 years. Burgandie expressed: “It is a privilege and joy to work for an organization whose mission focuses on education, driving change in behavior in children & adults as we inspire healthy eating habits. We have a dedicated team of staff and volunteers who are passionate about nutrition and prevention, educating our youth and adults to join us in making a true difference in our communities through our mission, and decreasing the risk of obesity and disease.”

Burgandie is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, and has a personal passion for healthy living and the mission of GrowingGreat. She is happily married with two children and enjoys sharing her life and faith, and making a difference in the lives she has the privilege to touch.

GrowingGreat also welcomes Jill Coons, Program Manager who joins GrowingGreat’s staff after serving as a longtime volunteer and contributor. Jill is a strong businesswoman with a extensive background in Event and Program Management. She is skilled in sustainable gardens, nutrition, and volunteer management. Jill is a graduate of the University of Arizona with experience in Agriculture and an emphasis in Landscape Architecture.  She is a dedicated wife and mother who loves spending her free time with her husband, David, and her three wonderful sons. As the very first volunteer for GrowingGreat, Jill has dedicated herself to the GrowingGreat mission for over 9 years and now she has transitioned to a lead staff management role as the new Program Manager. Jill’s passion, experience, and expertise allowed for a seamless transition and we foresee a stronger Program Department as she continues to further expand GrowingGreat’s outreach.

Last, but certainly not least, Kristy Gump, Community Development Manager, focuses on developing stronger partnerships throughout the community. As a part of her role, she will be building a Development Department with emphasis on income development, marketing and communications. Kristy joined GrowingGreat in January and is passionate about the GrowingGreat mission. She is originally from a small town in the Sierra foothills and moved to Los Angeles to attend Loyola Marymount University, graduating with a B.A. in English. She worked with the Long Beach Opera and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in development and administrative capacities, before shifting her focus to education and her true passion – nutrition and healthy living. She also held fundraising and management positions with The Oaks School in Hollywood and New City Public Schools in Long Beach. While at New City, Kristy helped manage the creation of the New City School Farm – one of her most valued accomplishments. She loves to cook for her husband, garden on her little patio, and shop at the local farmer’s market over the weekend.

To learn more about GrowingGreat’s mission and accomplishments, visit their website at

Partner Q & A: Karen Robertson-Fall

July 27, 2012

Karen Robertson-FallKaren Robertson-Fall is an LASVP Partner who has dedicated more than 15 years of her life to serving vulnerable and underserved people. She is currently a Program Officer in the Planning & Development department at First 5 Los Angeles. 

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?

Karen: I found out about LASVP in 2006 when I was doing some research for our social venture fund at First 5 LA.  That was my first exposure to SVP, and after exploring the organization a little bit more I was able to come on as a David Rimer Fellow Associate Partner.

What inspires you to want to make a difference?

Karen: During a post graduate school trip to Jamaica, I began having difficulty seeing in one eye. After an MRI, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  Back then the prognosis was very grim—the doctors told me that I wouldn’t be able to have children, that I wouldn’t be able to walk.  With the prospect of a shortened lifespan in front of me, I realized that I wanted to spend my life doing something that mattered, something that would make as much of an impact as possible.  I’ve now lived with MS for 22 years, made a career in philanthropy, and with the improved treatments and technology, my disability hasn’t stopped me from doing everything I can to make an impact.

What is your favorite part about being involved in LASVP?

Karen: I love reading the proposals we receive, both the applications for the Fast Pitch program and from organizations applying to be our next Investee.  It’s great to be exposed to all the creative problem-solving that people are doing—usually you only hear about the problems.

What did you dream of being when you were a kid?

Karen: A Supreme Court Justice.  When I was little my dad told me that the most powerful thing a President can do is appoint Justices to the Supreme Court, because they do so much to shape the law and the country.  I thought that would be a great way to do something important.

What do you listen to when you’re stuck in traffic?

Karen: My husband and I are big Christian music fans.  We listen to a lot of Gospel and Christian Rock on Pandora.

Who was your favorite teacher in school?

Karen: My 5th grade teacher really changed my life.  She was totally committed to me becoming an A student.  We had this astronomy class that I was really into—and I was the only person in the class to get all A’s on the tests.  She really praised me and encouraged me for that accomplishment, and it changed my way of thinking about what I could be.

You can find out more about all of our Partners by clicking here.

Did You Know? 5 Facts from GrowingGreat

July 27, 2012

Get Healthy with GrowingGreat!GrowingGreat‘s mission is to inspire children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits through innovative classroom nutrition lessons, school gardens and community events. The organization has been an LASVP investee since 2010.


1.   65% of the schools GrowingGreat serves are Title 1 Schools, which means that at least 40% of the school’s students come from low-income families.

2.   Studies show that every dollar spent on nutrition education saves $4-$8 in health care costs.

3.   When kids grow their vegetables, they eat their vegetables.  A 2011 study found that students who participated in garden-based learning significantly increased their preference for vegetables.

4.   To help accommodate schools that don’t have the extra space for a traditional garden, GrowingGreat partnered with Wooly Pockets to create curriculum that is adjusted to a vertical hanging wall garden.

5.   GrowingGreat reaches out to educate parents as well as children.  After each lesson, students receive a parent education handout to take home and share with their family that contains a lesson outline, enrichment activities, recipes and coupons.

Click here to find out the different ways you can help GrowingGreat!

Fast Pitch Storytellers: Rick Nahmias and Food Forward

June 19, 2012

Rick Nahmias of Food ForwardRick Nahmias is the founder of Food Forward and represented the organization at the 2010 Social Innovation Fast Pitch competition. Rick’s great pitch won the $5,000 Innovation and Impact Award and the $1,000 Audience Favorite Award.

The Food Forward model is brilliant in its simplicity. In Southern California, an overabundance of fresh citrus fruit growing on private property goes to waste, while thousands of people go hungry.  Rick Nahmias, the founder of Food Forward, created a fresh solution to this problem: mobilize volunteers to pick fruit and donate it to food cupboards and homeless shelters, where the hungry could have access to it. “It’s a very simple process,” says Rick. “But crazily, it’s very innovative in our world.”

This great idea made a big impression at the 2010 Social Innovation Fast Pitch.  Food Forward took home the award for Innovation & Impact and the Audience Favorite award.  One individual in the audience was so impressed by the pitch that they threw a fundraiser for Food Forward which earned $15,000 for the organization.  Rick’s Fast Pitch coaches were so enamored with Food Forward that they joined its Board of Directors.  Another spectator invited Rick to speak at the TEDx USC conference, where he reached an additional 1,200 people with his innovative idea to feed the hungry.

Rick testifies to the fact that Fast Pitch offers participants more than just a one-time pay-off.  “SVP almost feels like a new extended family,” he says.  Through Fast Pitch, Food Forward has fostered long-term connections with people who really believe in them and are willing to do all they can to help. “Having that expertise very generously offered to us is great,” says Rick.  Food Forward’s win at Fast Pitch has also served as a ‘seal of approval’ that has helped the organization be taken more seriously, resulting in more funding, which turns into much needed resources like harvesting equipment, automobiles, and warehouse space.

Since Food Forward was founded, volunteers have harvested and donated 897,488 pounds of fruit and vegetables.  To balance that scale you’d need about 80 African elephants.  That’s a hefty pile of food, all going to the people who need it most.  “It’s a simple equation,” says Rick.  “Harvesting food, fighting hunger and building community. SVP has helped us do all those things.”

You can find out more about Food Forward by visiting their website or following them on Twitter @foodforwardla.

More Vegetables, Please: Helping GrowingGreat Grow

May 4, 2012

Like most nonprofit Executive Directors, Sarah Gelb always has something to keep her busy.  “It’s always a challenge to get done what you need to get done in a day, and to get the funding and support we need to put on our programs and continue to grow,” she says.  The stress that must come along with the job doesn’t seem to have worn down her enthusiasm, though—maybe that’s one benefit of the healthy lifestyle that GrowingGreat advocates.

Sarah has been at the helm of GrowingGreat, an LASVP Investee focused on bringing nutrition education to kids in public schools, since 2009, and was a long-time supporter before then.  An athlete with a background in education, GrowingGreat unites Sarah’s passions.  “GrowingGreat gives [students] the tools to live longer and live happier, and will be the foundation that makes them successful, healthy adults.”

GrowingGreat clearly has an impact on the kids they reach.  According to Sarah, one third-grader told his mom that he wouldn’t go to bed until she bought the healthy cereal he had sampled in a GrowingGreat lesson that day.  Other young food activists are less extreme in their methods, but just as fired-up about having healthy choices—at one elementary school, students asked the administration to provide more Swiss chard in the cafeteria.  Kids demanding more vegetables?  GrowingGreat is clearly doing something right. And thanks to Sarah, the rest of the team at GrowingGreat, and the help they’ve received from LASVP Partners, the organization is expanding to reach even more students.

“We’re so fortunate to have LASVP as part of our team.  They have definitely helped us create the systems and the foundations that have allowed us to grow as effectively as we have the last three years.”  One project that LASVP Partners lent a hand to was creating a web model that will allow GrowingGreat to share its program online and spread quality nutrition education far beyond LA County.   “To build this online model has been one of my biggest accomplishments,” says Sarah, “because now the organization is in a position to scale and bring this really incredible curriculum and training to anyone who wants it.”

Sarah is definitely leaving a great legacy of accomplishments behind her.  While GrowingGreat will be sad to see her go, she has helped build a foundation for future success that the organization will continue to build on.  “It’s been exciting for me to be part of the growth and change as the organization moves forward,” says Sarah, “and LASVP has been a really huge asset in helping us do that.”

If you want to do something for GrowingGreat, you can:

Volunteer your time with LASVP.  Contact Sarah at to find out  more about current GrowingGreat projects.

Become a GrowingGreat board member.  Contact Kristy at to learn more.

Bring GrowingGreat to your child’s school.  Click here to learn how.