Five years ago, Giovanni Pantoja (scholar) and Noel Velasco (mentor) met for the first time. The two connected right away and began exploring the world together, first taking stock of the culture in the Los Angeles area. During one of their monthly cultural enrichment trips, Giovanni and Noel were humbled by the dire conditions on the streets of LA’s Skid Row neighborhood. The trip struck such a chord in both Giovanni and Noel that rather than allowing their concern to fade, the two set out to create “a sustainable plan to help one of the largest homeless populations in the nation and motivate others to seek answers to community problems,” says Noel. “After months of hard work, a wishful thought transformed into Alleviate Skid Row.”
After a few months of hard work and determination, shaping a vision, forming relationships and creating a social media presence, the two were prepared to serve those that needed it the most. Their project, Alleviate Skid Row, kicked off their first cold lunch serving in 2014. “Our efforts allowed us to feed, but more importantly, to connect with over 300 new friends in Skid Row,” says Noel. “Alleviate has allowed me to be a part of something much bigger than myself and make a real impact among those that call the streets of Skid Row their home.”
To date, Alleviate has distributed over 15,000 items (clothing, lunches, shoes, and toiletries) directly to those in need and the project has been able to raise an impressive $4,500. But Giovanni and Noel have not acted alone: Alleviate has partnered with over 50 businesses, individuals, and other non-profits.
Beyond this inspiring work, Giovanni – now a junior at Lennox Academy – was recently awarded the competitive QuestBridge scholarship, which provides him with many incentives including a college access day trip to Stanford and pairs him with a college application advisor in the fall.
You can read more about Giovanni and Noel’s efforts by visiting alleviateskidrow.org.