Even in the most torrential storms there is beauty and hope to be found.
Imagine not having shelter and what it must be like to yearn for that foundation and protection from the elements. Imagine not having the space to grow and nurture yourself to your full potential. Now imagine what that may be like for the thousands of children affected by homelessness in this country alone.
Children who face the heaviness of immense stress they don’t fully comprehend, because of these situations. These children are brought up with the vernacular of housing authority, probation officers, addiction, and the cold reality that life can be unfair.
The homelessness crisis in Los Angeles is a reality that no amount of conversations or editorials can wrap themselves around to understand or find solutions for. There are, however, people on the frontline of the crisis who make a difference.
Members of the community who help their brothers and sisters navigate life on the streets and life as sometimes they bounce from shelter to shelter.
‘Worthy of Love’ is a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to restore dignity and a sense of normalcy for children and youth affected by homelessness.
Once a month, ‘Worthy of Love’ puts together events across four shelters in Los Angeles and one in Houston, Texas to celebrate the birthdays of children who are born in that month.
All children are welcome and the parties are spectacular. The festivities look like a community carnival.
Volunteers spend hours setting up booths for face painting, photos, wax sculpting, craft making, and all kinds of fun activities. Balloons and banners are stretched across roof-tops or sectioned-off parking lots. A D.J. booth gives rise to a flickering dance floor like a lighthouse looking down on a beckoning sea. Tables are lined with snacks, drinks and of course pizza.
Gifts are laid in the form of warm clothing, sunglasses and toys. Love is on full display and children that, might have, walked in with trauma, leave with love in their eyes, dignity in their hearts and appetites warm and full. For a few hours they may escape the daunting reality of homelessness and find that they are worthy of love just for being born.
At the helm of this organization is a founder and may be seen as a “flourishing beacon of light,” Mandie Davis.
Speaking from my opinion …
Mandie Davis–or “Sister Mary” as she is known in some circles “… is a woman of courage and strength,” she is a warrior for people that are under-served and underprivileged. She does so with effortless calm and grace.”
Speaking to Mandie Davis inspires you to become better and to do more.
Davis has found richness in community and hope in coming together.
Davis started her journey long ago. First helping the incarcerated before finding her place helping the unhoused. Her first “Worthy Of Love” event was in Jan. 2013.
Davis recalls pulling this off for the first time at one shelter in Downtown L.A. with a Dora the Explorer boombox set to a static F.M. radio station.
The result was undeniable magic. Davis from there began to organize her talents and the ability to coordinate community to grow “Worthy Of Love” into a force that has made a difference in the lives of over 10,000 children who have celebrated their birthdays across Los Angeles and Houston.
In moments of giving, we may find ourselves granted the gift of healing.
Davis and her Husband Ari, experienced a miscarriage and the pain that followed. Davis got through that hard time in her life with the help of the very community she serves. She has a deeply-rooted history in bringing out cheer to those around her. At her large Texas high school, where football reigned as king on Friday nights, Davis was the official mascot.
In college, Davis served as the official mascot for the University of Alabama. It is no surprise that she would don a fully cheerful and adorable mascot character for “Worthy Of Love” and as a result, find the healing she needed after the miscarriage.
Children immediately clung to the Slothstronaut mascot known as Luni. Inside Mandie, she found herself moved to tears with the healing power of a child’s hug. She recalls pulling her husband Ari aside and having him change into the mascot costume–mid-event–to feel the power of love. In that moment she turned pain into hope.
When asked how this drive to help others began, Davis recalled a special day for her dating all the way back to kindergarten.
Davis was at a new school on the first day of class and it was her birthday. Her nervousness was intensified by the belief that no one would know it was her birthday and the possibility of disappointment weighed on her mind.
Then something marvelous happened that would set in motion a lifetime of living her truth and sharing it with her community.
Her teacher introduced her to the class telling everyone it was her birthday and gave her a plaque that read, “Mandie–Worthy of Love.”
That plaque still hangs by her side to this day, seasoned with the up’s and down’s of her life’s journey. One simple, yet acutely designed act of love, sparked a fire that has gone on to warm the hearts and souls of many children that face a rough start to life.
The dance floor of any “Worthy Of Love” party is the epicenter of where it all comes together.
Every party starts with the volunteers making a human tunnel with arms outstretched so that each time the children enter this magical space they feel protected, seen and cheered for.
Davis wastes no time rallying the troops of volunteers to make sure each moment is full of excitement and revelry. She hits the dance floor and everything melts into place. Time stands still for a brief moment as eyes flicker with jubilation and dance beats fade into laughing and joyful outbursts of excitement. At each celebration the transcendent moment comes when the children who are celebrating their special birthdays are surrounded by the community and serenaded by a heartfelt chorus of “Stand By Me.”
To experience one of these parties is to truly bond with your brothers and sisters and to see children witness magic. What Davis has created with her passion project that has become widely known in the community as it grows to new heights is nothing short of inspirational marvel.
Mandie and Ari Davis have also grown their own family and are joined at each event by their two daughters Ziva and Zeta.
The commitment that “Worthy of Love” and its team of volunteers have to make their events a night that these children will never forget is what living life is all about. Being able to serve others and foster a sense of community for the most vulnerable amongst us marks the true value of a society. To find out how you can help please visit https://www.worthyoflovela.org/.