Some people are just deep in their bones awesome. Rochelle Gores Fredston is one of those people. Her organization Philanthropic Society Los Angeles is singlehandedly breaking the poverty cycle – one family at a time – through education. To shed some light on how it works, she told us,
“A father, who was beaten as a child, was reported for hitting his son. He said, ‘I only hit my son when he does something wrong. What am I doing wrong?’ He truly didn’t understand. We taught him alternative ways to discipline, so now that kid will grow up knowing how to discipline his children. Education is truly the only way to disrupt the cycle.”
When she’s not on the ground helping kids whose lives have been traumatized by violence, you’ll find her rolling her sleeves up with her own girls (Colette is 5, Claire is 3) and 6 of their friends (!) for a weekly play date she hosts, centered around a craft project (think baking challah, making bird houses).
Prior to launching PSLA, Rochelle was a buyer at Scoop and had an LA boutique Arcade. She’s proof that a background in something that seems frivolous like fashion can be turned into a wildly successful philanthropic career – she’s raised over $15M and served 300,000 kids in 7 years time!
Read on for the full backstory, how you can get involved (this is not just an LA-based org), and for some seriously fresh perspective. Rochelle, we are in awe of you!
When I was pregnant with Colette, I was on the board of Children’s Institute Inc (CII) and was blown away by the difference their wonderful support groups were making in the lives of children that had been traumatized by violence. I wanted to help, and my world was fashion, so I threw a fashion show and invited everyone I knew. A bunch of people who attended wanted to get involved, but there wasn’t an easy way to do that – it required a lot of training and was, quite honestly, very difficult.
My husband and I truly felt like we could make a difference, so we launched Philanthropic Society Los Angeles (PSLA), which funds programs that help to break the cycle of poverty through educational initiatives. We created a membership program that was easy and fun to join and have raised $15M and served 300,000 kids in 7 years! We are currently in LA and NY, via partnerships with Children’s Institute, Inc and Jessica Seinfeld’s Good+ organization, and we will grow to other cities this year with the same format.
It’s A Family Affair
Our kids are constantly reminded how lucky they are – that having the basic necessities isn’t a given, and they need to work hard to continue that. Colette sees homeless people on our drive to school daily and asked if we could help them by bringing them groceries. We came up with a budget and how many people we could help with it. We went and delivered the food together. It was a good intro to business and helping people, which is what our family is all about.
The Family That Volunteers Together…
We offer family-oriented volunteer opportunities because it’s important to show kids at an early age that it makes your communities better to help those in need. We have a cookie decorating party at the holidays for the CII kids, so our PSLA kid volunteers mix up frosting and help them decorate, but they are there to be helpers, not decorate cookies themselves. Then all the kids play together afterwards.
There was a day last year we realized we were raising more money than we anticipated and we decided to start the Family Fund. That was a pivotal point for me because I realized we could help specific cases that were creating solutions to the most a risk living in poverty. It just all dawned on me: I can use my influence in an area I’m good at to make other people’s lives better, and it will affect generations after my time. That is amazing!
The PSLA board reviews cases that would benefit from a second chance. One family we supported was a single mom of 3 who had been a foster child herself (her mom was a prostitute). She was living out of her car with her 3 kids and working 2 jobs. She simply didn’t have a skill that would afford her to put a roof over her head and refused to reduce herself to prostitution. We basically gave her a year off: We sent her to vocational school, provided a furnished apartment for her family, and supplied her with food / health and wellness supplies / toys / clothes. We taught her how to budget and manage money, so that everything we gave her was sustainable after the year was up. She is now a nurse, her kids are in school, and she is able to cover her rent and living expenses. This is literally breaking the poverty cycle through education.
Read to your kids and then read some more. Whatever their interests are, find a book that aligns. We recently read Mouse Paint and the girls wanted to go paint immediately. Reading inspires kids to get creative.
I’m the mom that loves to have all the kids over. Every Friday, I have 6 kids over for an art project. Last week we puffy painted t-shirts and tie-dyed handkerchiefs. The week before, we baked fresh challah – each child did their own loaf and could put whatever they wanted in it, which of course meant lots of chocolate and marshmallows. The house looks like a tornado came through afterwards, but it’s so fun and I thoroughly enjoy it. I love seeing them be creative. In a different world, I would have 10 kids.
I love having a drink with my husband once the kids are in bed. My go-to is Casamigos tequila on the rocks with water and lemon or lime because you can have a drink and not be groggy the next morning.
Peak Mom Moment
Recently both kids were sick for 2+ weeks. I had not slept, was totally backlogged on work, and exhausted. Claire looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, you are doing a really great job.’ I thought I was going to lose it right there in front of her.