Straight to the Heart
Why P.S. I Love You offers support where it’s needed most.
Photographed by Chris Drake
For Patricia Scelza-Jones, it all began with a family. In 1998 she met an elderly woman named Millie, whom she discovered had quit her job to help care for her five great-grandchildren, ages 2 to 12. The children’s mother and grandmother were both incarcerated for indefinite periods of time, and if Millie couldn’t care for them the siblings would be split up in the foster care system—potentially all over the country.
“As soon as I met Millie I felt a connection with her because, like my mom, she inspired me with her positive attitude, her faith in people, her incredible love for life and her belief about her ‘purpose’ in this lifetime,” says Patricia.
She called Millie to see how she could help her. Patricia started by taking the children on weekends so Millie could rest, and then contributing financially for their apartment rent and food and clothing for the children. Patricia bonded with the children and began asking her friends if they could also help out. From there, the P.S. I Love You Foundation (PSILYF) was born.
Nearly 20 years later the foundation provides outreach across low-income communities, helping kids affected by poverty, low self-esteem, loss of self-control and focus, alcohol and drug abuse, gang violence, lack of quality nutrition, obesity, and single-parent or broken families. Faced with overcrowded and understaffed schools without enrichment programs, PSILYF seeks to fill that gap and help kids develop strong emotional, physical and social well-being skills early in life.
|BY THE NUMBERS|
A child is born into poverty every 5 minutes.
A child is abused or neglected every 6 minutes.
A child or teen is killed by gunfire every 20 hours.
77% of public school 4th-graders are reading below grade level.
7% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in school and are not high school graduates.
(Specific to California, the Children’s Defense Fund, May 2009)
This can reduce the chances of—and perhaps prevent—them from growing up depressed, violent, turning to gangs for support, dropping out of school or using drugs to cope. With the help of South Bay partners, sponsors and volunteers, the foundation is able to fund a handful of annual programs that provide a positive impact on the kids they serve.
“PSILYF is a true grassroots nonprofit with no full-time staff,” says Patricia. “All the local support we have experienced over the years has helped sustain us—not just with funding but with awareness and program growth.”
Love4Life is an 18-week life skills program taught in 40- to 60-minute weekly sessions. It delivers easy-to-use, interactive, mindful tools to help students think, act and live making compassionate and confident choices for increased success in their life outlook, happiness, school, career, personal friendships and other relationships.
On the active side, Yoga123 offers at-risk children the practice of yoga and the teachings of breathing, physical exercise, emotional strength and mental sharpness. It is taught during school or as an after-school program and aligns with the California State Board of Education standards for physical education.
During the summer, Day at the Beach “Adopt a Child for One Day” brings the community together by allowing adults to share time with at-risk children living in nearby communities. Uniting more than 600 people—300 community volunteers and more than 300 at-risk children ages 5 to 12 from local shelters, schools and the Department of Child and Family Services—it’s an afternoon that makes a difference in the lives of all who participate.
“Events like Day at the Beach are successful only when strength and cooperation of a heartfelt team comes together in support of the same vision,” shares Patricia. “Everyone involved in the event believes that the day offers positive experiences and that one positive encounter can impact the thoughts, attitudes and life choices for any child.”
P.S. I Love You Foundation is always seeking local friends to volunteer and join the fun. If interested, visit psiloveyoufoundation.com.