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Wednesday, Apr 17, 2024

Tale of ‘Kvelling’ in Canoga Park

It’s not too often that one has the opportunity to kvell at the corner of Victory Boulevard and Canoga Avenue (Note to those linguistically challenged by Yiddish: it’s pronounced in one syllable, not like the author, Edith Cavell.) Kvelling is the feeling you get when your child steps up to receive his or her college diploma, when you hold your first grandchild, or when your loved one steps off a plane having safely returned from war in Iraq or Afghanistan. It all started a few months ago. In celebration of having operated my firm in the Valley for 25 years as of September 1, I decided to donate $25 to each of 25 youngsters at the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley. The money was to be used for one purpose: each of them was to spend the money on books; not DVDs, not CDs, not video games books. The staff at the Boys & Girls Club put together a great literacy program, which is one of the Club’s emphasis areas. The staff created a program for the elementary school youngsters called “Book Worm.” Each of the children read as many books as they could, according to their grade level. Upon completion of their book, they each filled out a book report and received a segment of the “book worm” that was put on a Club wall. Those who read the most books won the prize in each grade. The middle and high school youngsters’ program was based on writing a poem, with the staff judging the most creative. Last week, about 21 of the 25 youngsters met me at the Borders book store in Canoga Park, each of them in their powder blue Boys & Girls Club t-shirts. Paul Hixenbaugh and Janette Caredda of the store’s staff were on hand to help the children select their books. Wasting no time, one youngster asked without hesitation, “Where are the books on wrestling?” and immediately charged up the stairs to the second floor sports section. One little girl, about 10, came up to me, took my hand, looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, “I don’t know how to start; will you help me find a book?” A particularly precocious young man of about 13 selected upwards of a dozen books, all adult reading level, on such subjects as the end of World War II and the Crusades, and put them in his overburdened black shopping bag. It pained him to have to return a few. A little pony-tailed girl looked around the store and admitted, “I’ve never been in a book store before.” I felt like a hero. “I didn’t know what I could get [afford] for my little brother; now I can get him a book for Christmas,” admitted a slender little girl of about nine. I felt like a Jewish Santa Claus. A teenager asked me to help her find a mystery book. I turned her on to Agatha Christie, telling her that the English author had written more mystery novels than anyone in history, and that she could make practically a lifetime of reading out of Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. The children’s shopping bags were filled with books about dinosaurs, about Barbie dolls, about sports stars, about movie stars, about Thomas the Tank Engine in fact, with just about everything you could imagine. After they had all selected their books and they had been paid for, with the extra benefit of a much-appreciated discount from the store itself, the Boys & Girls Club staff posed them all up around me for a photograph. At the urging of Ed Crowe, our ace photographer for the afternoon, they all held up their filled Borders’ bags and shouted in unison, “Thank you, Marty!” That was by far the best holiday present I’ll get this year. As they filed out of the store and into their vans, I realized that I had learned a valuable lesson: writing a check to a charity or social agency is easy, becoming involved is what’s satisfying. This year, think about how you can kvell. It’s not a feeling reserved for Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or agnostics. It’s reserved for all of us. Find a way to get involved with people who deserve your support and assistance. If you do, you’ll never go back to just writing a check in December for a tax deduction and forgetting about what the money is dedicated to achieving. I know I won’t. I can’t live without books. — Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams, 1815 Martin Cooper is President of Cooper Communications, Inc., President of the Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission, and a member of the City’s Business Retention and Attraction Task Force. He is the Immediate Past Chairman of VICA, Past President of the Public Relations Society of America-Los Angeles Chapter, and Past President of the Encino Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at [email protected].

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