September 20, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

An Interview with Vendella Barnett: NYA’s Las Doradas Benefits Local Kids

On Saturday May 5, the Annual Venice Garden and Home Tour will showcase over 30 of the Westside’s most vibrant and eclectic homes and gardens to benefit the Neighborhood Youth Association’s (NYA) Las Doradas Children’s Center.

NYA has served troubled youth and families for over 100 years. Since 1991, Las Doradas, or Golden Ones, has provided subsidized childcare to preschool-age children living in Venice and Mar Vista. “This is the foundation,” says Executive Director Vendella Barnett. “We are planting seeds at a critical time in children’s development.”

For over a decade Garden Tour participants have recognized the importance of investing in children. Attracting more and more people each year, the tour has become the place to be. Each year over 200 volunteers come together to support the Las Doradas Children’s Center. The tour has raised nearly $1 million since its first year, becoming a major source of funding for the children’s center. “Nonprofits cannot survive without the public,” says Barnett. “I cannot begin to express how I feel seeing the community invest in human potential.”

Barnett has worked for NYA for over 30 years. In its early years the agency served up to 3,000 families, providing counseling as well as drug and alcohol treatment. Recognizing the need for more than counseling, over time NYA focused its efforts. Today, through its Personal Best program, NYA serves 100 children and their families per year. Personal Best is an educational enhancement program for youth in 1st through 12th grade. In addition to academic support, the program teaches personal living skills and provides career planning to ensure its youth earn more than a high school diploma. “Today we face the same challenges,” says Barnett. “But with fewer children we are at an advantage to make a bigger impact.”

Today Barnett reflects on the agency’s past accomplishments and its future. “I’d like to open the program to more children,” she says. The Personal Best program has proved highly successful. By partnering with students, teachers and parents, NYA not only improves participants’ schoolwork, but their home lives as well. However, a lack of consistent funding presents a significant hurdle.

Inconsistent funding prevents NYA from duplicating its program in other parts of Los Angeles. It has been the community and the Garden Tour that Las Doradas has come to depend on. “Lack of funding makes it impossible to do our best work,” says Barnett. “It is the commitment of the community that maintains our integrity.”

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