Military service members enjoy a pre-deployment meal provided by local hotels and the USO

Military service members enjoy a pre-deployment meal provided by local hotels and the USO

By Geoff Maleman

Area hotels banded together on Nov. 13 to feed more than 300 military service members deploying across the U.S. and around the world at the Bob Hope USO facilities at Los Angeles International Airport.
Chef Chad Krahling of the Hilton Los Angeles Airport coordinated the event that included food and volunteers from the Los Angeles Airport Marriott, The Westin Los Angeles Airport, Radisson Hotel at Los Angeles Airport, Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel, Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Airport and the Renaissance Los Angeles Airport Hotel.
The USO Thanksgiving dinner fed troops who had just completed their training at Camp Pendleton and were embarking on their first active duty assignments around the globe.
“When the troops arrive, they are carrying everything they own in the world,” said Bob Kurkjian, executive director of USO Greater Los Angeles. “This is a great way to show them that no matter where they’re headed next, there are people who support and appreciate what they do.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Mike Bonin helped serve food to the troops, and L.A. Kings players and even a few Playboy playmates were on hand to take photos with the troops.

Group celebrates student success
EmpowerTech, a Westchester-based nonprofit helping the disabled use technology to better their lives, holds its 5th annual Believe and Achieve student celebration at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 12 at the Radisson Los Angeles Airport Hotel, at 6225 W. Century Westchester.
The event lauds the achievements of EmpowerTech students such as William Lucas, a music producer who lost his sight and most of his hearing in 2005.
“My life has been dramatically changed as a result of my training here,” Lucas said. “I used to wonder if training would work for me. There were many days when [it seemed like] a good solution would be to just get up and walk out of the class. Now I can run Windows with complete confidence, and I’ve also learned programs such as Talking Typing Teacher, Outlook, Zoom Tech and how to navigate the Internet.”
The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.
For more information, call (310) 338-1597 or email

Scout’s project puts others in motion
A teenage Eagle Scout candidate and competitive bicyclist is giving formerly homeless residents of two supportive housing projects the wheels they need to get to work, job training programs, school, interviews, medical appointments, sobriety meetings and gatherings with loved ones.
Diego Binatena of Boy Scout Troop 927 in Westchester learned that the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), a bicycling advocacy group, owned 20 electric pedal-assist bicycles that were sitting unassembled in a warehouse due to the closure of a bicycle company.
“A bicycle is a terrible thing to waste,” joked Binatena, a Scout since the first grade, bicycle commuter and national-level competitive racing cyclist.
Binatena created “Cycle Forward BIKESHARE” as his Eagle Scout Service Project to put the LACBC bicycles to use as transportation for formerly homeless youth and men trying to improve their lives. No stranger to the issues of poverty and homelessness, his mother, Julie Lansing, is the administrator of a rent subsidy housing program for low-income families and chronically homeless adults.
“Our dinner table conversations were often about the problems and solutions of homelessness,” Lansing said. “We participated in food drive, adopt-a-family and fundraising events. Our goal was to teach Diego that he could make a difference.”
The directors of two Los Angeles transitional housing agencies — Jovenes, Inc., in Boyle Heights and PATH’s La Kretz Villas in East Hollywood — agreed to be Binatena’s partners and beneficiaries in BIKESHARE. Jovenes focuses on helping at-risk 18 to 25 year old men, and PATH provides intensive supporting housing for 48 residents.
“Moving around the city is a tremendous challenge for our residents, and this bike share program will make a real difference,” said Eric Hubbard, development director for Jovenes Inc.
Binatena launched his project in September. Beyond the donated bicycles, valued at $1,000 each, he needed bike racks, safety equipment, locks, commuter bags and safe-cycling program materials.
With a polished Power Point presentation in hand, Binatena got agenda time at the Westchester/Playa and East Hollywood Neighborhood Councils and the Westchester Rotary Club. He left all three meetings with checks in his pocket. Binatena also got donations from the South Bay and Los Angeles Wheelmen Bicycle Clubs and received bicycle accessories and safety equipment from KHS Bicycles, Collision & Injury Dynamics and Planet Bikes. He recruited friends to assemble the bicycles and racks. In three months he collected $2,700 in donations and $2,300 worth of bicycle equipment.
“I was not prepared for such a positive reaction from everyone,” he said.
Hard work and persistence are not new to Binatena. Bicycle racing requires planning, preparation and focus, plus countless hours of training on the bike to compete at a high level, he said. After winning the 2013 California Junior State Road Championships and other elite races, he was recruited by the USA Cycling National Team to race in Europe against the best in the world.
When Cycle Forward “BIKESHARE” is rolling at PATH and Jovenes, Binatena will present his service project to the Eagle Board of Review to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank a Scout can achieve.