The Carl & Roberta 
Deutsch Foundation

2019 Awardees


Community Coalition works to help transform the social and economic conditions in South LA that foster addiction, crime, violence and poverty by building a community institution that involves thousands in creating, influencing and changing public policy.

Volunteer:  Bruce Patton

Bruce Patton has served as a volunteer and resident leader of Community Coalition (CoCo) for over 20 years. He was introduced to CoCo by his mother, Mrs. Audrey Patton, who is one of CoCo’s founding community leaders. As his mother approached her more senior years as a community leader, she passed on the torch to her son to ensure CoCo remained a community vehicle to impact change in the region. Bruce is a tireless leader who gives his valuable time and expertise towards the benefit of the entire community, and specifically to young students of color struggling with math and science. He has helped lead multiple campaigns and leverages his knowledge and skills to promote whole youth leaders. Currently, he is a core leader of CoCo’s resident-driven committee, the Justice Committee, where residents work alongside CoCo staff to learn about, strategize, and launch community campaigns to help address critical deficiencies in the criminal justice system that impact South Los Angeles.


Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project serves some of the most vulnerable immigrants in the Los Angeles area so that all immigrants have access to their deserved education and representation.

Volunteer: Norma Robles 

Norma Robles has been a volunteer interpreter with Esperanza Immigrants Rights Project since 2014 and has shown exceptional dedication and quality of work over the past 5 years, especially with Esperanza’s youngest clients. Norma’s own immigrant story, caring nature, and unique skills as an interpreter, which she has developed over many years of informal and formal training, allows her to make clients feel comfortable enough to relive and recount details of their traumatic stories. Despite having a full time job as a flight attendant and volunteering with other organizations, she has managed to consistently and whole-heartedly contribute to Esperanza’s work - always willing to step in when special help is needed.


My Friend's Place assists and inspires homeless youth to build self-sufficient lives.

Volunteer: Seychelle Gabriel

Seychelle Gabriel starting volunteering at My Friend’s Place five years ago. As resident of the neighborhood, she would see young people around her age lined up outside to receive basic essentials including food and other items, like a fresh pair of socks or underwear, and was inspired to get involved. With over 10 years of improv experience through her career as an actress, Seychelle leads a weekly Tuesday afternoon improv workshop for the youth. Improv has provided a brilliant opportunity for play and levity amidst what is often a heavy existence for individuals experiencing homelessness. Seychelle is inspired by the strength and resiliency of the youth and is passionate about sharing her own interests and talents so that youth are exposed to positive ways express themselves. She is a dedicated volunteer and advocate for My Friend’s Place and serves as a member of the agency’s Emerging Leaders Council.


POPS the Club creates a safe, empowering space in high schools for the children and other loved ones of the incarcerated. POPS uses self-expression, self-empowerment and community engagement to transform stigma and shame into hope and dignity.

Volunteer: Claire LaZebnik

An author and mother of four, Claire LaZebnik was looking for something meaningful to do as her youngest son prepared to leave for college. She began her volunteering at POPS the Club’s recently launched Santa Monica High School club, where she quickly became the lead volunteer. She serves lunch, leads group discussions, conducts writing workshops, and facilitates mindfulness lessons, as well as supports the club’s elected student leader in guiding meetings, welcoming guest speakers, and guiding the Q&As following presentations. Claire is “passionate about the importance of giving these students room to talk to explore, to write, and ultimately to heal.” Her dedication and responsibilities have only deepened since beginning her service as she now is the lead volunteer as two clubs – Santa Monica and Culver City. Claire is an integral part of the ever-growing POPS family. Not only has she developed deep, meaningful relationships with the students, but she has connected with staff an volunteers alike.


St. Joseph Center provides working poor families, as well as homeless men, women and children of all ages, with the inner resources and tools to become productive, stable and self-supporting members of the community.

Volunteer: Terry Teplin

Terry Teplin was transitioning out of her position at LA Valley College as Director of the Child Development Center, when she was first introduced to St. Joseph Center. She was looking for ways to use her expertise and to give back to communities in need, and she quickly realized that the “Farm to Preschool” curriculum she helped develop in her professional career would be a perfect fit for the low-income children and families served at St. Joseph Center’s Early Learning Center (ELC). Terry’s dedicated service to the ELC has improved the students’ experience in so many ways. Through “Farm to Preschool” the children build reading, writing, and math skills. Cooking projects and gardening foster team work and promote positive socialization; something as simple as the students sharing their opinions about the fruit/vegetable encourages pro-social development and builds courage and self-esteem. Through her service, Terry, along with her husband Neal, have had a huge impact on the healthy eating habits of the working poor families who utilize the Center’s Food Pantry and whose children attend the ELC.


Stepping Forward LA (SFLA) empowers foster youth aging out of the system to transition successfully to adulthood and reach their fullest potential.

Volunteer: LeMar Fooks

By day, LeMar Fooks is a literal “rocket scientist” at Raytheon. In his limited free time, LeMar makes a deep, lasting impact in the lives of current and former foster youth through teaching them about cooking and culinary arts, a skill most of the youth have never had the luxury of learning. Since becoming a co-mentor and volunteer in 2012, LeMar’s commitment and dedication to SFLA and to the youth we serve has continued to grow. His approach is to give youth as much decision-making power as possible in designing menus, cooking personalized meals, and flexing their creative muscles, which is especially vital for youth who have grown up in foster care and have not had many opportunities to practice independent decision-making. He is patient, genuine, and kind in is communication with youth, yet also serves as a strong, positive role model for them to listen to and learn from.