Sunday night dinners at the Benwards in Burbank, CA are a little gem of a gathering.
Parents of 18-year-old Disney star, Luke Benward, organically started hosting a community of young actors, dancers, artists and dreamers that moved to Los Angeles to eat a home cooked meal and share life together. Father Aaron Benward says, "It's all about taking the focus off of ourselves and our quest to succeed and giving that focus to others."
Luke's mom, Kenda, cooks for everyone each week with the intention of making these kids, who left their families in other states, to all feel like they are part of a real family here in Los Angeles. They even call it "Family Dinner" so no one feels like they are alone in the city. But they recently added an extra twist to Family Dinners.
They just joined with the movement of The Giving Keys.
My first HuffPost blog tells the full story about how The Giving Keys started. But in a nut shell, The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness in Los Angeles -- to make jewelry out of repurposed keys. Each key is one of a kind and carries a message like HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM, COURAGE, etc. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key more than them, they pass it on and then write us the story of their key being paid forward. The Giving Keys have since partnered with Chrysalis which is a workforce development program for people transitioning out of homelessness and hardships in LA. They provide job readiness training and job placements along with other supportive services. The Giving Keys provides the job opportunity as well as life coaching to propel them forward in their journey.
Aaron Benward was given a Giving Key, and from there decided to give the Family Dinner crew an assignment. "We have a Giving Key with the word GIVE on it, and a different person every week will wear the key to remind them that it is far better to give than to receive. That person is then responsible to package up the first meal of Sunday evening in a tupperware container and to find someone who is in need in Los Angeles that they can give that meal to that week," Aaron explains. "The key wearer will come back the next Sunday to tell the story about how they gave the food away and share about the conversations that originated from that special interaction -- and then they will 'pay it forward' by passing on that key to another person at family dinner to do the process all over again the next week."
One of the young Disney actresses even made friends with the family she's gave the meal to who are trying to transitioning out of homelessness, and she invited them to last week's family dinner.
It's so beautiful and refreshing to see real community... making people feel welcomed, encouraged, not judged, but loved, and supported -- just like family should.
What if you started something in your neighborhood? What's stopping you?