The holiday season is a time when we celebrate generosity — bestowing gifts, feeding the hungry, reaching out to others and remembering the less fortunate. But of course, none of those activities should be limited to only once a year, and our community is full of people who keep the spirit of giving alive all year long. Here are a few examples of the ways local residents are using their time and talents to share the things they value most with their neighbors in need.
The Gift of Music
We hear a lot about generational conflicts between “boomers” and “zoomers,” and studies show that society is more segregated by age than ever before. But there are plenty of kids reaching across the divide to connect with their elders — like the members of Good Treble, a Valley-based group of young artists dedicated to sharing their musical gifts with seniors.
The idea for Good Treble began as a personal calling for 14-year-old co-founders Bobby Goldyn and Callie Pyken, friends since preschool who bonded over a longtime love of music. Goldyn, who’s from Valley Village, grew up in a musical family where “every gathering includes a circle of spontaneous bluegrass and folk” and says music has always been a big part of her daily life, “whether it’s performing for an audience, practicing my piano or strumming an acoustic guitar as I go to sleep.” Pyken hails from Fryman Canyon and is a classically trained singer who plans to pursue a career in theater. The friends started performing together at the age of 6 and have been collaborating ever since, including playing open mic nights at Kulak’s Woodshed in North Hollywood. In early 2019, they began pondering how to reach out to one special audience in particular.
“We wanted a way to give our grandparents — my grandmother and Callie’s grandfather, who were living in different senior homes in the Valley — a chance to finally see us perform,” Goldyn says, explaining that ill health had prevented the seniors from attending their talented grandchildren’s school plays and recitals. So Goldyn and Pyken decided to take their show on the road, gathering some musical friends to perform at their grandparents’ respective facilities. The response they received was so enthusiastic that they were inspired to extend their efforts to other local nursing homes and retirement communities. “We quickly realized there were so many seniors who were isolated and missing live entertainment,” Pyken explains. “They’re extremely grateful to see a live show, especially one featuring young people. It’s a segment of the population that is often forgotten and often lonely.”
Sadly, both Goldyn and Pyken’s grandparents have since passed away, but the group has honored their memory by continuing to entertain senior audiences throughout Los Angeles and beyond. They chose the name Good Treble as a tribute to the late U.S. Representative John Lewis, who advocated getting into “good trouble” to further the cause of justice. Today, there are about 20 members, many of whom live in the Valley. “Bobby and I are fortunate that we know a lot of young, passionate artists who love to perform,” Pyken says. “We both study and train in a lot of different programs across the country and most of the members in Good Treble are friends we’ve performed with or gotten to know over the years. We’re lucky that our members are not only talented, but also artists who want to give back to the community.”
The onset of the pandemic in March 2020 posed a challenge to that mission, with in-person shows becoming an impossibility as senior facilities locked down to protect their residents from health risks. Good Treble didn’t let that prevent them from finding other ways to connect, however. “We knew we needed to learn new skills and began creating customized video shows for our communities instead,” Goldyn says. “It’s a different format, but our message is the same: ‘We care about you and we want to do something special for you today.’” In a time of loneliness and uncertainty, that message was needed more than ever, and the virtual format enabled Good Treble to expand to audiences beyond Los Angeles. “Now our reach is limitless and we have created shows for people from Hawaii to Maine!” Goldyn exclaims. “Nothing beats a live performance, but it’s clear to us that a virtual format will always be a part of what we do. We have activity directors from senior communities across the country reaching out to us about creating a show for their residents.”
Good Treble plays for individuals as well as large groups and customizes their shows for free, trying to learn as much as they can about the audience — including hobbies, milestone life events such as birthdays and anniversaries, and musical taste — in order to make the show as personal as possible. Interspersing members’ performances with trivia games and sing-alongs to keep listeners engaged, the group focuses on a pre-1975 repertoire, including songs by Sinatra and Elvis, jazz standards, Golden Age Broadway tunes and classical pieces to ensure that the music resonates with elder generations. “Some of the seniors we entertain have memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s amazing to see what happens when a familiar song is played,” Pyken says. The group is thrilled when their music resonates with audiences; for instance, “we recently created a show for a 101-year-old opera-loving woman who sent back the most beautiful thank-you video,” Goldyn notes.
The group is currently working on creating a holiday-themed show and hopes to resume in-person appearances in 2022, while continuing to hone their video editing and production skills to make their virtual performances as seamless and fun to watch as possible. They want to spread the word that Good Treble is available to anyone who wants to give a customized show to an older loved one or a senior community, near or far. After all, Pyken says, “It’s gratifying to know we’re able to make someone happy or cheer someone up simply by bringing a little entertainment. Seeing the joy on the audience’s faces is why we love doing what we do.”
Homes With Heart
Michelle and Nicole Artinian have dedicated their careers to helping families find their dream homes. As the Artinian Realty Group of Corcoran Global Living, the sisters serve clients across the Valley and the greater Los Angeles area, focusing on residential real estate. Yet they also recognize that housing is a complicated issue, and far too many Angelenos are unhoused or struggling to keep a roof over their heads. They wanted to find a way to help those less fortunate neighbors, too.
“We have a huge passion for giving back in as many ways as possible,” Michelle explains. “During the winter holidays for the last eight years, Nicole and I have helped by adopting a family. However, we wanted to find an organization we could work with throughout the year and not just during the holidays. Finding an organization that gives back to the community we live and work in was also extremely important for us.” After researching different local charities, they were thrilled to discover LA Family Housing (LAFH), a North Hollywood–based nonprofit that helps people transition out of homelessness and poverty. One of the largest providers of housing and homeless services in Los Angeles, LAFH serves more than 11,000 people per year and places more than 2,000 into housing annually, operating 26 properties that offer temporary, permanently affordable and permanent supportive housing throughout the Valley and across L.A.
The Artinians quickly saw that getting involved with a group dedicated to providing solutions to end homelessness for the most vulnerable members of our community was a natural fit with their personal and professional mission. “This cause is near and dear to our hearts,” Michelle says. “We are happy to have found an organization that matches what we do, but on a different level.” Since 2018, the sisters have been working with donation coordinator Terry Lotka to find ways to contribute to LAFH’s valuable work. One major activity they’ve devoted themselves to is helping to provide Thanksgiving meal kits for people in need. “Every year we try to donate more Thanksgiving bags than the last year,” Michelle notes. “We have so much fun checking off all of the items that are needed to make a family’s Thanksgiving memorable. We are ready to start getting our bags together for this year and make it our largest donation thus far.”
The sisters are also looking forward to LAFH’s Holiday Sweet Treats drive, in which donors will help make the season brighter for bridge housing residents by providing delicious desserts to complete their holiday meals. “We have a passion for baking and are excited to share that with the community,” Nicole says.
Recognizing that help is needed year-round and not just on special occasions, the Artinians make sure to address day-to-day needs, as well. During the pandemic, they donated personal protective equipment such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, gloves and masks, plus toilet paper when it was in short supply. Last month, they donated 40 bags of hygiene supplies for men and women transitioning to housing.
“We are very blessed and it fills us with so much joy to be able to help people in the community during difficult times,” Michelle says. “Every time we drop off supplies, we are able to meet people at the institution. When we see the smiles on their faces, we know we chose the right organization to partner with.”
To encourage others who want to find their own match with a charitable activity that furthers their values, but perhaps aren’t sure how to get started, Michelle and Nicole offer this advice: “Try to think about what is important to you and what is something you hope to change. Then research different organizations who share the same vision and goals. And lastly, just reach out to them. They will be delighted for any and all contributions.” Most importantly, they add, don’t hesitate or second-guess yourself, or you’ll lose valuable time when you could be making a difference. “Just do it. No matter how big or small your involvement is, your impact will be felt and appreciated.”