Tucked between the ever-changing neighborhoods of Mar Vista and Culver City is Miriam’s House, a non-profit specializing in change. Miriam’s helps low-income mothers recovering from substance abuse to become self-empowered, offering help in obtaining an education, gaining work skills and more importantly, to keep their families together.
On any given day you’ll see a dozen or so volunteers walking through the 15 bedroom house, providing assistance to the handful of staff members. One volunteer, however, might stand out– 15-year old New Roads School student Rose Lebow.
A Miriam’s House stalwart, Lebow has now organized two Community Give-Back days with her school and Miriam’s with more on the horizon. Lebow began volunteering when she was just 11 years old, attending visits to her in-recovery aunt with her mom.
“We visited my aunt at Miriam’s House and at first, I wasn’t fully aware of what was going on at the time,” Lebow said in a phone call. “While she was living there, I started helping out with the kids while the women were in AA and NA meetings. I learned Miriam’s was a recovery house, and that was my start in volunteering.”
Lebow grew close to the house, ensuring a lifelong connection.
She made friends with the children who resided or visited at child care. She’d volunteer once a month then once a week and has continued giving time and more to the House, even after her aunt’s recovery.
“It was a place close to my heart,” she said, “I wanted to keep helping. I love my aunt so much and I wanted to keep volunteering because it helped [my aunt] so much.”
For her Bat Mitzvah, Lebow received thousands of dollars. Ask any teenager what they’d do with that kind of money and the possibilities are endless: shoes, clothes, Disneyland, a down payment on a car.
Lebow donated her money to Miriam’s.
The non-profit was able to purchase items ranging from toys to beds with the money, but Lebow wanted to do even more.
New Roads requires community service hours from their students, seeking to find volunteer projects that are more directly involved with the individuals they help. Mario Johnson, New Roads Director of Student Life, said he’ll never forget when Lebow pitched Miriam’s House to the school.
“I just loved her authentic energy and her authentic care,” Johnson said. “It was so moving. She saw a potential project and she comes up to me and tells me about it and says, ‘New Roads does so much, I think they should support Miriam’s. I think they’d enjoy it.’ Rose took it to heart and made an impact.”
The first Community Give-Back was a bit of a test run, inviting students to earn some community service hours while helping at the House. The first event got rained out, forcing the students inside to help paint walls and clean. Maybe 30 students showed up.
Round two, however, Lebow took a more hands-on approach with recruitment. At the school’s Town Hall (where morning announcements are made), Lebow gave her own backstory and what she’d hoped to accomplish with the volunteering. The volunteer size doubled.
“She’s the first and youngest to organize something like this,” Brenda Valiente, Executive Director of Miriam’s House said. “They did so much.”
Tasks the volunteers accomplished including putting up a fence, painting interiors and exteriors, and cleaning the House’s garage– which hadn’t been cleaned in 12 years. “We never would’ve been able to find the time,” Valiente said. “We couldn’t even walk through that garage. What they did is a miracle. They gave us a facelift.
Student volunteers also helped add new plants and flowers to the garden, a meditative place for House guests to reflect.
Lebow’s aunt, Michelle, is pensive when looking back on the days of her niece coming to volunteer while Michelle was a guest. The comfort Lebow provided her Aunt will always stick with her.
“She’s one of the most generous girls I know,” Michelle said. “Not a lot of human beings like Rose, she’s a special person and I don’t just say that just because she’s my niece.”
Lebow’s warmth, Michelle says, inspires her. “I want to stay sober so I can be there for her and her mom,” Michelle said. “I want to show her that what she did helped me a lot. It helped me be clean, it helped me keep my son.”
Lebow’s work has helped foster a partnership with New Roads that will include kindergarten through 12th grade service opportunities and make volunteering at Miriam’s House a primary outlet for upper school students’ community service requirement.
While Lebow looks to the future– perhaps a career in social work, assisting kids in foster care, or assisting kids with disabilities — Lebow will always view Miriam’s House as, well, a home.
“I’ll keep volunteering,” Lebow said, “It’s something I’ll always enjoy. They’re family to me.”