Since its founding in 2014 by Venice local and Los Angeles Police Department Officer Ken Lew, Badge to Heart has sought to assist families and children in need by providing diapers, food and other essential items. But the recent pandemic has caused an uptick in demand, so much so, that the local nonprofit is now looking for some assistance itself — in the form of donations.
Having grown up in Inglewood, South Los Angeles and Westchester, Lew said in an interview Wednesday he has seen individuals and families struggle with the realities of life first-hand.
“The reason why I started this nonprofit, Badge of Heart, is because growing up, we didn’t have a whole lot,” Lew said, detailing how his father worked two or three jobs to make ends meet. “So working as a police officer, especially with families in South L.A., I’d see a lot of families that would take me back to when I was a kid, which reminded me of a lot of things that I was going through back then; (the) tough times, lack of food, hand me down clothes and stuff like that.”
After 25-years in the police department, Lew felt he could be doing more than his daily duties as a policeman, so he began the nonprofit Badge of Heart.
The sole purpose was to help families and kids in need. “But I was by myself, so the first year was very tough,” Lew said. “I had to raise money on my own and use a lot of my own to help fund it.”
But Lew stayed in the fight and soon started reaching out to businesses.
“I have a grass roots connection to the community, so I thought I’d use that,” he said, adding: “They were fascinated and they started slowly making donations …. every cent went to families,” Lew said.
Word soon spread and other officers would approach Lew to ask how they can help. Some would tell him about families in need while others provided the funding that would allow Badge of Heart to continue providing food, clothes, baby necessities, personal care items, temporary housing and more.
“It was growing, (though) not as fast as I wanted it to because I still had a full-time job. But five years later, we’re servicing more than 2,800 families and things are looking good,” Lew said.
“However, with this pandemic going on right now, everything is messed up for a lot of people,” he added. He said that Badge of Heart and its unpaid volunteers are still able to help.
The organization has pledged to provide $10,000 to families who are furloughed from work or have lost their jobs, and Lew hopes others in the community will come together to assist as well.
“We feel the best thing we and others can do right now is to give a monetary donation because we can use that money to go out there and buy gift cards or goods while families stay home,” Lew said.
“We know families and individuals are struggling so we’re using the $10,000 to buy gift cards to grocery stores, Target and places like that. We’ll also continue trying to connect with other agencies who can help,” Lew said. “And we know it’s not going to solve the problem. But we are trying to help alleviate some of people’s pain because we’re all human beings and we should care for each other. That’s the whole concept of this.”
More information on Badge of Heart can be found badgeofheart.org.