Graciela happy with her new catalytic converter, stolen converters, Precious Bella

With Christmas in two weeks and Hanukkah in eight days,  I Googled the most popular gifts for 2022, especially for kids. One that caught my eye the most were a variety of very cool Mini-drones that include a camera and remote control and can cost under $40. Another was pickle-ball paddles. Pickleball is a sport where two singles players  or four doubles players  hit a perforated ball over a 36-inch net using solid-faced paddles. (Until now your day was dull, right?)

Also on the list are green gummy ear buds about which I know nothing except kids apparently love them and they cost between $10-$25. There are hundreds more gifts for kids, tweens and teens, so let’s switch to presents for adults. And this year might surprise you.

A husband or wife might hope for an iPhone 14 or a new big screen TV or a brand new catalytic converter. Say what?! In case you weren’t aware, as was I until recently, there’s been an international theft ring of catalytic converters, including in Santa Monica as California’s car emissions laws are so strict we are a prime target. The Justice Department have taken down a nationwide crime ring seizing over $500 million in assets.

For those unfamiliar, the converters attach to the muffler and are essential in eliminating pollution. They can be stolen between 30 and 90 seconds as has been captured on numerous home protection cameras. As opposed to gummy ear buds, the catalytic converters can cost $3,000 or more and can take weeks or longer to replace because of a world wide shortage

The converters are so valuable because of the precious elements inside, including rhodium reportedly worth more than gold. Within days I discovered two friends had their converters sabotaged. On Hollister Avenue it wasn’t completed because my friend heard the sawing noise and yelled out the window so the thieves scrammed. But my buddy had to go through the inconvenience of having the converter soldered back in place.

The other belonged to Graciela Gutierrez, perhaps the hardest working  and most beloved maintenance employee at the Shores who was devastated and in tears. But thankfully many Shores residents believe “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” (Numerous biblical scholars attribute that quote to Jesus but either way, it’s true as we at the Shores are experiencing three-fold in this holiday season alone.)

#1: Within four days and via the Shores Facebook page, tenants raised $3,000 for a new converter for Graciela’s whose tears now were those of joy. One resident who donated commented so wisely, “This is what the Facebook page should be used for.”

#2: For decades The Shores Residents Association, under the guidance of long-term resident and TSRA President, Albie Selznick, has coordinated an amazing Employees Christmas fund for all they do for us. Last year TSRA raised a whopping $17,000.  

The fund just began for this Christmas and runs through Dec. 20.  Residents can contribute at or deposit cash or check in the envelope slipped under all 532 units.  Given how hard staff has worked to help get us through these Covid years, Albie’s hoping we can break last year’s record.

#3: Kindhearted Shores residents, Dave and Anna White, recently completed  the first Annual Shores Complex Clothing Drive. It’s in partnership with St. Roberts Community Center at 3rd and Marine in Santa Monica, to help the homeless through winter. Shores residents and staff donated over 4000 items including back packs, warm coats and blankets, jeans, shoes and sock and flannel shirts, boxes of diapers, 100 individually wrapped toothbrushes and tooth paste, make up for the ladies and many other toiletries.

Shores tenants helped 550 homeless and were rewarded with thank you’s and huge smiles as they picked up their new items and wanted our residents how deeply they appreciated our generosity! Anna and Dave are going to have another clothing drive in the spring so start collecting now.

Even their wonderful Great Dane, Bella, lived to help people, one case being exceptionally poignant. She helped a 5 year old catatonic girl suffering from trauma to talk again.  For a year, every day Bella would lay quietly beside this little girl, placing her head in her lap. One day the girl started petting Bella and a month later, miraculously she resumed talking.

Bella continued her work with children undergoing chemo. She was trained to refocus them so their pain would diminish.  Bella also gave unconditional love to the homeless, befriending them and reminding us all to help with clothes and food.

Tragically, however, lovable Bella just passed away at age 9. Devastated, Anna and Dave are comforted that Bella lived her life in service to others. She gave and received love from everyone that crossed her path and was a lesson for us all.

Bella’s mom, Anna, can be reached at Jack, who’s hoping he gets one of those cool drones with the camera and remote control for Hanukkah, meaning he’ll have to give it to himself, is at