Founded in the wake of the Watts riots, the non-profit Drew Childhood Development Corporation is working on solutions, assisting thousands of children, adults and families. They provide childcare, mental health counseling and educational programming for children in South Los Angeles.
Healthy food is a staple at the Drew Childhood Development center. For many kids, it's the only place they eat all day.
"This program, if they don't have food, my baby is not going to eat, so it's a big deal," said Monique Gomez, whose baby is a year and 10 months old.
Diann Fauntleory, the education director at Drew Childhood Development Corporation, said out of 145 families they serve, about 90 percent of them are single parents. She said the average income is roughly $1,600 a month for a family of four.
Food isn't the only thing provided at the center. Children get an interactive, educational experience as well during their first five years, which is a crucial development time.
"I've seen a dramatic change in him, with his speaking interacting with other kids," said Patrice Nails of her 3-year-old son Cleo. "At first he was a little timid, a little shy. But as you can see now, he's very outspoken."
The biggest challenge is keeping hopeful smiles on children's' faces despite the all-too-real challenges in the world. The community that surrounds Drew Childhood Development center is plagued with violence and gangs.
"Sometimes we have to bring the children inside when they start shooting guns off," Fauntleory said.
State budget cuts have the food program on the chopping block. The center is about $7,000 short for the year, and its president, Dr. Mike Jackson, says they're in great need.
With a $7,000 donation, Jackson said, "I can relax and say that I will be able to pay for you to come to Drew Development Corporation and have a nutrition filled meal during the time you are here."
"It would mean so much," he added. "It would mean I went out and made it happen."
For this reason, the Drew Childhood Development Corporation was chosen to be a recipient of ABC7's Pay It Forward campaign. They will be awarded $7,000 to save their food program.
"I'm really excited. We can really use the money," Fauntleory said.
They're already thinking about paying it forward.
If you would like to contact the Drew Childhood Development Corporation or donate to the organization, go to www.drewcdc.org.