A Lady with a Plan by Dianne Wildman (May 2017)

A storefront near the corner of 6th Street and South Rampart Boulevard near Lafayette Park recently marked its first anniversary. Called My New House, it’s a thrift shop offering a cheerful clutter of treasures large and small. All at well below bargain prices. It looks like a little Goodwill but isn’t. It’s not part of any national chain or institution. It’s a stand-alone non-profit founded by a visionary with her eye on the local community. She is Zorayda Mejia, a lady with a plan.

“By next year we’d like to start allocating money to help single mothers who struggle to pay utility bills,” she says. “We already help the homeless with free clothing. On a monthly basis, we have a group of volunteers who prepare bags of clothes and food and distribute them to the nearby parks.” Her journey has taken her from high school to a doctorate in Organizational Management, wearing many leadership hats along the way.

Starting as an AmeriCorps member helping to develop what became Hollywood’s Yucca Community Center, she went on to become parent liaison at Cheramoya School, then to the Hola (Heart of LA) to build its volunteer base from 15 to 400. In recent years, she became the Executive Director of the Life En El Camino Food Bank that grew to serve more than 200 families each month. “Also, she adds proudly, “I coordinated two Christmas events, Family Day of Joy and Homeless Day of Joy. Together, these two events benefitted over 1,500 individuals.”

Not incidentally, Mejia managed all this while was raising a son as a single mother herself. Axel is now 23 and can be found working alongside the thrift shop volunteer troops, aka the Zorayda Fan Club. They include My New House board members, all of whom are profiled on the organization’s exciting website. They all showed up at a recent Bingo night fundraiser, held at Immanuel Church basement on Wilshire. President Dr. Jason Plunkett welcomed ticket buyers, and treasurer Erica Marquez called the numbers. Also on hand was MarAnthony Aparicio who handles public relations for My New House. Moreover, Mejia’s sister Marlen who seemed to be everywhere.

Zorayda’s philosophy is “assign then reward,” said one of the helpers. Aparicio added that people work hard for her because they know how hard she works herself, and because she makes everybody feel part of an important mission.” If Mejia has her way, that mission will expand from thrift shop to a resource center where people can receive psychological, legal, and even dental services. Also at bargain prices. That’s the ultimate and very grand plan.

MarAnthony Aparicio