Paige’s Mission — $5,000 for CityHeART

0% Achieved-3 0% Achieved-5

If you asked anyone in my family what I wanted to be what I “wanted to be when I grow up” as a kid … to be honest, you might get a whole range of answers. I had a lot of ideas, a lot of plans, a lot of dreams … and they were all over the place! From wanting to be an actress when I was little, to the moment HALFWAY THROUGH MY COLLEGE CAREER when I was convinced I needed to switch majors and pursue my new dream of becoming a surgeon, there have been a lot of big plans (I might have Grey’s Anatomy to thank for that last one, though). The one thing that never really crossed my mind was that I could dream up a project big enough to not just change my life, but to also make huge lasting impacts on other people’s lives. The idea started out simple: let’s tell true stories about serious issues in the city and raise awareness in a cool, hip, Long Beach kinda way. So I recruited writers, photographers, musicians, painters, etc … people with talent far beyond my own! In our endeavor, we met a woman named Jo-Jo, who lived along the LA River. I met her and I wrote her story:

jojostoryonlineRosacea is a medium-sized family of flowering plants — my roots, too, are red…

…Rosacea is not the only color in the garden — in my backyard, we grow pride in rows of gritted teeth and bite into our tongues like Eve.

Rosacea … is not merely a romance — sometimes even the hip of a rose lies still in the bed of a patch of weeds.

Roses are not always red, she said.

She calls herself Jo-Jo, and she tucks herself into sweet dreams along the bed of the L.A. River. Jo-Jo was handpicked like an apple on the branch before it turned ripe. Her adopted reverend father pulled her from one of many tents lined up in a row in Los Angeles — where her cracked up mother planted her into the world.


The hip of a rose is the fruit of the flower. Jo-Jo’s hips are barren. Both can be eaten raw like a berry, and range in color from sweet to broken.

Jo-Jo clung to the branches of her family tree too tight — one night she went looking for her cracked up mother living in a tent in a town of barren soil, no good for producing fruit. Jo-Jo wrapped herself like a vine around her family tree enough to choke a flower and stop it from blooming, and Jo-Jo’s mother choked out Jo-Jo with fists filled with forgetfulness and rose-red lips wet on Jo-Jo’s barren hips

And I think I have to feel some kind of way about that, she said.

Sometimes the walls are too loud, she said. The walls are too thick and they want me, she whispers.

I tell her I know; sometimes the walls don’t kiss each other at perfect right angles

They meet in a mellow kind of soft curve where the corners of the room should be

Sometimes the room spins

Or we dodsc0295

The walls of my mind — there are four of them

They meet in perfect 90 degree angles there is no rounding at the corners

But sometimes the walls are too loud and they squeeze together like my mind ate its green beans and grew up all in one summer

And stretching too fast that way feels like an apple browning in the sun

At her core, she is all seeds of promise — she could be a singer, or a drummer, or a painter, or a preacher’s daughter … if only. If only she had never taken that too-big-a bite, that cost her her two front teeth

She told me her smile was everything to her — before they took it from her

Even as she says so, her lips paint a grin across her dimpled cheeks, a grin so wide I imagine shoving my entire 22 years within its reachscreen-shot-2016-04-02-at-2-21-49-pm

Sometimes, when the walls scream into the hairs along the back of my knee caps I remember Jo-Jo and the way her little black body rocked itself back and forth and forth and back so she could make it all the way through her nightmare of a life story for me in her tented home along the bed of the LA River.

And when the walls are screaming, and I am rocking back and forth and forth and back and back and forth trying to soothe the hairs along the back of my cracking up knee caps, I remember that I have two chipped front teeth too —

But my lips are rose red like an apple — and Jo-Jo waters herself in the same kind of potting soil her mother used to sniff — just a whiff enough to grow a weak grin.

Jo-Jo, high like her cracked up mother now in a tent of her own, longs for the fruit she will never taste now that her teeth are gone, her tongue is dry, and her family tree withered to hell somewhere in the middle of a prison cell, where she took root for 18 years wondering if freedom by any other name would taste as sweet.

After meeting Jo-Jo, we realized … we needed to do more than just raise awareness. We needed to serve the people struggling with the issues we were encountering in our work!
And a couple short months later, we were feeding and clothing people on a regular basis; we were providing therapeutic art workshops for veterans, children, and people in recovery; we were connecting people with a network of self-care and support; we were doing so much more than we had originally imagined … and it was amazing!
Today, nearly two years later, we have five programs, each with a director at the head and a pool of reliable volunteers showing up to make magic happen on a regular basis. We’re doing as much as we can, giving as much as we can spare. But we know we could do more.
So, I’m asking for your spare change, for your spare time, for your spare items, or for all of the above! It is my goal to raise $5, 000 for CityHeART this holiday season so that we can can continue our work, grow our programs, and serve those who need it most. I’m doing this for Jo-Jo, and the others out there with stories like hers.

Can you help? Join my team to help me meet my goal and be a part of something amazing this holiday season!


Paige Pelonis, Founder and Executive Director — CityHeART, INCdsc0301


My Progress:

0% Achieved-41



Inviting you to love your city and tell its stories

%d bloggers like this: