9:00am PT by Chris Gardner
How Filmmaker Lysa Heslov and Her Children Mending Hearts Charity Met Critical Pandemic Needs in Watts
The global COVID-19 pandemic led filmmaker Lysa Heslov and her nonprofit, Children Mending Hearts, to a major pivot locally.
The organization — founded 11 years ago and guided by a mission to bring an end to bullying and intolerance by teaching children empathy through arts and service-learning programs — was unable to proceed with previously scheduled in-school activities, so CMH launched the website ichooseempathy.org to provide a space for parents, teachers and kids to utilize games, art projects and reading guides that support that mission.
Then, Heslov and her CMH team, led by executive director Siobhain Hill, learned of a food crisis in Watts thanks to Irena Medavoy (“She’s been such an inspiration for us”) so they mobilized a team of volunteers armed with donations and have been making deliveries to the Watts Empowerment Center every week on Wednesdays for eight weeks as of mid-June. Deliveries, documented on Heslov’s personal Instagram, first included tons of fresh fruit, eggs, vegetables, clothing, shoes and more, but they then expanded upon hearing of needs for hot meals for the elderly and disabled in the area.
They sourced enough money to hire a caterer to feed more than 500 in an effort that also helped employ catering staff. Because they’ve spent so much time in the area, CHM and its network learned that there were other needs, so Heslov was able to connect with Jessica Seinfeld and her Good+Foundation and Jessica Alba’s Honest Company to source diapers and wipes. “The silver lining of all this is that there are so many good people who have compassion and empathy and really want to help,” Heslov tells The Hollywood Reporter. “To see all of these organizations coming together to create partnerships has been amazing. We don’t want to just put a Band-Aid on things and go away. We want to partner so we can get the job done and create sustainable communities.”
CMH also received a boost recently when Storm Reid joined the organization as an official CMH Educational Ambassador last year. The nonprofit honored her a few years back at its Empathy Rocks fundraiser and Heslov says her team was so impressed. “She’s one of the most amazing young women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing — she’s so genuine, passionate and intelligent, and her mother is amazing,” she explains of the actress who has since gotten involved in school programs and various CMH activities as it aligns with her own Bamazing foundation mission. “She’s very hands-on. We love her.”
Heslov is also quick to credit her network that helped make the entire Watts mobilization happen and ensured there was plenty of funds, food and supplies to deliver once they arrived. She frequently tags her team on social media and the supporters have included a long list of Hollywood insiders including Medavoy, Susan Ursitti-Sheinberg, Laura San Giacomo, Trisha Cardoso, Keri Selig, Bernadette and Sugar Ray Leonard, Julia Sorkin, Deborah Martin, Sue Naegle, Viveca Paulin, Carol Ann Leif, Kelly Styne, Terry Wood, Lynn Hirshfield, Jennifer Flavin Stallone, Deena Katz, Caroline Styne, Maryam Lieberman, Sarah Meyer Michaelson, Veronica Grazer, Alexandra Dwek, Nina Tassler, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Cheryl Saban, Stacy Cramer and Kerry Foster.
“It’s not anything I’m doing; it’s a tribe. We started eight weeks ago with four SUVs, five volunteers. We’ve now had  tons of food, clothing, diapers, wipes, hygiene products, hundreds of volunteers and semi-trucks. To see where we started to where we’ve come tells you all you need to know about the human spirit,” she says, adding that they have no plans to stop now. “We are not a one-night-stand foundation. As long as this community needs us, we will be there. That’s a good feeling.”
Week 8 Watts! Last week this family didn't get diapers, so excited to have diapers this week, along with clothing, eggs, and 30 tons of food! My heart is full! @childrenmendinghearts @redeyeinc Thank you to all the badass volunteers! Change is happening!@keriselig @suzikaltman @heathermnuchin @trishajcardoso @jusork @mychellecharters1 @alibaba611 @lisaagores @crystalminkoff @stacytwilley @susiesheinberg @irenamedavoy @iamdeborahmartin
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Week 7 @childrenmendinghearts delivered over a ton of food and 482 hot meals to the elderly and disabled! Thank you to all the angels below who helped us feed the community! Yes we can!@urbanpalatela @redeyeinc @rachelzalis @rachel_roy @irenamedavoy @keriselig @suzikaltman @susiesheinberg @kerrymfoster @iamdeborahmartin @mychellecharters1 @cecefeiler @stacytwilley @stacycram @heathermnuchin @cherylsaban @ellengoldsmithvein @nicboxer @jodiguberbrufsky @ntassler @andy_cohen_la @alexandradwek @veronicagrazer @suzanne_lerner @kym.gold @kymberly_marciano @sjmeyer02 @misssaraell @christine_chiu88 @malibukitty @maryamlieberman @carolinestyne @deena_katz @jenniferflavinstallone @lynnieone @hirshybar @cathymoretti #suenagel @mysharonarealestate @thestacykaiser @samflavor @woodte @trishajcardoso @kellystyne @carolannleif @viveca_paulin
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This story first appeared in the June 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.