August 09, 2012
By Ashley Nash
LAWT Contributing Writer
Greeting me with a bright smile, Ms. Deborah Bell Holt welcomed me into the Love & Respect Youth Foundation. Filled with toys of every kid’s dream, we walked in and over to her desk, nestling the corner of a wall filled with accolades. When asked how it all started she responded, “Growing up our house was always the house that everyone came to...and it still is! I guess that’s where my inspiration came from...” About 22 years ago, Ms. Deborah was living down the street from her alma mater, Crenshaw High School. According to her description, students would stumble across her lawn, high and drunk, on their way to school. “It was so frustrating,” she stated. Fed up with their behavior, she would lovingly invite them into her home, sober them up, and hit them...with a good ol’ lecture.
Sending them on their way, “those kids knew that I cared,” she explained. As a result, she became known as ‘mom’ to many of the students frequenting her neighborhood. She noticed over time that less and less of the students passing her residence were intoxicated. Two of the kids, she remembered distinctly; always coming by to visit before and after their mischief. With a loving heart and respectful tone, she always gave her best advice. Soon after, she and her family moved to Inglewood. One hot summer’s day, she was surprised by two responsible men she once knew to be extremely, lost boys. “I figured if I can save two, then I could get some more.”
The impressions exchanged between Ms. Holt and the lost boys-turned-marines sparked what she detailed as ‘a mad rush’, initiating different efforts of assistance for surrounding youth. It was when an old friend shared with her that she had ‘a ministry of helps’ that she was most certain the purpose of her mission. From leaving Crenshaw High School completing almost four majors, gaining skills and culminating from Bryman — all within the very same day — to taking classes at Trade Tech, UCLA and working with esteemed physicians, Ms. Holt took all the steps necessary to guarantee that her community would be respected and loved.
Formed in 1997, the Love & Respect Youth Foundation has continued to 'assist and aid infants, children, youth and their families in all aspects of their life, in accordance with the summary included in their pamphlet. Over the years, the Love & Respect Youth Foundation has joined the toy loan program serving as the oldest toy loan center of those developed by the probation department, offered classes for parents (by the book but with elements of reality, she added) as well as provided 1000+ kids with Christmas gifts annually. With the help of Diane Watson, Church of Venice, stuffed animal shipments from Anchorage, Alaska, and most immediately, from her cherished assistants Mr. Franklin and Mr. Mitchell, Ms. Holt and the Love & Respect Youth Foundation have created endless positive memories and examples for the youth and parents of her community.
Awards of which she is most proud are from Sherriff Lee Baca, the Los Angeles Business Journal and more. However, her success does not stop here. Ms. Deborah Holt is the oldest of three siblings, happily married with 17 kids and 38 grandchildren. While six of her children are adopted, she reminds them that although she may not be their mother from the womb, she’s their mother from the heart. Her goals of spreading love and respect are also demonstrated in her burning desire to better service the community by understanding the dynamic...and learning Spanish. “Our community is multicultural and I want to communicate with and help everyone.”
The list of impactful goals don’t stop here. With an infectious chuckle, she began naming off all of the things she aspires to do and very soon. “Just as I think I have reached my goal, another door opens up and shows me something else to tackle,” she professed. Hoping to relocate soon in efforts to provide more services, Ms. Holt wants to establish a boot camp that encourages productivity amongst youth instead of punishment. In addition, she wants to remind parents that while they should not have friendly relationships with their children, listening does need to occur...on both ends.
Congruently, she asks that community comes to visit, share ideas, and help in making a difference. “This is just as much their center as it is mine. They have so much talent as storytellers and artists...my door is open.” With much appreciation, Ms. Holt also acknowledged the help of Bernard Parks as well as Mike Davis, sources among others from which she hopes to continue receiving funding/donations so that she can remain of help to the people around her. “I’ve made a promise to be a miracle worker.” And Ms. Holt’s accomplishments are plenty proof of just that! Having the pleasure to share time with such a beautiful spirit, and on her birthday, I saw firsthand the love and respect she has for her community, all of her children, family, assistants, you name it! What a blessing!
The Love & Respect Youth Foundation is located at 4728 S. Western Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90062. For more information visit www.lryouth.com or call 323-731-3437.