By Shirley Hawkins
LADERA HEIGHTS — The eyes of several young people were brimming with excitement April 10 when they gathered at Ladera Park to receive donated laptop computers that were being distributed by the nonprofit Point of Love Foundation.
The need for laptops is especially crucial in communities where many minority households lack access to computers, leaving students struggling to complete their homework.
“Because of the pandemic, individuals in a lot of communities are faced with virtual learning challenges because they just don’t have access to their own laptops,” said Somalie Inez, the founder and president of the Point of Love, which also offers an array of services to further assist the community.
Students in need of laptops applied for the giveaway through Point of Love’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts. They then signed up on the Point of Love Foundation website to receive one of the 36 refurbished computers.
Point of Love partnered with Elevated Life Solutions, founded by Rama Arya, who donated the laptops.
At the sign-in table, volunteer E. J. Lewis, who is the volunteer coordinator for Point of Love Foundation, was busy signing in attendees.
“I check to see if they meet all eligibility requirements and then ask who the laptop is going to,” Lewis said, as other volunteers handed out the laptops enclosed in colorful red, green and orange reusable tote bags. “We also tell them that our volunteers offer free technical support if they should need help with operating their laptops.”
Lauren Samoth, a board member, added that she had long been impressed by Inez’s mission to help those in need. “I’ve helped Somalie for seven years and what she is trying to do with the Point of Love Foundation really touched my heart,” she said.
Twelve-year-old Aliyah Powell, a student at Emma W. Shuey Elementary School in Rosemead, proudly clutched her laptop.
“I feel happy because I really needed one for school,” said Powell, who received a Lenovo computer. “It’s been kind of hard doing my homework because I’ve had to borrow the school’s laptop to do my online learning.”
Cheyenne Thomas, a 10th grader who attends Fremont High School in South Los Angeles, tightly held onto her Dell computer.
“I am very thankful to get this laptop because I really needed one,” she said. “My old computer would sometimes delete all of my homework.”
Chandra Archer, a grandmother whose 11-year-old grandson, Travion Abrams, attends Kipp Opportunity School, excitedly clutched her Lenovo laptop.
“He doesn’t even know he’s going to get a computer,” she said happily. “I’m going to surprise him.”
Kayann Phipps, a Point of Love board member, had flown in from New York to attend the event.
“Somalie was my Arabic teacher,” said Phipps, who is the director of Point of Love Foundation’s Children’s Services, which distributed homemade cookies to feed the crowd.
Phipps, who works with Children and Family Services in New York, said simply, “I felt Somalie was doing something worthwhile and I wanted to help her give back.”
The event was Point of Love’s second laptop giveaway.
“This effort is ongoing and we will continue to donate laptops in the future,” Inez said.
The nonprofit founder, who is the mother of three who also operates travel and entertainment agencies, said it had been her longtime dream to start a nonprofit to help people. She added that Point of Love also offers programs that provide help for victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse and domestic violence.
“We also are going to be starting a community garden to help children have an understanding of how to grow their own fruits and vegetables,” she said. “We are looking for donations to purchase seeds and soil to get this project off the ground.”
Inez added that Point of Love is working to acquire housing for the homeless and to help veterans who have not received their benefits.
“We also are creating re-entry programs for the formerly incarcerated to provide job placement, training and mentorship for leadership development,” Phipps added.
Point of Love is also reaching out to teenagers who are transitioning out of foster care.
“We give them laptops, teach them about financial literacy and financial credit, and help them to create a resume,” Inez said.
Point of Love also hosts food giveaways, helps to distribute rescue dogs, and is planning to give flowers away to the elderly and people with special needs.
With the pandemic hitting everyone hard, Inez offers services to help people cope with the current crisis.
“We also offer seminars to our participants in how to neutralize their stress levels as well as instruction in Kundalini yoga and meditation,” she said.
Inez said she had conquered many personal hurdles. A survivor of domestic violence and sexual abuse, the nonprofit founder is intent on helping other women who are facing similar crises. The single mother of three also is busy raising a special needs child and wants to reach other parents who are doing the same.
Inez said she has always had a soft spot in her heart for helping the less fortunate.
“People say the world is broken,” she said. “But the world is not broken, it’s the people in the world that have been broken. With love, compassion and kindness, people can be healed and then the world will be a better place.”
The Point of Love Foundation can be reached online at www.pointoflove.org or infopointoflove @gmail.com.