Friends of the Palisades Library Hosts the Inaugural Palisades Reads Event, Featuring a Panel Discussion

Members of the panel at the Palisades Reads event were (left to right) Rachel Stich, Marlene and Michael Rapkin, Susan Whitmore, Doug McCormick and moderator Laura Diamond.


Circling the News Contributor

The Friends of Pacific Palisades Branch Library hosted the first of a two-part community program, Palisades Reads, on October 23.

The panel discussion was designed to start readers considering the question, “Save One Life, Save the World?” About 40 residents attended the discussion that was moderated by local author Laura Nicole Diamond.

The Friends chose a contemporary novel for this year’s community read, Shelter Us (She Writes Press, 2015). Authored by Diamond, a civil rights attorney who grew up in this community, the narrative is set in Pacific Palisades. It tells the story of a mother nearly paralyzed by a deep loss, who is jolted to action by the suffering of another. Compassion awakens her, but does she possess the courage to act and save that person’s life?

The overall theme of the evening was “What compels a person to step outside of their comfort zone to help a stranger?”

The panel of five represented three non-profit groups, the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH), griefHaven, and Safe Place for Youth. The participants offered personal responses to the question posed by the book.

Diamond called first on Doug McCormick, president of the PPTFH (Visit: and asked how he became involved in the organization.

He, as did the others, spoke of the unexpectedness of the call to help. Then, the power of knowing he could supply at least part of the answer led him to join a small organizing committee on homelessness in 2014.

Susan Whitmore, who founded griefHaven (visit: after the loss of her daughter Erika, told the audience “the pain of knowing that I lost my child forever and the reality of living a life when my child had died” was unbearable. “I was in bed one night and couldn’t sleep and was crying, when something shifted in me. “I have to do something about this.” There was the realization she was not alone: there were others as desperate for help as she.

Marlene and Michael Rapkin, who are parents of adult children, recently welcomed two young clients of the homeless center Safe Place for Youth into their home for a four-month Host Home stay. (Visit:

About 6,000 homeless youth are on the streets of Los Angeles County: about 60 percent were kicked out by a parent or caregiver; 17 percent were runaways from physical or sexual abuse, and 23 percent had aged out of the foster-care program.

Rachel Stich from SPY described the two-year-old program, which matches volunteer hosts with homeless youth for short-term stays of three to six months. The program works with young adults, 18-25, who are pursuing academic and employment goals, enrolled in Rapid Re-Housing or equipped with a Section 8 voucher, and who are need of bridge housing. She said there are currently seven SPY clients in local homes, living with families as they complete studies for a degree or start a job.

The audience received a program with a description and contact information for four additional Palisades non-profits: Ama-LA (visit:; A Window Between Worlds (visit:; Families Give Back (visit: and Palisades Cares (visit:

During the question period, one audience member observed that for 60 percent of the social ills we suffer, including homelessness, government is not the answer. That endorsement of the efforts, but implied frustration at the lack of permanent solutions from philanthropies, sounded like the kernel of a future discussion in the series.

Diamond distributed copies of her book, “Shelter Us,” to attendees who donated to the nonprofits at the meeting.

If you’d like to read more about the event, from Diamond’s point of view, visit:

All residents are invited to read the novel and attend the inaugural Community Book Club on November 13, 6:30 to 8 p.m., in the Palisades Library community room, 861 Alma Real.

Locally, the book can be found at Collections at 15326 Antioch. (Visit:

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