Jacaranda Housing Seeks to Shelter Young Women

Jacaranda Housing board members Charlene Allen, Patricia Priore, Luis Curet, Ali Bodager and Theresa Ayers welcome supporters to last week’s jazz brunch fundraiser.

First published in the Jan. 28 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

(Photos by David Laurell / Burbank Leader)

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This past Saturday, while it was still cold by late morning, inside All Souls Auditorium, the chicken and waffles were hot, the jazz was cool and the vibe was warm and welcoming as Ali Bodager, the executive director of the Burbank-based Jacaranda Housing, and her board of directors hosted a jazz brunch fundraiser.
Greeted by volunteers from the Burbank Area Chapter of National Charity League, guests were bestowed with bubbly mimosa cocktails by special supporters Executive Vice President and General Manager of Universal Studios Hollywood Scott Strobl and his wife, Krysti, before perusing an eclectic silent auction.
Jacaranda Housing, the brainchild of Bodager, was created with the vision to provide young women who have either aged out of the foster system or are living unhoused to participate in a residential program that will offer them safe housing, mentors and life skills classes.
Between welcoming guests and working the room, Bodager, sporting a tattoo of a blooming jacaranda tree on her forearm, said she got the idea for Jacaranda Housing back in 2010 while working at an after-school program in the skid row area of downtown Los Angeles.
“I saw countless young people age out of foster programs and left without any direction for making their way in the world,” said Bodager. “I had a passion to help these young adults who were left to their own devices to figure out life. I wanted to help them before they became homeless.”
Bodager said she chose the name Jacaranda because she has always loved jacaranda trees.
“They bloom in early spring, so they are a symbol of new life,” she explained. “They represent rejuvenation, rehabilitation and reincarnation — a change of circumstances and outcomes. I especially love the ones that are less than perfect — the ones with limbs that are twisted in various ways.”
More than 50,000 kids are in the California foster system and the state cuts all government assistance when they turn 21, leaving them lacking the tools and means to get on their feet, Bodager said.
During the pandemic, Bodager began to research and plan out the best way to bring her concept of a way to help these young people to fruition. That came to be last November when she signed a lease on a home in Burbank.
Once open, the organization will offer a two-year individualized program for up to six women between the ages of 18 and 24, who will live in the home, learn essential life skills, receive assistance obtaining a job or going back to school, and be provided with mentors and therapy.
Bodager’s hope is that by offering a safe place to live and classes that will include resume building, interviewing skills, financial budgeting, cooking, cleaning and self-defense, the participants will be able to leave the program with a full-time job, six months of savings and the skills to give them the confidence to go out into the world knowing how to truly thrive and not just survive.
Last week’s fundraiser, the first of many the organization has planned, was hosted by comedian and entertainment producer Troy Rawlings. As for the main event, guests were treated to an incredible performance by the Grammy-nominated producer, composer, arranger, musician and UCLA instructor Herman Jackson.
Jackson, who has toured and recorded with some of the biggest names in music including Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, The Temptations and George Benson, has arranged and conducted for numerous prestigious symphony orchestras. He has worked as a musician and arranger for “The Tonight Show,” “American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent” and “The American Music Awards.” Herman also served as the music director of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 papal mass at Yankee Stadium, has played at the White House for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and accompanied Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson when they performed during Super Bowl XLVII at Louisiana’s Superdome in 2013.
For last week’s performance, Jackson was joined by a trio of prestigious musicians composed of Del Atkins on bass, Laroi Larkin on drums and award-winning trumpeter Tatiana Tate.
With the help of her board members — Luis Curet, Charlene Allen, Chanel Williams, Patricia Priore and Theresa Ayers — Bodager hopes to achieve their goal of raising the $300,000 they will need to have Jacaranda Housing’s doors open by late spring.
Along with financial donations, the nonprofit group is also looking for volunteers to help teach or assist with their life skills classes. For more information, visit jacarandahousing.org.or email Bodager at jacarandahousing@gmail.com.

DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.