LOS ANGELES — Heart of Los Angeles student, Jose Arana, began playing the flute when he was in fifth grade, and continues to practice daily, but his private lessons have now gone virtual.
"I feel way better about it than I did a couple of months ago,” said Arana.
He started with the Heart of Los Angeles, or HOLA, in elementary school. He is one of 2,100 students that the non-profit serves annually.
HOLA aims to give underserved kids an equal chance to succeed through free after school programs in academics, the arts, athletics, and wellness. It was the community HOLA provided that nurtured Arana’s love for the flute.
"I really see myself in a professional orchestra in the future, or as a soloist", said Arana.
Throughout HOLA's 31-year history, they've given opportunities to kids and families to help achieve their full potential.
Traditionally, many families struggle through the effects of poverty in the Westlake area, but with the advent of COVID-19, HOLA's CEO Tony Brown saw those needs intensify.
"We had the highest rate of COVID deaths. We had the highest rate of COVID cases. We had a lot of job loss amongst our families, so it was really challenging", said Brown.
They pivoted their classes online and provided students technology, and a weekly food distribution. Like many non-profits, the pandemic forced HOLA to cancel its yearly gala, leaving them with a half-million-dollar deficit.
"Imagine what $500,000 could do. Imagine how many kids it would serve, how much food it could put on the table. We were seeking ways to recapture some of that lost revenue,” said Brown.
Then a lifeline came to HOLA from father, daughter duo Richard and Demi Weitz.
They created Quarantunes, a series of virtual fundraising concerts with some serious star power, each one benefiting a different charity during COVID.
Since the pandemic, they've raised almost $10 million for 25 charities both nationally and locally.
"HOLA with the extracurricular activities that they provide, is truly a spot that helps these kids turn into who they are and help them go on a better path and a better trajectory with their life,” said Demi Weitz.
A Quarantunes for HOLA brought in $470,000. It’s an amount CEO Tony Brown was ecstatic to learn while attending the virtual concert.
"Look what we've done, for the kids in that community, it's unbelievable. It's exactly what our hearts needed. It's what our community needed," said Brown.
The funds raised will ensure HOLA's mission continues in helping students like Jose succeed in their programs, and live his dream of playing music.
"I'm grateful that I've never quit, the flute. I'm very grateful for that because I don't know what I would be doing without it," said Arana.
HOLA continues to provide a fun and safe space where every kid have an equal chance to succeed.