"Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."
- Mark Twain
Fourteen years ago Melissa Beyeler was a single mother with an eight-year-old daughter. Her first marriage was to an abusive man who not only physically abused her, but mentally and emotionally. The last incident resulted in a broken arm, nose and worst of all, the loss of her spirit. She knew she had to leave this volatile situation, if not for herself, then for her daughter. With family, friends and helpers, she gained the strength to move away and build a new life.
That first holiday season, Melissa and her friends bought and delivered toys to a local hospital. It just felt right. The following year she placed cards on her Christmas tree with the names of abused mothers and children. She and friends each picked a card and adopted a family to buy and deliver gifts to brighten their holiday season. "We live in a town where there are no glamorous dinners or parties for abused women and children," states Beyeler "People look the other way when faced with physical abuse." This would later be her inspiration in starting the Friends and Helpers Foundation.
Today she feels so fortunate to be married ten years to morning celebrity DJ Kevin from the famous KROQ Kevin and Bean show. He has helped her feel safe and protected. She goes to bed at night feeling secure and wakes up in the morning without fear.
"Abuse is really about having no self-esteem. Once your self-esteem is taken from you, you have nothing left. You can't choose if someone offers you something blue or something green, because there may be consequences," said Beyeler. Statistics show that we all know someone involved with some form of domestic violence. It's an unpleasant subject and many victims remain silent. Melissa still suffers from post-traumatic stress. Her outward appearance is that of a young mother of a college graduate and twin girls in first grade. She appears to have it all together, but will tell you she is still struggling with her past daily.
Kevin and Melissa started the Friends and Helpers Foundation to educate children and communities that no matter how rich or poor, your skin color or religion, there is always a way to help those in need. "We help good people in unfortunate situations. Many are in counseling and educational programs to reclaim their lives," explains Beyeler. "These people need a little TLC to give them faith that there are good people out there who care."
On December 5th, 2004 they celebrated their 12th Annual Holiday Gift Giving party at their home. The entire community was invited to this festive gathering. Large white tents protected tables filled with toys, toiletries, wrapping paper and stockings dry from the rain. Hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecued chicken satisfied hungry friends and helpers volunteers as they grabbed a plate and sat with friends. A line formed when Melissa's best friend and fellow board member, Cindy Ufkes brought out her famous fudge and cookies. "We encourage everyone to join us. Those unable to donate money or adopt a family are encouraged to wrap presents, address gift tags, stuff stockings, and lift boxes onto trucks for delivery to over 30 charities and over 5000 people across Southern California" said Beyeler.
An anonymous television star underwrites their gift certificate program for 140 needy families to receive Ralph's grocery store, McDonalds, Domino's Pizza, and Baskin Robbins gift certificates for the holidays.
Each year, Melissa invites local Brownie troops to adopt a family. She gives the troops a "wish list" from an underprivileged family. Troop Leaders give each girl a family member to shop for and then bring the gift to the holiday party to wrap the presents, make cards, eat lunch and play. The message they learn is that not everyone is as fortunate in life. Seven Brownie troops and over 450 people participated. 900 stockings were filled with toys, sweets and gift certificates. Over 400 bags were stuffed with Avon products and cosmetics, toothbrushes, perfume, and deodorant for mothers to receive.
The Friends and Helpers foundation uses 100% of the money raised to those in need. Some charities give as little as 5% of the money and spend up to 95% on fundraising, salaries and overhead. Kevin and Melissa personally cover all fixed costs for Friends and Helpers. Corporate sponsors such as Disney, KROQ and Nestle have been extremely generous. KROQ promotes a Kevin and Bean charity CD annually and a portion of the proceeds is donated to Friends & Helpers.
In Northern California, Melissa's sister Jodi prepared for her 2nd annual California Friends & Helpers North Foundation holiday party. She went to several battered women centers and discovered a great need for help during the holidays. Many of these women flee with their children from abusive relationships with just the clothes on their backs. The Friends and Helpers Foundation helps them rebuild their lives by providing families with the basic necessities to survive.
As they are wrap up their holiday giving drive, the Friends and Helpers Foundation is hard at work looking for help from new corporations and volunteers on their Easter baskets, Mother's Day and Back-to-School programs. Recently, they adopted the Burbank Community Day School providing backpacks filled with school supplies for 80 foster-care children. The smiles on these kid's faces when they get these backpacks, inspires the Friends and Helpers Foundation to grow and sponsor others in need.
Melissa's goal is for the Friends and Helpers Foundation to help families nationwide. If you want to help those who have little hope and get involved in this year-round organization, check out their website.
Near the end of February, the Friends and Helpers Foundation will hold an auction on e-Bay. Available items will include a Tony Hawke signed skateboards, signed guitars from Green Day, U2 iPod, rock and roll memorabilia, an internship with Mark Burnett from Survivor, a day on the Jimmy Kimmel show and a private dinner at Disney's own private Club 33. For more information, e-mail Melissa at Mbeyeler@mindspring.com.