Every Day Action Celebrity Gala

The real stars of the night turned out to be hope and generosity.

Monarch was honored to partner in The Recycle Ball Celebrity Fundraiser – a sold-out gala as elegant and heartfelt as it was unpredictable. A silent auction kept some of the money-making mysterious… while the live auction, vibrantly hosted by Chris Hanke and The Bidding Group, blew the roof off – complete with a puppet guest appearance by Gobo Fraggle. The evening also featured Tony award-winning actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Take Me Out, Modern Family) presenting the inaugural Heart of Humanity Award to his fellow Broadway actor, Cheyenne Jackson (Finian’s Rainbow, Into the Woods). By the end of the affair, over $150,000 was raised for Every Day Action, a vital and ever-evolving charity that feeds those in need in the Los Angeles area. Their mission is beautiful and we’re proud to showcase it right here.

The Origin of a Movement

Every Day Action is the brainchild of Hillary Cohen, an adept Assistant Director who has brought her unique set of skills to the sets of beloved television shows ranging from Mad Men to NCIS: Los Angeles, where she met EDA’s other founder, Samantha Luu. As they navigated the entertainment industry, the amount of unused gourmet food left over on set glared at them both, “The money spent was at a level I had never seen before – and so was the waste.” Instead of ignoring it, Hillary and Samantha recognized the potential and were compelled to act.

They began personally, bringing their own food to unhoused individuals sometimes right outside the basecamps of the shows they were working on. Whenever they asked higher-ups about making a more concentrated effort, the response was repetitive and disappointing, “We were told for years that it was illegal for us to give all our leftover food from catering to the unhoused. I was heartbroken.” But neither even thought about giving up…

… instead, they dove into the true legalities of the question – and were thrilled to discover California’s Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which blasted away that lie they heard so many times. It wasn’t illegal for a set’s food to be donated in an organized way – it just needed someone to actually do the organizing. 

And so, Every Day Action was born.

Photo Credit: Robb Rosenfeld

Diving In Four Feet First

Hillary and Samantha cherish every success they’ve had along the way… but also remember the growing pains that began on their first night of service, “We headed out to the tents at 2am with so much food, thinking we were champions… but, of course, everyone was sleeping! And we didn’t have anywhere near enough for them all.” 

It became clear on their maiden voyage that the journey was even harder than they had anticipated. The ability to refrigerate all of the donated food – overnight – was going to be a necessity – but where? And how were they going to get enough food? And deliver it wide enough? Barret Foa, EDA Founding Board Member, admitted from the Recycle Ball podium that bringing that much food to the unhoused often feels like a “Sisyphean task” – rolling a boulder up a mountain of hunger never ends…

… but he then went on to cut through that pessimistic image, proudly stating that Every Day Action’s answer is always, “We’ll be back tomorrow.” 

Hillary and Samantha were that undaunted even in the early days, always creating fresh and inventive new ways to build both supply and the team.

Photo Credit: Robb Rosenfeld

The Action Team Grows

One visionary idea Samantha and Hillary had for growth involved hiring and empowering another demographic in need – Production Assistants and background performers that needed employment between shows. They created their Film Industry Driver Program to “address wage disparity in the entertainment business.” An army of loyal volunteers also help when they can, including Hygiene Kit Build Days and an annual Thanksgiving event that once crowded Cohen’s own kitchen with a thousand meals (the following year they partnered with On Kitchens to serve even more – passing out turkey right on skid row).

As the team of “reallocators” grew, so did their list of donators. Hillary is exhilarated to talk about shows that help them turn the tide, “Over the course of their third season, ABC’s Abbott Elementary saved over 1,267 pounds of leftover gourmet catered food from landfills and instead donated it to EDA’s efforts. We’ve been asked to expand ever since people started to realize we are an active part of making real change.”

Photo Credit: Robb Rosenfeld

Allies In Aid

As their supply increased, their reach was able to as well. That meant that, while they still serve the unhoused directly, they also rely on many established brick-and-mortar non-profit locations to help refrigerate and allocate the donated food as best they can. This includes incredible locations like ROCERA, Youth Emerging Stronger, and the Hollywood Food Coalition

Organizations like those have helped Every Day Action rescue over 60,000 meals a year, averaging up to 5,000 a week. They cover the entirety of Los Angeles County, from San Pedro to charities like Bridge To Home in Santa Clarita. Their meals feed lower income housing at the two facilities of the Entertainment Community Fund, the LGBTQ community at The Center, and even a network of LA Community Fridges set up for all to “take what you need, leave what you can.” In keeping with their pledge to leave as small a footprint as possible, every meal is delivered in eco-packaging from World Centric – who is also a sponsor, only charging for the shipping of all packages needed.

Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson

A Night with Many Meals to Celebrate

Every Day Action find every day’s way to help… but they also know how to party the night away as well. The glamourous Art Deco Intercrew LA Restaurant was the location for this year’s “Recycle Ball” – the second-ever annual fundraiser to keep EDA funded and evolving.

The previous year’s casino night was already a massive success, so EDA wanted to climb even higher. Hosted with infectious energy by the vivacious Cassandra Freeman (Bel-Air), the night was a star-studded affair with  Monarch there for the pouring – making sure the live auction stayed bubbly with a selection of glow-labelled Devant Champagne, as well as both Chardonnay and Rosé from Generational Wealth

All aspects of the stellar evening were in keeping with Every Day Action’s commitment to waste nothing. Any unused food went to those in need. Whatever couldn’t be donated was composted by Eco Set. Guests were asked not to buy any new clothes for the event, to instead use that money for the good of the cause. Hillary’s own dress, in fact, was designed from materials from the previous year’s Step and Repeat red carpet. Everything about the gala was with a heart for those in need, capped by a beautiful singalong with Olly Sholotan (Bel Air).

Photo Credit: Robb Rosenfeld

It was especially heartwarming to have a strong presence from Broadway Cares during the evening, since they were the first organization to ever financially support Every Day Action. Thankfully, they were the first of many – among the night’s many sponsors was WBTV, World Centric, The Foa Family, Daniela Ruah New Belgium, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and AMC Networks. Auction items included donations from PS at LAX and Tipi Bed and was also sponsored by R. Scott Gemmill, showrunner of NCIS: Los Angeles… the set where Hillary and Samantha met back when Every Day Action was born. It’s come a long way since then – two women’s shared dream made powerful reality.

Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson

Into the Future of Giving

The Recycle Ball was a roaring success – and $150,000 will go a long way to keep Every Day Action functioning at its current power – but Hillary and Samantha are always looking for new ways for their work to broaden its scope, “We’re never doing as much as we want, but we’re working on it.” 

They both have a vision of more vans – even a food truck – and, someday, a brick-and-mortar location for Every Day Action to call its own. Monarch will always be proud to sponsor such a brilliant and needed organization. Judging by the philanthropic power partying at this year’s event, they’re going to have many eager hands on deck to make sure Every Day Action has everything it needs to do its good work… every day. 

For Kevin, being a writer has always required a great deal of wine. He never dreamed he’d be able to combine his love for the two. His screenwriting includes works for Paramount, MTV, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Bad Robot, and his role as Executive Story Editor on “Blood & Treasure,” an action adventure show on CBS and Amazon. Before that, his thirst for sketch comedy led to pieces for The Onion and National Lampoon – as well as the stages of UCB, HBO Workspace, Comedy Central Stage and festivals in San Francisco, NYC, Vancouver and beyond. He’s a write-at-home dad always ready for a winery road trip… especially a dog-friendly one.