Mark Marrone thinks he has a better idea--in fact a perfect, Los Angeles kind of idea. About Christmas trees, of all things.
Marrone, a transplanted New York actor, figures that many Angelenos have too much to do over the holidays--sitting in traffic and shopping, mainly--to bother with selecting, buying and hauling an evergreen to their hearths. Or maybe they're just lazy. . . .
Whatever the reason, Marrone is happy to take the chore off people's hands by delivering right to the doorstep of most homes in greater Los Angeles a Yule tree handpicked by Marrone from his stock of Oregon noble firs and other species.
Marrone, who works with brother-in-law Jason Dodge, started the venture last year, dubbing it Treetop Farms although he doesn't grow a single tree himself. "It made us sound big," he said. He sold 110 trees. Now his slogan is "Treetop Farms, the Lot That Comes to You."
This year, with advertising, fliers and a radio promotion, Marrone, who also works as a carpenter between acting stints, said he hopes to sell 2,000 trees, mostly to people in the entertainment industry. He has hired a staff of eight drivers and set up a toll-free telephone number--(800) 543-3336--to handle expected demand. His trees are seven to eight feet tall and prices range mainly from $35 to $59.
If the idea clicks, Marrone says he might expand the business to other cities. Eventually, the business might help him go from small parts to a starring role--if only in his own advertisements.
Honoring a Big, Happy Family With Heart to Spare
Torrance Municipal Court Judge Ben Aranda and his wife, Emma, first envisioned a family with three children. But, Aranda said, "little by little, they just kept coming along," and their household came to consist of the Arandas and seven natural children, now aged 10 to 21.
But that wasn't enough for the couple. After seeing a television program on handicapped children in need of adoption, they decided the household could stand still more expansion. Eventually, four handicapped youngsters, now ranging in age from 7 to 11, were added.
Last Tuesday, the Arandas were honored by the adoptions division of the Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services, an event held in conjunction with National Adoptions Week.
The family had previously won several other awards for its work on behalf of adoption causes. Reflecting on the honors, Aranda said: "We're really proud and kind of humble about it."
Wini Jackson, a community affairs officer for the county agency, said the Arandas "really have a Thanksgiving message." Their example, she said, may help make it easier to find adoptive homes for handicapped youngsters who are called "special needs" children in social work parlance.
"The Arandas are the perfect example of the kind of family we are seeking for available children," Jackson said, "one with enough love and understanding to open their hearts and homes to just one more life."
Salute to a Parent of Watts
"Sweet Alice" Harris began promoting self-esteem about 20 years before it became a New Age buzzword and an official California Commission.
Her approach has always been pragmatic. The Parents of Watts Center she created provides teen-agers with job training, substance abuse counseling, and gang mediation, and young or impoverished parents can turn to the center for prenatal care, child abuse counseling and health seminars among other services.
Education is key to Harris' philosophy and part of Parents of Watts' mission has been to help the disadvantaged get through school. Through Harris' efforts, for instance, 40 inner-city teen-agers received free tuition and room and board at Morristown Junior College in Tennessee two years ago. Thirty-eight of them completed their degrees and are continuing their education at other colleges.
In recognition of these efforts, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, a Sausalito-based nonprofit foundation, this month awarded Harris its Temple Award for "creative altruism," including a $25,000 award she'll share with three other recipients.