Inside MEND

In Pursuit of a Dream

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Profile: Andrea Bañuelos Mota

This MEND volunteer-turned-employee begins medical school at USC

By Nicole Gregory

When Andrea Bañuelos Mota was five years old and had to get stitches for a cut in her hand, the nurse urged her to not look. But, Andrea remembers, “I wasn’t afraid.” In fact she wanted to watch the procedure—an early indication of her interest in medicine.

Today she will matriculate to USC’s Keck School of Medicine with a full scholarship.

Andrea is a San Fernando Valley native — she graduated from Polytechnic High School and attended UC Berkeley, from which she graduated in 2008. Working with MEND, first as a volunteer, then as an employee in health services, fueled her desire to become a doctor.

From volunteer to employee

Andrea is the first in her family to graduate from college. Her father, who passed away two years ago, was a gardener; her mother cleans houses. Neither parent finished grade school in their native Mexico.

Andrea knew about MEND and appreciated its mission. “I really liked the focus,” she says, “to meet the needs of the community, and doing it with dignity. Coming from this community, I have experienced the polar ends — my family treated well and in a sub-par fashion. I know how that feels. MEND treats all clients and patients well, regardless of their circumstances.”

When she moved back to Los Angeles after college, Andrea signed up to volunteer in the health services department.

Then a paid position opened up — Medical Clinical Assistant Manager — and Andrea immediately applied. She remained in that position for 5½ years, where she worked directly with patients, providing care to people with little money.

“The families who come to MEND for health services, they’d have nowhere else to go. For me that’s huge,” she says.

Offering and receiving support

If there is a theme to Andrea’s journey, it’s a desire to help others. “It came from my parents,” she explains. “They always instilled in me to lend a helping hand, that we have to support each other. To make it in this country as immigrants, you need support and to be supportive of others.”

Applying to college and then meeting the academic demands of UC Berkeley were not easy, but Andrea sought out people who could guide her. “It was a huge growth experience,” she says. “I was able to meet great mentors, and great peers with the same background as mine.”

Andrea completed research at Cal State Northridge, UC Irvine and UCLA before applying to medical schools — again seeking out people who could help her navigate that complex process. “Getting into med school is not a one-person job,” she says. She was accepted at nine schools, and chose USC.

Clear goals for the future

Andrea lives with her husband and mother in San Fernando Valley, but plans to live on the USC campus for her first year, coming home on weekends. Her mother and husband are completely supportive.

Her long-term goals? “I want to help prevent disease and complications from disease,” she says. “I want to get involved with health policy implementation, making our system as efficient as possible.” She also wants to be an academic mentor, and already mentors a teenager at MEND, helping her with college applications — the girl hopes to be a doctor.

Forging ahead, according to Andrea, depends on three parts: “Support, education and access to resources,” she says. Looking back on her journey, she adds: “I realized I reached out a lot. And that helped.”

A Video Visit with Lenchita’s

The GMP Team at Lenchita's

Last month the Greatest MEND Podcast team expanded beyond their usual audio podcast into video production. For their video debut, the team filmed a visit with Lenchita’s, a family-run restaurant nestled in the heart of Pacoima.

GMP’s roving reporters of Pacoima consist of Daniela, Angelica, Victoria, and Estuardo, also known as D.A.V.E. They were assisted by cameraman Laz Meiman and producer and mentor Betsy Foldes Meiman. They offer thanks to Norma Benitez for setting up the interview, and to Lenchita’s Alvina and Firenzia for a fun afternoon and wonderful food.

Asking Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) All the Wrong Questions


Earlier this year, the Greatest MEND Podcast team had the opportunity to ask fish killer and author Daniel Handler—aka Lemony Snicket—All the Wrong Questions. Between swimming in the San Francisco Bay and making beet soup, he spoke on the telephone with GMP team members Daniela Catalan, Angie Benitez, Victoria Benitez, and Estuardo Rodas—aka D.A.V.E.

Though Mr. Handler is a wanted man, he found time to discuss cutting off little bits of people’s personalities, bullying versus being bullied, and cryptozoology. He also fielded questions about his many books, including “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “All the Wrong Questions.”

Mr. Handler lives in San Francisco with his 12-year-old son, Otto, who may or may not be a father, and his wife, artist Lisa Brown. Learn more about him on his website, All the Wrong Questions. It’s fun!  Even if you think you know his work already, Google him! Mysterious! Shadowy! Delightful!

Daniela Catalan hosts.

Photo by Michael Huang

Shine Like the Stars at MEND’s 7th Annual Academy Awards Gala


Is watching the Academy Awards at home a little too dull for you? Are you looking for a way to help support MEND, the 2012 California’s nonprofit of the year? Then do both by joining us at a very special celebration of the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony at MEND’s 7th Annual Gala of Glitz, Glamour & Giving.

On Sunday, February 26, 2017, you are invited to take part with other MEND supporters in a special viewing of the ABC 7 broadcast of the Academy Awards at the Globe Theatre at Universal Studios Hollywood. Proceeds from the event benefit MEND, which at last year’s viewing party raised over $300,000.

Carrie Jones (Right) and MEND Co-Founders , Ed and Carolyn Rose

Carrie Jones (Right) and MEND Co-Founders , Ed and Carolyn Rose

As MEND’s guest, you’ll have a chance to experience the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as you and your guests walk the red carpet into the beautiful Globe Theatre. Once inside, you’ll be able to cast your own awards ballot, enjoy spectacular hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, take part in live and silent auctions, and dine with friends while watching the awards ceremony on giant screens surrounding the ballroom.

MEND’s annual awards viewing event drew over 450 attendees from near and far in 2016. As photographs from last year’s event attest, it was a memorable night for those who attended. Tickets are expected to sell out fast for this month’s gala. Ready to buy your tickets? Purchase online now.

Sponsors: Contact Nene Ogbechie at (818) 686-7335 or to learn about exciting sponsorship opportunities.

MEND’S 7th Annual Academy Awards Gala is made possible by the following generous sponsors:





Thanksgiving Podcast: Bird Is the Word


In this holiday edition of the Greatest MEND Podcast, the newest member of the GMP team, Estuardo Rodas, tries out his hosting chops! Angie Bee, AKA Benitez the Elder, clues us in as to why the Plymouth settlement succeeded and the Jamestown settlement failed, even though Jamestown had climate on their side. Daniela Catalan reveals the unknown Squanto. Victoria Benitez (“the younger”) may make your tummy rumble in Thanksgiving anticipation. And Estuardo uncovers the Turkey in the Straw.

The GMP team reports to you with an attitude of gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by Steve Voght.