He goes by Hood Santa, but he doesn’t come around just once a year.
His latest good deed was a collaboration to donate face coverings to youth in juvenile detention centers in L.A and Orange County to protect them from the threat of COVID-19.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice Website, there are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 at DJJ facilities.
With the pandemic in mind and a desire to help the youth, Tito Rodriguez, as part of his non-profit, Local Hearts Foundation, reached out to his friends and set out on a journey that would end with the distribution of thousands of face-coverings to a vulnerable population.
“My good friend [Nick Tershay], owner of Diamond Supply Co. (American streetwear and skateboard label) and I spoke about helping the youth in juvenile halls,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of us have been to juvie ourselves or know someone who has been.”
He continued, “As we started to see stories pop up about different groups of people that are more vulnerable to getting and spreading the coronavirus we thought about our youth population, our future. We strongly felt the need to protect these children who are a lot of times overlooked or ignored which should not be the case for any child who simply makes a mistake or uses bad judgment in their lives.”
Rodriguez enlisted the help of his friend and internationally known tattoo artist David Velasquez, also known as Big Sleeps to bring a unique touch to the face coverings.
“He jumped at the chance to create a really sick looking face mask for our youth in juvenile hall. [He] felt a kinship with them, having his own experiences as a young person in juvenile hall.”
The end result was a black face covering with the unmistakable diamond icon associated with Diamond Supply co. resting on Big Sleep’s signature lettering in blue.
In an Instagram photo Rodriguez posted of Big Sleeps with a certificate of appreciation from the Probation Department for the face-covering donation, he reflects on the artist’s past and highlights how he is eager to help more people in need. “This is what a redemption story looks like,” Rodriguez typed to his followers.
With a headcount in hand, one thousand face coverings were dropped off to the Los Angeles Department of Probation Downey headquarters, and another thousand were donated to the Orange County Juvenile Hall for both youth and staff.
“We spoke with the [deputy] chief of probation, officer Bingham and Luis Dominguez, [acting deputy director] and they were super excited about it all. They said the ‘kids are gonna really love these,’” Rodriguez said.
He continued, “We want to thank the department of probation at Downey headquarters for allowing us to come and sit with them to speak about helping and protecting our youth.”
Rodriguez has his sights on working with the probation department in the future to benefit youth in juvenile halls, in collaboration with Tershay.
“This is only the beginning,” Rodriguez said. “One thing we are gonna do is have Big Sleeps go and talk about the power of art and its effects on his life.”
One of the plans is to teach art classes and give lessons to those who are interested.
“The Local Hearts Foundation and Diamond Supply Co. are committed to [helping] create a platform where we can mentor the youth and have them involved in the community events we do throughout the year.”
Next, Rodriguez and his team are looking to expand their face covering donations to juvenile halls in San Diego and Ventura.
“This was one of the best things I personally have organized since starting our nonprofit organization. Knowing that they all have face masks, they’re all protected, as they should be to help with the spread of infection and COVID- 19, just knowing that we all played a small part in protecting the youth and their health feels absolutely amazing,” Rodriguez said.
“Acts of kindness stem from an absence of greed,” his Instagram biography reads, telling the story behind a community figure that gives year-round.