Punk Rock Marthas serve up ‘guerrilla philanthropy’

Anji Williams talks to a few of the Marthas about breakfast prep at St. Francis near downtown
Anji Williams talks to a few of the Marthas about breakfast prep at St. Francis near downtown

The name was catchy enough, although Anji Williams says she isn’t sure she’d have chosen it if she’d known the group would be around so long: Punk Rock Marthas, a riff on a group in a book called “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson. (Those Marthas were preppy.)

When Williams was a teacher at Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood, the idea was to make the club cool enough that students wanted to join. What teenager wouldn’t want to be part of something school-sanctioned that was also punk rock? Community service was only part of the Marthas then. Now, seven years later, Williams has left the classroom and has turned the group into one whose entire mission is “guerrilla philanthropy.” They look for interesting ways to help others who need it.

The regular monthly activity involves preparing and serving breakfast for 200 people on the northern end of downtown, near LA Trade Tech, at a place called St. Francis Center.┬áBut it doesn’t stop there. In this season of giving, we paid a visit to the Marthas as they did their volunteer work, to find out why people belong.

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The Marthas prep breakfast for 200.
Breakfast is served at the St. Francis Center on Hope Street, prepared this week by the Punk Rock Marthas
Breakfast service at St. Francis Center is orderly and mostly silent.