STAFF OF LIFE : PAIR DISTRIBUTE BAKED GOODS TO POOR, HOMELESS.
Norm and Joyce have been a team for 15 years now, a couple of winners casting their day-old breads and pastries out across the Valley floor for the asking.
Meet Norm Neiman, owner of Weby's Bakery in Studio City, and his unpaid delivery woman, Joyce Lest, affectionately known as the Pastry Lady to many of the Valley's homeless, needy and shut-in residents.
They're a couple of hard-working, good-hearted people who saw neediness on the streets of the Valley back in 1981 and couldn't find it inside themselves to look the other way.
``I'd look out the front window of my bakery every day, and see more and more people who were hurting - older people, women with small children,'' said Norm, who owned Plaza Bakery in North Hollywood at the time.
``There was no way I could turn around and not see it. I knew then I'd have to do something to help - that I couldn't just walk away. That's not something I could do in my heart.''
Joyce Lest was looking out another window, but seeing the same scene from her housing complex nearby on Lankershim Boulevard.
A 29-year-old mother, with a 1-year-old child, she wasn't in much better financial shape in 1981 than many of the people Norm was seeing outside his bakery.
One day, Joyce walked into Norm's shop for a doughnut, and they began to talk about what they were both seeing from their front windows.
``I've got all these day-old breads and pastries that are going to waste, but I don't have the time, working 12-, 14-hour days, to get them to people,'' Norm said.
``I've got the time, and a car,'' Joyce said.
It was the beginning of a long, fruitful friendship for them, and for a lot of people in the Valley.
The week begins at 6 a.m. Monday, with Joyce and Norm loading boxes of day-old breads and pastries into her 1986 Chevy Sprint.
``Fifteen years ago I had a 1968 Ford Galaxy but I put over 100,000 miles on it driving all over the Valley delivering these pastries, and it's in the graveyard now,'' Joyce says. ``This one's just about ready to join it.''
She smiles when she says the words, but there's a look of worry in her eyes.
At 44, she's not much better off financially than she was 15 years ago, and if she doesn't come up with a used van or car to replace the Sprint soon, these early morning bread and pastry deliveries may have to be put on hold for a while.
But that's tomorrow's worry. Today she has to make the rounds. People are waiting.
The first stop is Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar, where she delivers four boxes of breads and pastries to the volunteer office.
``We cut the pastries up and take them up to ER, the AIDS clinic, or send them home with the breads for the needy families of young kids in our clinics,'' said Sandra Urquidez, who works in the hospital's volunteer office.
``Around here, the Pastry Lady has been a godsend for a lot of people for a long time,'' she said.
Joyce laughs. The Pastry Lady. She likes the title because in many ways it masks the real story going on here - the story she worries that so many people are tired of living and reading about.
If anything, the scene she and Norm see from their windows in 1996 has only gotten worse in the Valley.
``I see people hurting each other more, not helping each other,'' she says, walking back to her car for the next delivery.
``People are tired, tired of the way the world is going - tired of trying to do something about it and getting nowhere. A lot of them are giving up. That's why this is so important.
``On the face of it, it's just free pastries I'm delivering,'' Joyce says. ``But deep down, it's so much more.''
In the next few hours, she will deliver Norm Neiman's day-old baked goods to the Activities for Retarded Children center in North Hollywood, to the Menorah House seniors building in Sherman Oaks, to the Fickett Towers seniors building in Van Nuys, and to half a dozen shut-ins and homeless shelters in the Valley.
By the end of the week, the Pastry Lady will travel back and forth five times from Norm's Ventura Boulevard bakery to Sylmar, Sunland, Reseda and Van Nuys - putting hundreds of more miles on her old Sprint.
On the face of it, delivering free, day-old pastries to the needy.
But deep down, so much more.
MEMO: Dennis McCarthy's column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
Photo: Weby's Bakery owner Norm Neiman fills Joyce Lest's s hopping cart with day-old bread for the needy.
Hans Gutknecht/Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 23, 1996|
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