From top left clockwise, June Lockhart, Dee Wallace, Michael Learned, Karen Grassle, Ilene Graff, and Jane Kaczmarek.

By Nick Thomas

Mother’s Day may have passed, but moms continue to inspire and encourage. Even fictitious ones. Some of America’s favorite classic television and movie moms are raising awareness of the country’s homeless youth problem. Although their focus is one organization, Doors of Change in the San Diego area (with its summer benefit “Concert of Hope” this year to be held on July 27 at the Epstein Family Amphitheater, UCSD, and featuring KC and the Sunshine Band, see their message should resonate in cities across America where homelessness continues to be a major social problem.
Doors of Change has helped thousands of homeless youth find safe housing and a sense of purpose with a unique arts-based approach. The organization’s team of trained professionals and volunteers search for at-risk youth, first offering them essentials such as water, socks, and sleeping bags. Once trust is gained, the organization offers music and art lessons as a non-threatening first step to turning their lives around. Individuals can then be connected with services that provide housing, employment, medical care, and addiction treatment.
Jane Kaczmarek, the mother in the 2000s sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle,” acknowledges this unique approach.
“The stress of being a teenager can be too overwhelming, too confusing, and too many find themselves on our streets trying to survive,” said Kaczmarek. “Doors of Change has discovered a unique way to connect with them, through music and art programs that have not only been saving lives but taken our young from hopeless to hopeful. They build self-esteem and respect for themselves and others.”
June Lockhart, the beloved TV mom from the 60s shows “Lassie” and “Lost in Space,” applauds the use of arts to connect with homeless youth. “At an early age, my parents instilled in me the importance of arts to inspire and enhance our lives,” she said, adding that the organization has been “successful at reaching the thousands of our young who have become lost.”
Support also comes from Dee Wallace, the movie mom from 1982’s “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial,” who applauds the group for “reinforcing positive attitudes and images towards oneself.” That, she says, “is exactly what our youth needs to face and replace the uncertainty and fear they may have of the future.”
Michael Learned won three Primetime Lead Actress Emmys for her role as Olivia Walton in the 70s historical drama “The Waltons” and notes “Every child, every teen, is our responsibility. We must keep them safe and the earth solid beneath their feet until they have found their place in this world.”
Until that place is discovered, the dangers of youth homelessness can often lead to additional social problems with which Karen Grassle is all too familiar.
“As one who has suffered from the disease of alcoholism, I know the loneliness and despair it can bring,” explains Grassle, who played the “Little House on the Prairie” mother. “As an artist, I know the healing that comes from self-expression and self-examination. For me, hope came as soon as I surrendered my addiction. Art is a great help and healer.”
“Mr. Belvedere” mom Ilene Graff also offers encouragement.
“You’re a runaway because home had become unbearable or you’ve been thrown out of the house,” says Graff, who played the mom in the popular 80s ABC sitcom. “If you’re lucky, Doors of Change will find you and help you get off the street and into hope, leading to safety, education, housing, music, art, friendship, (and) security.”
Since reaching homeless youth through music and art has proven to be a successful model, similar programs could be used to address the same problem around the country.
Nick Thomas writes about classic film, television, and music for numerous magazines and newspapers. See