For nearly his entire life, Joe Chehade has been advocating for peace and looking for ways to bring people together for a common purpose and understanding.
Joe was born in Ethiopia to Egyptian parents and shortly after, the family moved to Lebanon. Joe loved growing up there, but was deeply impacted when a war broke out in his country. Inspired to make a difference, he began leading peace efforts, first as his university’s student council president, then with the Red Cross and Youths for a United World. While volunteering with that organization, Joe would meet his wife, May, and the two recently celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary.
After having children, the two made the difficult decision to move to the U.S. to be closer to family. Moving to Westchester seemed like the perfect destination since he already had a brother that lived in the neighborhood. Luckily, Joe was able to find a house only a few minutes away, and he’s loved being able to raise his three children–now adults–here and being part of the Westchester/Playa community.
Joe worked for decades as a pharmacist at big chain stores, but in 2008, he took a chance and decided to open his own neighborhood pharmacy so he could better care for his community. While riding his bike along Manchester Ave. he noticed a “for lease” sign and for the last 14 years, Joe has served his neighbors at Playa Pharmacy. Running a business is not always easy, but he is honored to be able to be PdR’s local pharmacist, and listen, help and educate his clients on ways to be healthy.
While Joe has continued his international volunteer work with organizations like Global Health Force and Crutches4Africa, these days he’s happy to be volunteering closer to home as the president of the Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club, where he previously served as Peace Chair. His favorite projects include feeding those in need at the Midnight Mission and the holiday adopt-a-family program to support the Mar Vista Family Center.
“I’m always looking for peace,” said Joe.“I try to always say, ‘let’s be family.’ It might sound silly, but it works and helps change people’s perspectives on things.”
We recently sat down with Joe and asked him to share his thoughts, so here is “5 Questions With…Joe!”
If you’re looking for the perfect evening out, where are you going?
Since we’re lucky to live near the ocean, any perfect evening has to end there! First, we’d go to Playa’s Pita in Playa del Rey and chat with the owner Claude. Then we’d order chicken kebab for my wife May, falafel for me, and tabouleh, hummus and baba ghanouj. Then, we’d head to Toes Beach and the Ballona Pier to watch the last boats as they return to dock and catch the sunset!
What’s one local spot you couldn’t live without?
The Bluffs Creek Trail between Playa Vista and Westchester is nature “in our backyard,” and located within minutes from our home and work. We go there for meditative walks, to forget our worries, and meet like-minded neighbors. Our dog Cashew loves it too, and meets many friends on the way! We watch birds and enjoy beautiful views of the entire city from the ocean, all the way to Downtown L.A.
What do you tell people that are new to the area about Westchester/Playa?
I would tell them that they get the best of both worlds: close enough to everything L.A. can offer and a close-knit community that welcomes them, just like the theme song of the old “Cheers” sitcom says: “Sometimes you want to go…where everybody knows your name.”
What’s a local organization you’d like to give a shout-out to?
Of course, the Rotary Club of Playa Venice where I’m currently serving as the club’s President! We are a vibrant group of diverse community members and leaders. Rotary’s motto is “Service above Self,” so we take action to create lasting change in ourselves, in our communities and across the globe. We do this while having fun and creating many opportunities for fellowship. One program dear to my heart happens during the holidays. We “adopt” numerous families in our community, and we ensure the families’ holiday wishes come true and become a reality. We also provide everyday necessities that many of us take for granted.
Our club meets on Wednesday mornings for breakfast. I’m inviting everyone who wants to make a difference and make lifelong friends, to be my guest! Email me at email@example.com and check our website playavenice.org. If you are not a morning person, consider becoming one or join our neighboring Westchester Rotary Club. They meet at lunch and more info is at rotary-westchester.com.
If you were the Mayor or a member of the City Council what is the first challenge you’d tackle?
I would write legislation to create more small green spaces for families to meet in a healthy environment and to encourage us to be less isolated in our homes and backyards. By the same token, I would demand new apartment complexes to be less crowded and offer more space and common areas for people to meet.