Layla and Milo Lujan are already doing incredible things with their young lives at the tender ages of 14 and 11, respectively. As children whose parents own and operate their own restaurant, the iconic Red House BBQ, they see first hand how much food goes uneaten and ultimately thrown out.
"We talked amongst ourselves a lot about it," Layla said after she and Milo began noticing homeless people standing on the sidewalks while driving down the street with their parents, Mano and Mei Mei Lujan.
That's when the children decided that perhaps there was a better way. Together they came up with the idea of opening a soup kitchen using the discarded food.
"It's not that it's bad (food), just excess," said Milo. "After seeing what goes in the trash, we thought we could be doing something good with it."
The children then approached their father, who also owns another iconic restaurant, The Shed Soul Kitchen, located directly across the street on Tehachapi Boulevard, but had shuttered its doors sometime back.
Said Layla, "We asked our dad, and he said, 'That's a great idea!' So we talked a lot about how we would execute our idea. Since The Shed was closed down except for special occasions, we thought it would be a great idea to use it."
And so the idea was born, and Layla and Milo's Soup Kitchen opened its doors for the first time on Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m.
This was quite a sacrifice for the children, as it required committing themselves to spend each Sunday that the Soup Kitchen opens from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. preparing, serving and cleaning up afterward.
Said Milo, "I think it is the right thing to do, giving to the people who can't afford to go out. I feel bad for them."
"It's a new perspective," added Layla. "We don't have dinner with the family because we are usually working, but we always have dinner and hang out with out family. To think that some people don't get that, or get to hand out with their family, is sad."
While their mother, Mei Mei, was overlooking operations at the Red House BBQ, Mano and his children prepared three types of soup and breadsticks, enough to feed 200 people. The children had help from several of their friends.
When Milo's friend, Trey Rodriguez, 11, heard about the Soup Kitchen, he said, "Can I help?"
Another of Milo's friends, Clark Kent, 11, was also found helping out Sunday.
"I think this was a great idea," said Kent.
Also helping out where sisters Lily Bonham, 14, and Sophia Bonham, 16, who are friends of Layla's.
"My mom was telling me about it, and I thought it would be great to help out the community," said Matthew Lopez, 16, another helper.
The Soup Kitchen got off to a slow start, but Mano said he plans to visit the Senior Center and put the word out at local churches.
"I heard about it through my friend," said Sherrie Lendrith, who sat alone at a table dining on the chicken and rice soup. "As a senior citizen, this is very economical. The soup is so good!"
The children's father said he was beyond proud of his children for coming up with the idea for the Soup Kitchen as well as sacrificing their time to help their community.
"After the children approached me, I asked them if they have ever heard of a soup kitchen," said Mano. "They said no, so I told them that soup kitchens are set up usually in cities where people are down on their luck or just don't have enough money to go out or some are homeless."
The Lujan children have been known to volunteer around town for a wide variety of activities.
Said Mano, "Although I am very proud of them, it doesn't really surprise me that they would want to do this. They are always willing to help people. Even small things like opening doors for people. It's a blessing to have children who want to help. It was really great when they said they had friends that want to help."
Found on the street, heading toward the Soup Kitchen, was Bear Williams, who had a heart-warming message for the Lujan children after hearing about the opportunity to enjoy a free bowl of soup.
"I think it is gracious, a show of strength, compassion, logic, discipline, honor, bravery, courage, and the ability to go past and be looked at as greater than the sum of your parts," said Williams.
Layla and Milo's Soup Kitchen will remain open each Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. at The Shed Soul Kitchen, located at 333 E. Tehachapi Blvd.
Said Mano, "No questions are asked, come in and get a hot meal and eat for free."