The Teen Project Expands With Vera’s Sanctuary for Women

How Lauri Burns is changing the lives of young women.

Written by Danielle Shorr | Photographed by Ryan Haack and Aaron Shintaku, Foxes & Wolves | Produce provided by Melissa’s Produce |

Lauri Burns is called Mom by many. During the past decade, she has taken on this role time and time again in order to change the lives of countless at-risk youth. There are people who help others, and then there are those driven by passion — those who devote so much of their lives to the work that it becomes their life. Burns is one of those people. This exemplary devotion happens through The Teen Project, where she can be a parent to the parentless, providing young women without resources another chance at life by focusing on sobriety, education and housing. And this year, The Teen Project was the recognized charity for Table for 10, an annual culinary experience created by top chefs from the region, where more than 120k were donated at the event.

The latest endeavor, Vera’s Sanctuary for Women (formerly Boys Town) is a Trabuco Canyon haven that houses young women in The Teen Project who have endured a multitude of hardships. Surrounded by gardens of  flowers, herbs, and fruits and vegetables, the home is set atop the picturesque canyon with a view that extends down to the ocean. Along with the ideal setting, those helped will have 30 hours per week of intensive therapy and will be assisted as they continue on the educational
track. For those who are older, the program provides access to various vocational opportunities.

When it comes to healing the lives of those faced with adverse situations, many factors play a significant role; one of those is balanced nutrition. Burns knows this. With a sustainable on-site garden at Vera’s Sanctuary, and a 12-week program that educates residents on sustainable living, the girls learn how to grow and harvest their own food. The program also offers the girls an opportunity to gain experience in the kitchen under the direction of a chef who teaches them how to cook.

Taking an immersive approach to nutritional wellness is a unique and transformative experience that The Teen Project staff has witnessed
time and time again. “We find,” Burns notes, “that a girl who refuses to eat a tomato will be the first one to eat it when she grows it and cooks it herself.”

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