It’s a New Year, which means a fresh start to get involved with your community and make a positive impact! For those who’ve included volunteering and giving back to their neighborhood to their list of resolutions for 2024, there are a plethora of organizations always looking for support and to welcome new volunteers.
Here’s our list of local groups and opportunities that can help you connect to your community and make a difference over the next 12 months.
If rolling up your sleeves and donating your time is one of your goals, there’s no shortage of area organizations that offer regular chances to be of service, including:
• Clean Up Westchester is helping beautify the community, one street at a time. In March, the grassroots group will celebrate three years of bringing people of all ages together for the common goal of making the neighborhood cleaner and vibrant, wherever they’re needed. This little act of kindness, started by Westchester resident Grant Francis, has had a ripple effect and since starting, the group has grown tremendously. They now meet on the first and third Saturdays of every month. Besides meeting fellow do-gooders and the feeling of accomplishment, another perk of joining the Clean Up Westchester crew is getting an official yellow shirt for participating!
The group is kicking off the New Year with cleanups on January 6 at La Tijera and Airport and January 30 at Manchester and Ramsgate. Learn more at cleanupwestchester.com.
• Westside Pacific Villages (WPV) Executive Director, Ben Nguyen, describes the nonprofit as an organization that is “dedicated to connecting neighbors with neighbors to support one another and create a diverse and inclusive network of services where people can age in their communities, remaining active and engaged.”
With a commitment as little as an hour a week, volunteers can join the roster of dedicated individuals that help older adults with a variety of needs from errands and transportation to chores around the house and pet care.
• In 2023, The Friends of Ballona Wetlands removed 30 tons of invasive plants thanks in large part to volunteers who logged more than 6,000 hours working to improve this important natural habitat. Volunteering with the Friends not only provides a chance to connect with nature, but also be part of a team that is making a measurable impact.
The nonprofit holds monthly restoration and creek clean up days to ensure native plants continue to thrive and the area is free of trash. Check out ballonafriends.org to view their upcoming volunteer days, including a Creek Clean Up on January 13 and Habitat Restoration on January 27.
• Grass Roots Neighbors (GRN) has built a dynamic volunteer base ready to support those facing food insecurities.
The organization currently delivers food to 60 local families, and there are multiple ways to contribute to their efforts each month, whether you’re interested in donating food or supplies to be assembled into bags for the families they serve; making jam with donated fruit so it doesn’t go to waste or becoming a monthly donor.
Learn how you can assist their efforts at grassrootsneighbors.org.
• Join your neighbors at the all-volunteer Emerson Avenue Community Garden (EACG) to help keep this organic green space and community hub flourishing!
The EACG holds monthly community volunteer days where everyone is welcome to help maintain and beautify the garden by watering, mulching, weeding, organizing and more.
Upcoming work days are scheduled for January 6 and February 3.
Learn more at eacgc.org and consider becoming a member of this area gem for a donation of $25 a year.
Try out a local club or service organization.
Joining a club or service group is one worthwhile way to meet people with similar interests and expand your social circle. Local clubs excel when it comes to charitable giving, providing hands-on projects that better the community and creating a network of new friends. Some groups meet weekly, monthly or more sporadically, depending on their missions, and most require at least a small financial commitment to help fund projects.
Some of the area’s most active clubs include:
• Rotary Club of Westchester. Since 1950, the Rotary Club of Westchester has been 90045’s premier service organization. The club meets weekly for lunch, a happy hour or a project, and also has a Young Professionals group that meets regularly in the evenings. This month, Rotarians are collecting items for Camp Pendleton and hosting a shopping spree and lunch for families in the Lennox School District. Throughout the year, the club’s major projects include a Book Sale over Memorial Day weekend and a bi-annual Makeover Project.
Learn more about getting involved at rotary-westchester.com.
• Westchester Mental Health Guild. The Westchester Mental Health Guild is one of the community’s longest running nonprofits, and since 1962, members have been raising money to support Airport Marina Counseling Service and ensure that everyone can have access to affordable mental health services.
Throughout the year, the Guild holds numerous fundraisers like wine tastings, teas and dinners, but their major event is the Holiday Lights Tour and Contest, which takes place every December. Next up for the organization is a casino night planned for the spring.
Membership to join the Guild starts at $35 a year. For more info, visit westchestermhg.org.
• Beachside Chapter of National Charity League. The Beachside Chapter of National Charity League, Inc., which includes Westchester/Playa, provides a platform for mothers and their daughters to volunteer with many local nonprofits including GRN, For Goodness Cakes, the LAX Coastal Education Foundation, Friends of Ballona Wetlands, Rotary Clubs of El Segundo and Westchester and the Special Olympics Southern California.
Members are known for their navy blue T-shirts, which you may have noticed at WAM, Open Charter’s Fall Festival or the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
The group is open to 6th and 7th grade girls and their mothers who are interested in volunteering and serving in leadership roles. This month, the group is holding informational sessions to share about membership. Learn more by emailing email@example.com or at nationalcharityleague.org/chapter/beachside.
• Westchester Elks Lodge. There is much more to the Westchester Elks than their annual car show and chili cook off. Members are equally passionate about having fun and supporting causes like Veterans’ issues and education.
Once a member, you can enjoy social functions at the Lodge on Manchester Ave. in Playa del Rey and participate in meetings. Women can join the Lady Elks, who host a variety of events throughout the year, including a fashion show luncheon and pop-up boutiques.
If you don’t know a local Elk, you can fill out a membership inquiry form at elks.org, but you will need a sponsor to join.
• The Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club. This local service group is one of the community’s most active, and there’s never a shortage of projects or social gatherings on their event calendar.
The club meets weekly for breakfast at Whiskey Red’s in Marina del Rey, and is known for hosting the Santa Tour, a Cultural Dinner in the fall and their annual summer pancake breakfast at Fire Station #5. The club is kicking off 2024 with its Teacher Mini Grant breakfast, where tens of thousands of dollars will be distributed to help fund classroom supplies, and in March, the club will be serving up hotcakes to runners at the Rock Roll & Run at LMU.
Learn more about joining at playavenice.org.
• Woman’s Club of Playa del Rey. Check out the Woman’s Club of Playa del Rey for a group that seamlessly blends fun and philanthropy. The club meets September through June for a monthly luncheon, and members enjoy a variety of social activities including beach walks, coffee meet- ups, movie nights, wine socials and more.
The group, which was founded in 1938 and has its own clubhouse on Manchester, is a big supporter of education, and raises money each year to provide thousands of dollars in scholarships to local students.
Learn more about the club and membership at wcpdr.org.
Mark your calendar for a community event.
Make 2024 your year to attend more community events! Local groups and volunteers work hard at organizing and producing some of Westchester/Playa’s most beloved festivities, many of which double as fundraisers. Showing up to an event not only creates a day of fun, which is often low-cost or free, but also ensures that the event continues to happen! The more attendees, the more potential for sponsors and organizers having the funds to create quality family-friendly activities!
Below is a list of some of our favorite can’t-miss community happenings by month (exact dates for events are TBD unless noted):
• LMU Wine Classic, to raise money for scholarships on February 4
• LAX Coastal Education Foundation’s Rock Roll & Run, 5K/1K to raise money for local schools on March 2
• Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club’s BingoFest, raising money for community projects
• Teacher Eddy Awards, celebrating 41 years of supporting local teachers and education
• Westchester Rotary Annual Book Sale, raising money for community projects during Memorial Day weekend
• AMCS Spring into Wellness at LMU, fundraising for mental health on May 16
• Fourth of July Parade, parade down Loyola Blvd. in Westchester on July 4
• Shakespeare on the Bluff, performances of classic works held at LMU
• Westchester Team Challenge, a day of friendly competition raising money for the Westchester Streetscape Improvement Association on August 3
• WAM, featuring live music, arts and a block party vibe on Saturday, September 21
• Westchester Elks Lodge Car Show & Chili Cook Off, classic cars and a chili competition at the Lodge in Playa del Rey
• Spooky story writing contest hosted by The Book Jewel
• Fall Family Festival at Open Charter Magnet School
• Holiday Lights Tour & Contest presented by the Westchester Mental Health Guild, featuring local homes decorated for the holidays
• Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade, decorated boats cruise the marina
• Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary’s Santa Tour, Santa and guests tour the community with help from LAPD, LAFD and community members
To get more information on these and other events as they become available, check out our Community Calendar at thehtn.com/events.
Connect with local business leaders.
More than 650 local businesses– from Fortune 500 companies to solopreneurs–are members of the LAX Coastal Chamber. It’s not always easy running your own business or creating a network of business contacts, but the chamber is a valuable resource when it comes to supporting, connecting and promoting their members.
Throughout the month, the chamber offers numerous in-person and virtual networking events and a variety of committees that meet on topics like Education, Lifestyles and Public Policy. They also host special events, like the State of LAX luncheon that is attended by more than 600 leaders in the aviation and construction industries, and of course, the annual Fourth of July Parade.
This month, the chamber is celebrating the people who keep the community safe with their Protectors’ Appreciation Week.
The chamber recently unveiled a new logo and website to reflect its dynamic membership, its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, and its programming, from ribbon cuttings and anniversary celebrations to Leadership Academy and Networking at Night. Learn more about what the chamber has to offer business leaders at laxcoastal.com.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your neighborhood? Share your tips with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.