Ways to give back and volunteer this holiday season

Nov 12, 2021

As our thoughts turn to the holidays and ways to give back, local nonprofits are inviting the community to get involved, donate and volunteer with their organizations.

We reached out to Westchester/Playa nonprofits to learn about their upcoming projects and asked them to share how the neighborhood could support their efforts as we head into the holiday season.

Below is our round-up of local organizations offering volunteer opportunities and ways you can help make a positive impact on the community, whether you’re passionate about the environment, mental health, seniors or anything in-between. If you are feeling extra generous, make sure to visit these nonprofits’ websites and social media pages on Giving Tuesday (November 30) to donate to their worthwhile causes.

Rotarians help beautify the Emerson Avenue Community Garden. Photo by Lek Pollard.

Submit your Makeover Project ideas to the Westchester Rotary Club to support a community space.

In September, the Westchester Rotary Club unveiled the more than $100,000 in upgrades and hundreds of volunteer hours its members contributed to the Emerson Avenue Community Garden as part of its Makeover Project, which happens every two years. Since COVID delayed their work at the garden, the club’s next large-scale project is scheduled for 2022, and they’re currently looking for ideas on a worthwhile location to transform!

The community is invited to submit suggestions for the club’s next big undertaking that embodies the spirit of Rotary and allows the group’s volunteers to roll up their sleeves and make a difference. In the past, the club has selected the Westchester Senior Center, local homes, the Westchester Townhouse and Venice’s Safe Place for Youth. Visit rotary-westchester.com for more info and to share your thoughts. Once the project is announced next year, volunteer opportunities will also be available.

A volunteer helps provide transportation with WPV.

Participate in Westside Pacific Villages fundraising drive to support seniors.

Westside Pacific Villages (WPV) has been adept at pivoting quickly throughout the pandemic and is always looking for ways to meet the needs of its members, so it’s no surprise that more positive changes are coming to the Westchester-based nonprofit focusing on helping seniors age in place. WPV recently announced that it has created a new membership fee structure to support even more local seniors after retiring its free WPV CARES COVID emergency response program. The new reduced fee for membership is now $250 per year, with monthly payment options available. WPV has also added a program to help low-income seniors receive services, regardless of their ability to pay.

This month, WPV is hosting a fundraising drive with the goal to raise $12,000 to provide 50 seniors with a full year of its services, which include transportation to appointments, technology assistance, social support calls, friendly visits, helping with light chores and more. During each week of their fundraising drive through the end of November, a sponsor has committed to matching up to $1,500 in donations. The first week of the drive is sponsored by The Book Jewel.

And of course, WPV is always looking for passionate volunteers interested in supporting seniors. Learn more at thewpv.org.

The YMCA’s Painted Pantry Project is always looking for volunteers to donate items or stock the community fridge, which is open 24/7.

Help feed those in need at the Westchester Family YMCA.

The Westchester Family YMCA has always been a community hub with a variety of opportunities for people to get involved and be of service.

Since February, the Y has been hosting a weekly produce distribution event on Wednesdays for anyone in need through a partnership with FeedLA. In order to make the distribution of items like lettuce, fresh fruit, and a rotating selection of veggies, go quickly and smoothly, the Y is looking for volunteers to assist people with signing in and passing out bags. Volunteers are needed through the end of the year and can sign-up at https://ymcala.volunteermatters.org/project-catalog/873.

The distribution events are held on Wednesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. (starting November 10) at the Y’s Annex, located at 8020 Alverstone St. in Westchester.

The Y is also looking for support for its Painted Pantry Project. The pantry, which is located in their parking lot, is stocked with ready-to-eat snacks, drinks and shelf-stable food items available to all. The pantry is open 24/7 and is supported by the generosity of community members. For those interested in donating to the pantry or volunteering to clean and restock items, please email John Sharpe at john@sharpeonline.com.

Donate blood with the LAX Coastal Chamber.

The LAX Coastal Chamber is hosting a blood drive this month in honor of one of its members. The community is invited to sign up for the Thursday, November 11 event by visiting cedars-sinai.org/giveblood and using the group code BDKD. During the drive, the Cedars-Sinai bloodmobile will be located in the CVS parking lot at 8900 S. Sepulveda in Westchester from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Donors should be in good health and must be at least 17-years-old to participate.

The chamber also has an upcoming drive planned for December 10.

Bring canned goods to the Woman’s Club of Playa del Rey.

The Woman’s Club of Playa del Rey is hosting a holiday canned food drive to benefit Food Pantry LAX this month. Those interested in donating are asked to drop off their items on Saturday, November 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to the club’s parking lot, located at 8039 W. Manchester Ave in Playa del Rey.

Thanksgiving dinner food items including canned ham, soup, packaged mashed potatoes, packaged pie crust and fillings, stuffing, cake mix and boxed macaroni and cheese are especially appreciated.

Email womansclubplayadelrey@gmail.com with any questions or for more info.

The Bay Foundation offers monthly opportunities to help restore the dunes, as well as remove invasive vegetation in the Ballona Wetlands. Courtesy TBF.

Join The Bay Foundation in restoring the dunes.

For a unique volunteer opportunity with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, volunteer with The Bay Foundation (TBF) for their monthly restoration event at the LAX Dunes. Since 2015, The Bay Foundation, Friends of the LAX Dunes and Los Angeles World Airports, along with thousands of volunteers have worked to restore, enhance and protect this special habitat. Participants must RSVP at santamonicabay.org/events to participate and this volunteer opportunity is currently capped at 30 people. TBF is also hosting a Ballona Wetlands Community Restoration event on November 10 to help remove invasive plants and non-native vegetation in the wetlands.

Help Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary provide a nice holiday season for families in need.

The holidays are the best time of  the year for the Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club, and they have a full schedule of giving back activities planned for November and December.

The club, which meets at Whiskey Red’s in Marina del Rey on Wednesday mornings, is getting ready for its annual Adopt-A-Family program, which will provide 10 families from the Mar Vista Family Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Venice with a special holiday season. The program will kick-off on November 17, and thanks to their members and the support of the community, the families will be provided holiday gifts, food, household items and other treats. Community members are welcome to contribute to the program by contacting Adopt-A-Family chair, Kristen Hemanes at kristen@glennsdesigns.com.

The club also hosts the annual Westchester/Playa Santa Tour, which will take place on Monday, December 13. During the event, Santa, accompanied by LAFD and local volunteers, will make his way through the community and make stops at 5 locations. Each location will be staffed with volunteers who will be handing out treats, and helping Santa pose for photos with attendees.

Stayed tuned for the locations in next month’s edition. For more info on the Santa Tour, please email gvuchsas@secoteam.com.

Visit playavenice.org to learn more about the club’s upcoming projects.

Sign up by December 1st to be one of the stops on the Holiday Light Tour.

Raise money for mental health with the Westchester Mental Health Guild.

Homeowners who routinely go all out to decorate their homes and yards for the holidays, might want to consider volunteering to participate in the Second Annual Holiday Lights Tour & Contest, sponsored by the Westchester Mental Health Guild. The event, which is being held in lieu of their traditional Holiday Home Tour, will help raise money for AMCS’ mental health programs.

As an added incentive for community members to participate,  prizes will be awarded for the homes that win Best Theme, Best Lights, Most Whimsical and Fan Favorite.  

To enter your home in the tour, participants are asked to complete an application that can be found on the Guild’s website at westchestermhg.org, no later than Wednesday, December 1. Participants are also asked to make a donation of at least $25. The event will take place December 12 through December 20. A map of participating homes and the ability to vote for your favorite decorations will be available for a donation of $10 per carload after December 1. 

The Westchester Mental Health Guild is an organization that supports Airport Marina Counseling Service through fundraising. The Guild holds a variety of activities throughout the year, including Taco Nights and events currently held via Zoom.

Volunteers help pick up trash with the Friends of Ballona Wetlands. Courtesy FOBW.

Beautify PdR with the Friends of Ballona Wetlands.

Volunteers are needed for The Friends of Ballona Wetlands’ Third Annual United Ballona Creek Cleanup on Saturday, November 13 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Volunteers of all ages are invited to help tackle the trash that ends up in the creek after the first rains of the fall.

During the event, volunteers will collect trash from the north and south side of the creek to help create a beautiful and clean environment for the animals that live there.

The Friends of Ballona Wetlands hold a variety of educational and clean-up events each month, so there are plenty of opportunities to help support their mission to protect Playa del Rey’s wetlands, while educating the community.

For more information and to RSVP, visit ballonafriends.org/calendar/united/2021.

The next CLEAN UP Westchester event is scheduled for November 20 and will focus on the area around IHOP on Sepulveda and Manchester.

CLEAN UP Westchester with your neighbors.

Clean UP Westchester is having a big impact when it comes to beautifying neighborhood streets, and community members of all ages are invited to help in their monthly efforts.

Led by organizer Grant Francis, the clean up days are now drawing dozens of volunteers armed with garbage bags and trash pickers determined to help make Westchester shine. To add to the camaraderie and the fun, volunteers are provided with a special T-shirt to wear to show their Westchester pride. The next clean-up day is scheduled for November 20 and will focus on the area around IHOP.

Contact Grant at granttfrancis@gmail.com for more info and to volunteer.

Donate to support AMCS’ mission to provide mental health services.

For more than 50 years, AMCS has provided vital mental health services to the community, and the pandemic has made their mission all the more critical for people who are looking to gain skills to cope with this difficult time or dealing with mental health issues.

While the clinic has been closed to in-person clients since March of 2020, the need for their virtual services has increased, and for the first-time in their history, AMCS has a wait list for therapy. Thanks to generous donors, grants and their major fundraiser—a spring gala—AMCS continues to thrive and offer hope to those in need. When the clinic reopens for in-person individual and group therapy early next year, clients will enjoy updated furniture, fresh paint and new decor thanks in part to a donation from the Ahmanson Foundation.

Visit their website at amcshelps.com to learn how AMCS is making an impact and consider donating to support their programs. A donation of $100 provides six art therapy sessions for troubled youth and their families.

Give at a food drive benefitting PDR’s Grass Roots Neighbors.

The National Charity League Drive will host a Holiday Food Drive to benefit Playa del Rey’s Grass Roots Neighbors on Saturday, December 4th from 10 a.m. to noon.

Donations can be dropped off by driving through Recreation Park at the Joslyn Center and volunteers will be there to collect items from you. 

The Joslyn Center Parking lot at Recreation Park is located at 339 Sheldon St. in El Segundo.

Posted November 2021.

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