With the holidays around the corner, now is an especially good time to spend some time helping out your fellow Angelenos, both children and adults, who are challenged by homelessness, disabilities, domestic abuse, poverty, joblessness, disease and injustice.
Multiple organizations are seeking volunteers to deliver meals, tutor homeless children, counsel those seeking employment, lend support to those trying to immigrate, serve Thanksgiving dinner, and create the best Christmas ever.
Options sorted below in no particular order, numbered only for reference. If you’re looking for more volunteer opportunities, be sure to check out some of our past ideas.
1. School on Wheels
School on Wheels is a direct way to make a positive impact on Los Angeles students. Founded almost 25 years ago by a retired schoolteacher, School on Wheels assists homeless children, from kindergarten through high school ages, with a consistent support system, at a time when they face instability and fear. You can help by volunteering to provide one-on-one tutoring, school supplies and important administrative tasks like locating lost records, registering and entering school, and supporting parents. -> Make a difference in a student’s life here.
Supporting your peers can be especially rewarding when you help them successfully secure a meaningful job. Chrysalis is a volunteer-based program that helps more than 2,000 employment-seeking men and women each year. Volunteers participate in many ways, including leading job skills training, consulting on resume writing, and conducting interview practice. Here, the bottom line is sharing the importance of boosting self-confidence and self-sufficiency. You must be over the age of 18 to volunteer. > Help here.
3. The Princess Project
Every girl should get their chance to be Cinderella for a night. The Princess Project does just that by supplying free prom dresses and accessories to help high school teens who cannot afford the expenses of prom Princess Project volunteers are needed, as this group dresses more than 35,000 teens each year throughout California. This is a great opportunity for students to volunteer by hosting a dress drive or helping to prepare for the dress giveaway events, and helping girls pick out the best dress. Donations of prom dresses, formal gowns, party dresses, jewelry and shoes are welcome. -> Making prom dreams come true here.
4. Meals on Wheels
Deliver nutritious meals to L.A. residents who are unable to leave their homes. Volunteers at Meals on Wheels serve 45,000 meals each year to people who cannot shop and prepare meals for themselves — from the elderly to disabled individuals to those afflicted with illness. Not only are you helping to distribute meals, you are bringing a much-needed smile to someone when the front door is opened. Prepared by St. Vincent’s Nutrition Program (volunteers welcome), one hot and one cold meal is delivered daily. If you are interested in delivering meals, know that you’ll be using your own car. -> Deliver meals here.
5. Westside Thanksgiving
At a time when Angelenos are preparing for their own Thanksgiving feasts, it is also a time to consider volunteering with Westside Thanksgiving. The annual event serves a much-appreciated meal to an immense number of homeless men and women on the Westside. Numerous volunteers are sought for set-up, which begins the day before Thanksgiving, and multiple shifts throughout Thursday beginning at 6 a.m. Westside Thanksgiving provides a traditional sit-down turkey dinner, free haircuts (hairstylists are needed to volunteer), medical, dental and optical services, vaccinations and a children’s carnival. Roasted turkeys and baked pies are also needed. Recipes available on website. -> Serve up Thanksgiving turkeys.
6. Bet Tzedek Justice for All
Legal expenses are overwhelming, especially for the elderly community and low-income individuals and families. Bet Tzedek, which translates from Hebrew to “Justice For All,” collaborates with hundreds of pro bono attorneys in Los Angeles to provide free, comprehensive legal services. Attorneys who volunteer are needed to co-counsel on various legal problems including caregiver issues and elderly abuse, foreclosure matters, real estate fraud and consumer fraud, wage theft, LGBT discrimination, Holocaust reparations, and undocumented families.If you are not an attorney, your time as a volunteer is still needed to help with answering phone calls, research and more. -> For justice and all.
7. Catholic Charities of Los Angeles
From its beginnings as a haven for refugees during World War II, Catholic Charities continues to be a secure place for immigration services for people all over the world. Interested volunteers can donate their time to Catholic Charities of Los Angeles’ Esperanza Project. This program specifically offers services (job training, teaching English, assisting with legal issues, visa petitions) to help out newly-arrived immigrants, including children. These are complex issues and the Esperanza Project is in need of dedicated volunteers. -> Rebuild lives here.
8. LACBA Counsel For Justice
Pro bono lawyers are needed to “fight for the poor, the underserved and those in crisis” alongside the Los Angeles County Bar Association. By joining forces with LACBA, your time will be dedicated to veterans, immigrants and people affected by AIDS and domestic violence. Apply for a specific service project via LACBA’s website. -> Lawyers needed here.
9. KEEN: Kids Enjoy Exercise Now
For kids who suffer from physical and emotional disabilities, having a coach can make a significant difference in their lives. KEEN is a program designed to give these youth athletes the opportunity to have fun and develop on the field, on the court or in the pool. Volunteers get the opportunity to be coaches and have a positive impact on kids and young adults who deal with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, epilepsy, spina bifida, learning disabilities and more. Coaches tailor activities to each child’s needs. Safety and welfare of the participants are top priority to KEEN, so volunteers will go through a background check and provide references. -> Volunteer to become a special needs kids coach here.
10. Downtown Women’s Center
Your helping hands will support women at LA County’s Downtown Women’s Center (DWC). These women face many issues including domestic abuse, mental illnesses, substance abuse, homelessness and more. DWC does everything possible to give women a safe haven. As a volunteer you can be a part of the kitchen team preparing meals, assembling hygiene kits for daily showers, or assisting visitors with education and employment. If you are unable to volunteer in person, another way to support DWC is to visit MADE by DWC , an online shop featuring artisan candles, jewelry and soaps, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the center. -> Gentle hands needed.
11. LACC to benefit Pancreatic Cancer Halloween 5k/10k
Get ready to race in your favorite Halloween costume at the 20th annual L.A. Cancer Challenge 5K/10K/15K Walk/Run (LACC), which benefits pancreatic cancer research and supports patients and their families. This year’s race takes place on October 29 with a challenging course on the UCLA campus. Runners and walkers dress up in festive costumes to hit the course in honor of those afflicted with this devastating disease. After the run, plan on sticking around for a children’s Halloween parade, an adult costume contest, a kids fun run, celebs and good feels the entire day. -> Halloween racing for pancreatic cancer.
12. Turkey Trot 5k/10k
In light of the staggering problem of homelessness and poverty afflicting Los Angeles, the annual Turkey Trot brings people out to raise money and awareness for The Midnight Mission on Thanksgiving Day. The Midnight Mission helps the homeless community attain self-sufficiency through education and training with the goal of job placement. Participants get to trek through Downtown, passing City Hall, Disney Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and along Spring Street. Bring the kiddos: there’s a Widdle Wobble run for their size. -> Lace up here.
13. UCLA PAC – People Animal Connection
The UCLA PAC program is probably one of the more special ways to volunteer in L.A. It’s you and your four-legged BFF who volunteer in the Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activity program. You and your pup provide unconditional companionship to children and adult patients (Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease and stroke) at UCLA. This program definitely puts a smile on everyone’s face throughout UCLA Medical Center, and is known to offer comfort, rehabilitation and therapy, and a sense of community for these patients, as well as the medical staff. If you are interested in volunteering with your dog, you’ll go through a lengthy period of screening and training to quality. -> Support the healing power of pups.
14. Heal the Bay’s Nothin’ But Sand Beach Cleanup
Time to show the beach some love. Summer may be officially over, but that isn’t stopping locals and visitors from spending a day at the beach. Trash is still a huge problem, and Heal the Bay volunteers are committed to keeping the shoreline clean. There are two Nothin’ But Sand cleanups this Fall (10/21 – Toes Beach Tower 41 and 11/18 – Hermosa Beach Pier). Sign up to comb for trash like plastic items, styrofoam debris and smoking-related items. -> Trash pick-up here.
15. The MEND Christmas Basket Program
Christmas time can be very lonely for families and individuals who live in poverty. MEND is an extraordinary organization that offers an emergency food bank, clothing center, medical, eye care and dental clinics and adult education. As the holiday season approaches, MEND volunteers pull together in-kind donations (food, clothing, household items, blankets and coats, new shoes, new toys and arts and craft supplies, tickets to children’s activities, and new fabric, trims and threads) to create a merry Christmas for the community. There are many ways to volunteer, including helping out at MEND’s Christmas ToyLand and Santa’s Toy and Food Workshops. -> Need a little Christmas here.