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Things To Do, Volunteer Opportunities

14 Great Ways To Volunteer Your Time This Summer in L.A.

July 6, 2017 by Sheryl Craig

Summer time is just the right time to take on a community service project. Weekday schedules tend to be a little more flexible, while weekend time seems more giving. Volunteers continue to be the lifeblood of many organizations, whether you are donating time or money.

Community service benefits both givers and recipients. It’s said that when you volunteer, you gain personal satisfaction, make healthier life choices and find new social opportunities. So why not start now?

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Many nonprofit groups are hosting myriad volunteer orientations throughout Los Angeles during July and August, and we’ve curated a few of those options in the list below. Check it out, and see if there might be a fit that’s right for you.

Exploring Griffith Park

Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

1. Children’s Hospital LA

Children’s Hospital LA is the largest pediatric hospital in Southern California focusing solely on the healthcare needs of children. What began in 1901 in a small house in Chinatown now serves more than 350 pediatric specialty programs. What makes this nonprofit thrive is the compassionate humanitarians, caregivers and volunteers supporting the amazing children who visit CHLA. How can you help? The CHLA volunteer program gives you a chance to work directly with patients, including playing with them in waiting rooms, escorting them to hospital appointments, reading and assisting in hospital playrooms and/or at the bedside. Orientation, interview, training and health clearance are required for volunteers 18 years old and up. There is also a junior volunteer program just right for 15- to 17-year-old teens. -> More info here

2. L.A. Kitchen

The essential ingredients are straightforward at L.A. Kitchen. Take local farm-donated fruits and produce, add some volunteers, then blend well to create nutritious meals for disadvantaged communities. L.A. Kitchen relies on its core philosophy: “Neither food nor people should ever go to waste.” The other important mission of L.A. Kitchen is training unemployed men and women. Volunteering with L.A. Kitchen welcomes you into its Kitchen Prep sessions, which are 3-hour shifts. You’ll assist with basic prep skills like washing, chopping, peeling and slicing produce, Monday through Friday (9 a.m. to 12 p.m. & 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.), and on Saturdays (9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) Meals are served to shelters, transitional homes and after-school programs in L.A. -> Sign up here

3. 826LA

You don’t need to have a teaching degree to make an impact on a student’s life. 826LA is committed to helping students from 6 to 18 years old with writing skills through after-school tutoring and workshops that transcend what’s taught in traditional classroom. Volunteers have the opportunity to inspire students with their technique in creative and expository writing assignments and projects. Register to volunteer, take the 826LA Volunteering 101 orientation and begin your work with the students. Orientation is offered July 8, 15 and 29 and August 12. -> Start here

4. Project Angel Food

Each year, thousands of people receive “home-cooked” meals provided by Project Angel Food. Too debilitated to care for themselves, children, women and men who face both poverty and life-threatening illnesses ranging from diabetes and cancer to congestive heart failure to HIV/AIDS rely on the volunteers of Project Angel Food. Preparing meals in the kitchen gives volunteers plenty to do every day. Chopping, stirring, mixing, baking and packaging up meals are valuable ways to help out. Meals are delivered free of charge to patients’ homes. New volunteers are required to attend an orientation which is offered throughout July and August. Volunteer shifts are offered Monday through Friday (8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. & 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and on Sunday (8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) -> Make a difference here.

5. The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project helps to save lives of young people (ages 13-24) who many be struggling with issues around suicide, depression and LGBTQ identity. The organization was founded by Randy Stone, Peggy Rajski and James Lecesne, who together made the Academy Award®-winning short film Trevor. The group designed a much-needed program providing crisis intervention and suicide-prevention services. Volunteer TrevorChat/TrevorText volunteers are trained to answer instant messages or texts online (knowledge of online chat and access to a computer are required) and Trevor Lifeline volunteers are trained to answer calls in the L.A. call center. Both offer a safe and non-judgemental atmosphere to talk. Volunteers must complete an orientation, interview, background check and training. -> Be supportive here.

6. Los Angeles Mission

Los Angeles Mission hosts an annual End of Summer Arts and Education Fair street event on August 27. The Mission, which provides spiritual programs and physical tools to support emergency, transitional and permanent housing for individuals and families on Skid Row, also helps hundreds of families gear up for going back to school at the Fair. When it’s impossible to make ends meet, the Los Angeles Mission shows up with school supplies, including backpacks, for very grateful children. The Fair also offers a fun day with inflatable play areas, slides, face painting, games, crafts and a dunk tank and, hopefully a less worrisome day. -> Volunteers needed here.

7. LA Animal Services

If four-legged furry friends are your bae, it’s probably a good idea to join LA Animal Services (LAAS) Volunteer Family and make a difference in the lives of abandoned and orphaned animals at one of the six shelters in L.A. The Department of LA Animal Services has strategies in place and is making progress toward a no-kill city shelter system. Volunteers are definitely needed to help out in their shelters in San Pedro, Van Nuys and Chatsworth and at the LAAS adoption events. Orientations are offered throughout the summer; check the LAAS Facebook page for dates. -> Info here.

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8. Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks

Volunteering through the Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks is the perfect way to give back to your community. It’s super neighborly and there are a lot of different ways to donate your time. Once you go through the process of designating your ideal volunteer location, you’ll meet the Director and get fingerprinted. Then you’ll be ready to receive your assignment at one of the community and neighborhood parks in the city. Featured volunteer jobs include assisting in hands-on clean-up efforts (tree planting, pulling weeds), coaching, being a museum docent, participating in the neighborhood oversight committee, joining the Park Advisory Board, and helping with senior programs and special events. -> Channel your inner Leslie Knope here.

9. Friends of Griffith Park

Nurture the landscape of L.A.’s beautiful Griffith Park. Friends of Griffith Park is an organization whose sole purpose is preserving Griffith Park’s 4,310 acres of land. Volunteers are empowered to work the land at one of the largest urban parks through clean-ups, tree planting and other volunteer projects such as the Raptor Nest Monitoring Project. The park is home to  several nesting raptors, aka birds of prey, like hawks, owls and falcons). The Nest Monitoring Project is just one example of the wide variety of volunteer opportunities available. Friends of Griffith Park does everything it can to retain SoCal’s native ecosystems. -> Preserve here.

10. Santa Monica Mountains Fund

Rich in land and historical culture, home to a wide inventory of flora and fauna, and a scenic space for humans and wildlife alike to explore and live, the Santa Monica Mountains make up our city’s most scenic coastal mountain range. Highly deserving of preservation and protection, you can give back to the land by assisting the Santa Monica Mountains Fund through various volunteer projects such as restoring native plant life, protecting wildlife habitat, building hiking trails, and providing educational programs for mountain visitors. ->  All ages and abilities welcome here.

11. Reading to Kids

Reading to Kids is a grassroots organization dedicated to encouraging hundreds of elementary-school children to become better readers, with the hope of ultimately inspiring them to discover a love of reading. Adult reader volunteers are needed Saturdays at one of the weekly reading clubs, which are located at elementary schools throughout Los Angeles. Children get to enjoy a read-aloud session and an arts and craft activity relating back to the book, and volunteers lead these clubs. First-time volunteers should go the website to complete an online application and RSVP to read at a specific school. Volunteer training and reading strategies are provided by teachers. -> Read this.

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12. Food on Foot

If time isn’t your friend, Food on Foot gives volunteers one given time to distribute Sunday meals and clothing to homeless families and individuals. Register online, make a $20 donation (used to purchase food and food gift cards that are distributed during the serving) and show your face on Sundays from 3:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Food on Foot Hollywood location (1625 N. Schrader Blvd.) to distribute food and clothing. You’ll interface with up to 200 underprivileged and homeless folks, from toddlers to senior citizens. Food on Foot welcomes all ages to participate, and children must be accompanied by an adult. -> Serve meals here.

13. Swan Center Outreach

Known for connecting people with horses in various therapeutic programs, Swan Center Outreach welcomes volunteers of different backgrounds and ages (9 years and up) to assist with its farm and horses. Previous horse experience isn’t required; you just need a kind heart and a gentle hand. General volunteers assist with ranch chores and do not handle the horses. You may fill and carry feed buckets, clean water containers and clean stalls and horse areas. If you want to volunteer while handling the horses, you must enroll in Swan Center’s training class. As a Horse Handler volunteer, your duties include catching and haltering these gentle creatures, grooming, picking hooves, leading, feeding and training. -> Volunteer here.

14. The Music Center

The Music Center offers an incredible volunteer program that gives you the worthwhile opportunity to be surrounded by some of the great culture and art of L.A. Volunteers are welcome to work in a variety of positions by assisting at Center events, raising funds, educating, and helping out with technology and social media as “Activators” (introduce yourself by emailing activator@musiccenter.org). “Symphonians” volunteer their time as Music Center docents by conducting both public and private tours of the complex (email symphonians@musiccenter.org to inquire how to volunteer). -> Enlist here.

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