Name: Samantha Castro
Organization of Choice: L.A. Works’ Wheels for Deals with Seniors
I volunteer on the first and third Saturday of the month, when a group of 10-18 volunteers meet at Alexandria Care Center to take patients in wheelchairs for a stroll to the 99 Cents Only Store, which is approximately six blocks away. During our walk, the volunteers and the senior citizens get to know each other through conversation and shopping for treats.
I started volunteering because I was seeking a higher purpose in life. As a new member of the full-time world, I was distraught; there had to be more than going to work, eating, partying, and sleeping (although many of my friends disagreed). I am not religious, but I do believe in kindness and helping those in need, a value firmly instilled in my upbringing. After several months of volunteering, the despair, cynicism, and other negative thoughts brought on by my existential crisis faded away.
In the beginning I attended all volunteer events by myself, although nowadays, I occasionally convince a friend to join me.
To volunteer, I have to be within driving distance of the senior care center on the first and third Saturday of every month, which means that my travel plans and outings with friends largely revolve around it. However, it is really only two hours out of my Saturday.
In return, I’ve gained friendship and a purpose in life. I can't speak enough to how much the patients look forward to our walks. By the time I get there, they're already gathered in the lobby and they greet me with smiles and hugs. You can tell that the fresh air, sunshine, and conversation and laughter lifts up their spirits, especially for those who rarely receive visitors.
From one volunteer to another, wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen, but most importantly, keep an eye out for aggressive motorists.
Los Angeles magazine's "Public Service Announcement" series features a local volunteer every other week at CityThink