Serving the Los Angeles community has been the mission of L.A. Works since 1991, and its niche is connecting people with volunteer opportunities, almost like a dating app. At LAWorks.com, would-be volunteers can browse through projects that best suit their interests, geographic location, age, and time availability. Whether to fix up a childcare center, teach music to at-risk youth, or volunteer at a dog adoption event, signing up is literally as easy as clicking a button.
“Most of our volunteers are L.A. community members,” says Deborah Brutchey, executive director for L.A. Works. “Search by zip code, by your available time, by your age…we try to make it very easy for people to get involved.” Retired NBA star A.C. Green, a hero to Los Angeles Lakers fans, says when he volunteers for events through L.A. Works, all of his basketball accomplishments and affiliations fall away.
“I worked hand-in-hand with Celtics fans, Clippers fans, you know, and I just laugh about it because everybody doesn’t have to be a Lakers fan to get the job done,” he says. “You have a chance to get out and really meet other people. You wind up finding out that you’re from a different area code and zip code, but you have so much in common.”
In addition to connecting non-profits with volunteers, famous or not, L.A. Works gets corporations involved too, creating customized community service experiences. One of its biggest annual events is MLK Day of Service, which draws thousands of people, and is held on the third Monday of each January to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
“It gives us an opportunity to celebrate Dr. King’s core values of social justice, economic opportunity, and community,” says Bob L. Johnson, an entertainment attorney who cofounded L.A. Works and serves as chairman on its board of directors.
At next year’s MLK Day of Service, volunteers from across Los Angeles will meet for a breakfast kickoff entitled “A Seat at the Table,” a nod to King’s dream of “a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race.” Afterward, volunteers will join together for a beautification project at LAUSD’s Orville Wright Middle School.
In the end, Johnson wants L.A. to be remembered not just for its “great weather, beaches, hiking, music, and entertainment, but also as a place where people give back and collaborate,” he says. “And obviously with earthquakes and fires and civil disturbances, there’s a certain value in knowing that we come together not only in times of crisis, but throughout the year.”
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