If there was ever a time to pay it forward, it’s now. Angelenos are losing their jobs and homes, struggling to feed themselves and their families, facing wildfires, and sleeping on the streets in unprecedented numbers. The situation may feel overwhelming, but remember the proverb “He who saves one life, saves the entire world”—donating just a few hours of your time, a few pieces of clothing, or a few dollars can bring a measure of help and hope to your neighbors.
Find Your Cause
L.A. Works aggregates volunteer opportunities with the goal of increasing community-service participation and addressing the myriad social issues affecting Angelenos. The many options offered through L.A. Works include mentoring low-income high school students, planting trees, chatting with senior citizens over the phone, participating in virtual Zoomba classes for special-needs youth, serving meals to the homeless, supporting COVID-19 testing, or advocating for racial justice (like the nonprofit’s MLK Day—a series of virtual and interactive events taking place in January 2021). If you’re feeling a desire to help but aren’t sure where to start, L.A. Works will help you find your cause. laworks.com.
Put that Spring Cleaning to Good Use
Stuck at home, many of us have become compulsive reorganizers finally confronting that age-old question, Do I really need those old skates? Instead of tossing the stuff in the back of your closet, consider donating it to the Salvation Army. Founded in 1865, the venerable charity accepts donations of all kinds, including clothes, home appliances, TVs, furniture, bicycles, DVDs, household goods—even your car. You get a tax write-off for your donations, which are then sold at the Salvation Army’s thrift stores, with the proceeds supporting individuals and families affected by substance abuse. You can drop your things off or schedule a free pickup. satruck.org.
Contribute to COVID-19 Relief
Blood may not be the first thing you think to donate, but it may be the most valuable. According to the Red Cross, someone in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds—for a surgery, cancer treatment, traumatic injury, or chronic illness—and one donation can save up to three lives. The Red Cross is also seeking individuals who’ve recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma, which may contain antibodies that can help critically ill patients. Visit the Red Cross’s website to make an appointment to donate or find volunteer opportunities. redcross.org.
View this post on Instagram
Hunger was an issue before the pandemic, but now it’s a crisis. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank has gone from serving 300,000 people per month to 900,000. Established in 1973, the food bank collects food and other products from hundreds of resources and distributes them through charities and direct giving to Angelenos in need. Over the past half-century, the food bank has distributed more than 1.2 billion pounds of food in addition to providing monetary donations. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is seeking volunteers to pack food at its warehouses or distribute food across L.A. County. lafoodbank.org.
Mentor a Foster Child
These uncertain times are particularly frightening for the more than 30,000 children in L.A. living in foster care. Many have been shuffled among homes, have suffered abuse and neglect, and lack parental guidance, medical care, and a proper education. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Los Angeles mobilizes volunteers to support these vulnerable children. Volunteers are matched with a child whom they help navigate issues involving education, health, and permanent placement. Visit CASA’s website to sign up as a volunteer. casala.org.
Teach Kids the Arts
At Free Arts, volunteers help put together events and workshops in a safe space where abused children can express themselves artistically. Own a surplus of art supplies? Check the wish list of items needed. 11099 S. La Cienega Blvd., Ste. 235, Westchester, freearts.org.
Donate Baby Essentials
Baby2Baby provides mothers of infants living in poverty with basic supplies. The organization has launched nationwide disaster relief efforts for families impacted by the pandemic. Since March, they’ve distributed over 35 million items to address families’ most critical needs. Baby2Baby is currently accepting product donations including diapers, wipes, formula, hygiene items, and school supplies through contactless drop-off at their Los Angeles headquarters. Financial donations can also be made online. 5830 W. Jefferson Blvd., Culver City, baby2baby.org.
View this post on Instagram
Become a Tutor
The Joseph Learning Lab mobilizes volunteers to tutor low-income elementary school students, a population that is particularly at risk of falling behind during the coronavirus crisis. Volunteers help kids with homework and core courses in 90-minute online sessions to help keep them on track, close the learning gap, reduce dropout rates, and ensure equal opportunities. josephlearninglab.org.
Deliver Meals To Seniors
Senior centers used to provide a place for older folks to have meals together, but the pandemic has forced these centers to close. As a result, there’s a tremendous need for food delivery. For over 41 years, St. Vincent’s Meals on Wheels has been packing and delivering meals to the most vulnerable members of society who are unable to leave their homes or who live below the poverty line. Volunteer your time by helping prepare meals, assemble groceries, load vehicles, and deliver food to the homebound. stvincentmow.org.
Create Care Kits for Those in Need
People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) serves over 20 percent of California’s homeless population by helping them find permanent housing. Since 2013, they have connected more than 9,000 people to permanent homes. This year, the organization is asking volunteers to assemble care kits at home and then drop them off at its headquarters. Supplies needed include sanitizers, cold-weather clothing, blankets, personal hygiene items, and nonperishable snacks. In addition to donating care kits, you can visit PATH’s website to explore additional volunteer opportunities. epath.org.
Improve the Lives of Homeless Women
For 42 years, Downtown Women’s Center has focused on housing, feeding, and serving the needs of homeless women in Los Angeles. Although on-site volunteering has been suspended for now, the center urgently needs donations such as cleaning supplies, toiletries, snack packs, and gift cards to downtown grocery stores. You can either mail the items to the center or visit the organization’s website to schedule a contactless drop-off. downtownwomenscenter.org.
Feed the Homeless
Los Angeles Mission has been offering shelter, food, and support to homeless Angelenos since its founding in 1936. Before the pandemic, the organization was giving out 50 to 100 food boxes a week; now it’s up to 200. The mission welcomes donations of canned food and dried goods. Drop-offs can be made at the mission’s warehouse. 351 S. Anderson St., downtown, losangelesmission.org.
Support Black Mothers
Black Women for Wellness was launched in 1997 by a group of women concerned about the health and well-being of Black infants. The L.A. non-profit’s first project was connecting mentors and pregnant women, who were then coached through pregnancy and their baby’s first year. Since then, the organization has expanded to offer programs in healthy cooking, diabetes prevention, sex education, and STD prevention. To support its mission to build healthy communities of Black women and girls, visit bwwla.org.
With record-breaking wildfires ravaging California, the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation is selling T-shirts to raise money for badly needed equipment. Ninety-seven percent of the fire department’s budget is dedicated to personnel, which leaves only three percent to cover the cost of equipment like thermal-imaging cameras, helmets, and hydration backpacks and bottles. The nonprofit Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation works to provide these essentials, as well as new technology and firefighter training that would otherwise go unfunded. By purchasing a T-shirt or hat on the organization’s website, you’ll help support LAFD firefighters who are battling to protect our homes and save lives. supportlafd.shop.
View this post on Instagram
Crash with a Puppy
Maybe you’re feeling lonely and isolated while working from home. Why not take in a dog or kitten? Organizations such as L.A. Animal Services or Best Friends have foster programs where you can give a temporary home to orphaned kittens and puppies, shy or fearful animals, or nursing pets. You’ll help socialize them as they await adoption, providing them a respite from the loud, chaotic, overcrowded shelter environment. You can volunteer to foster a litter of kittens for two weeks or spend the holidays with a wise old dog. laanimalservices.com and bestfriends.org.
Walk a Dog
Paws/L.A. focuses on promoting the bonds between humans and animals by helping elderly people and those with life-threatening disabilities care for their furry friends. Walk dogs, foster an animal, or deliver pet food. 2121 S. Flower St., downtown, pawsla.org.
Find Your Forever Pet
Though currently closed to the public, Wallis Annenberg Pet Space is still hosting pet adoptions by appointment only. You can view all the adorable kitties and pups that need homes on the organization’s website. After a 20-minute phone consultation, they’ll set up an in-person or virtual meet-and-greet with your cat or dog. Pet Space doesn’t stop there: it hosts a variety of pet-training classes from basic socialization to agility courses. The volunteer program will resume as soon as authorities say it’s safe. annenbergpetspace.org.
Give Former Gang Members a Second Chance
In 1988, Father Greg Boyle was the pastor of East L.A.’s Dolores Catholic Church. Boyle was troubled by gang activity in his community and across L.A., so he created Homeboy Industries to help former gang members find jobs and reenter society. Homeboy offers an 18-month employment program, mental health services, and substance abuse support. To make a donation or explore volunteer opportunities, visit their website. homeboyindustries.org.
Clean up the L.A. River
Since its inception in 1986, Friends of the L.A. River hosts an annual river cleanup that has drawn over 50,000 volunteers who have filled hundreds of dumpsters with waste. Become a docent and help with political advocacy and tours, or teach children about the historic importance of this waterway. folar.org.
Garden for Good
Sustainability meets charity at this urban farm located at Bell Shelter, a homeless care facility. Flex your green thumb and help feed those in need. If getting your hands dirty isn’t for you, GrowGood is always looking for people to run outreach, provide program support, and help fundraise. 5600 Mansfield Way, Bell, grow-good.org.
Help Save the Planet
Humanity is facing a climate change catastrophe. L.A.-based clothing and accessories brand Patagonia has a tool on its website called Patagonia Action Works that helps folks find local environmental organizations—such as SoCal 350 Climate Action, California Wildlife Center, Heal the Bay, or Friends of the Los Angeles River—where they can volunteer, sign petitions, or donate money to ensure future generations will have a healthy planet to roam. patagonia.com/actionworks.
Support the LGBTQ Community
Established in 1969, the Los Angeles LGBT Center is dedicated to providing health services, housing, social services, education, and advocacy for the queer community. During the pandemic, the center has launched a phone service called the Hello Club, where volunteers check in with community members who may feel isolated. There are also opportunities to volunteer as a mentor to an LGBTQ young person or donate money to support initiatives. lalgbtcenter.org.
Help with Legal Aid
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is a nonprofit law firm that provides free services to more than 100,000 people across L.A. County. LAFLA’s team of attorneys and paralegals offer counsel on issues such as domestic violence, employment, eviction defense, housing, homelessness, and immigration. To help the organization continue to provide these pro bono services, visit LAFLA’s website. lafla.org.
Be Fashion Conscious
The founder of the L.A.-based women’s wear brand n:Philanthropy, Yvonne Niami, gives ten percent of net proceeds to a variety of local charities like Children’s Hospital L.A. and the ASPCA. Niami’s line of tees, bodysuits, and dresses—along with her
#giveadamn program—have earned her a solid following among actresses like Gal Gadot and Zoe Saldana, and models such as Gigi Hadid and Alessandra Ambrossio. Celebs use the hashtag on social media to spread the word. nphilanthropy.com.
View this post on Instagram
Teach Your Children Well
Founded in 1988, City Year is on a mission to get young adults amped about national service. The nonprofit works with AmeriCorps members who are passionate about social justice through educational equality, leadership skills, mentorship, and supporting the social emotional needs of students. Throughout their year of service in L.A., corps members are placed in one of 25 elementary, middle, and high schools in Inglewood and Los Angeles. cityyear.org/los-angeles.
L.A.-based leather travel accessories company Velé is committed to ethical production, and also donates ten percent of their earnings to a nonprofit partner that fights human trafficking. thisisvele.com.
Create Opportunities for Others
Raan and Shea Parton, the brothers behind the menswear brand Apolis, are using their business to create social change. Their model, which they call “advocacy through industry,” is based on sourcing products from companies who use Fair Trade practices and who are enriching the lives of the artisans they employ—for instance, providing literary and nutrition classes in Bangladesh and offering job placement for women in Ethiopia. Through their Local + Global Projects, each item tells a story. apolisglobal.com.
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.