Volunteering with Family Is a Valuable Lesson in the Meaning of Service

The founder of Big Sunday shares four ideas for family-friendly volunteering

Working with a network of local nonprofits to offer more than 2,000 volunteer opportunities per year, Big Sunday finds ways for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to help out in their communities. For David Levinson, the former screenwriter and father of three who founded the organization two decades ago, philanthropy has always been a family affair. “I get my kids involved, I get my mom involved,” he says. “Absolutely everybody has some way that they can help somebody else.”

On December 9, the organization will host a sing-along at its office at 6111 Melrose Avenue for folks from the community who need a little extra holiday cheer. It will also be collecting toys, food, and coats. Here are a few more ideas from Levinson about other ways the whole household can start giving back.


COOK A FAMILY DINNER

“Ronald McDonald House is for families who have a very ill child. They have a great setup where you can go and make a special meal for the families. Often they’re from other countries and stay for a long time while their kids are getting treatment. It’s not just the kid who’s hurting but also the parents, and siblings in particular sometimes get lost in the shuffle. You can make dinner for them, maybe bring some games, and all sit down to eat together.”

THROW A PETTING ZOO PARTY

“Get a bunch of families together, have everyone pitch in 25 bucks, and bring a petting zoo to a group home that has kids, like Comunidad Cesar Chavez in East L.A., Alexandria House near Koreatown, or Good Shepherd Center near downtown. When you contact the caseworker, I think it’s really helpful to say, ‘This is what we’d like to do, what do your families like?’ An event like that should be good for everybody.”

HANG WITH THE ELDERLY

“One thing that’s great for families is to visit seniors. People in retirement homes and assisted living love the company of younger people, and so many of them are neglected by our society. You can go and play a game, have a conversation, or read books together. We like to have some people go sing to the seniors. And there are a number of Christmas dinners, like the Veterans Holiday Celebration at Whittier Narrows and the Laugh Factory in Hollywood.”

PICK UP SOME TRASH

Friends of the L.A. River does clean-ups, and there’s Heal the Bay down at the beach. There are also some areas of Los Angeles where the streets really need to be cleaned up. Go with a couple other families, get some garbage bags and plastic gloves, and just throw the stuff out. Then everybody goes out for a pizza afterward. Just be respectful if you find a homeless person’s belongings.”


HOW TO HELP

Check out Big Sunday’s community calendar for more ways to do good. And if you need help organizing your own volunteer event, don’t hesitate to call them at 323-549-9944.


Want to help L.A. nonprofits get the support they need? Participate in our annual GIVE L.A. Challenge. And bid on exclusive finds for a good cause in our Best of L.A. Charity Auction.


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