10 L.A. Charities That Need Your Help This Holiday Season (or Whenever)
The palm trees are wrapped in Christmas lights, fake snow is falling from the sky at the Grove, and the Scientology-sponsored Santa Claus is passing out treats on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s the holidays in Los Angeles, and with Donald Trump’s inauguration less than a month away there’s never been a better time to open up your wallet and give back to the charities fighting the good fight. Maybe you already sent a check to Planned Parenthood (bonus points if you wrote it in Mike Pence’s name), or maybe you regifted your Christmas bonus to the ACLU (no coal for you this year). But aside from those national organizations, both of which saw massive surges in donations following the election, there are still plenty of local charities and nonprofits that can use your dollar and would cherish a couple hours out of your day this season. Here’s a brief list of the places where your volunteering and donations will go the furthest.
Downtown Women’s Center
Founded in 1978 as the result of a friendship between an outreach worker and a homeless woman, the Downtown Women’s Center today bills itself as the only organization in town that’s devoted exclusively to helping homeless and poverty-stricken women in Skid Row. As such, the DWC is extremely receptive to volunteers — last year it hosted more than 5,000 of them logging more than 25,000 hours, according to its website — and donations of all kind. After signing up for an orientation (the next available session is Feb. 4) followed by a training session, volunteers can help out by cooking meals in the kitchen, teaching math and literacy as a tutor, leading health classes as a coach, or serving in a range of other roles including as a facilitator for Whole Woman Saturdays, a series of creative and self-help workshops. The nonprofit also accepts donations and sells products such as bsoap, candles and tote bags, all handmade by the women it serves. 442 S. San Pedro St., downtown; (213) 680-0600, downtownwomenscenter.org
St. John’s Well Child and Family Center
With nine community health centers throughout Central and South Los Angeles and Compton and five on L.A. high school campuses, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center works to provide low- or no-cost health services to the people who need it most — regardless of their ability to pay. The center, which runs specific programs for HIV-positive patients, homeless patients and those with developmental disabilities, also launched a pioneering transgender health program that’s among the most forward-thinking in the country. With Obamacare under threat from the Trump administration, St. John’s can really use donations this holiday season, either in the form of general operating support, program support or through its capital campaign. The health center also accepts volunteers to help with administration, accounting, personnel, patient reception and medical records work. Multiple locations including 808 W. 58th St., Vermont-Slauson; (323) 541-1600, wellchild.org.
The LGBT community in Los Angeles mourns the victims of the Orlando shooting.
Los Angeles LGBT Center
The Los Angeles LGBT Center has been providing health, housing, education and social services to the LGBT community in L.A. for nearly half a century, but with a Trump administration on the horizon, those services might be more needed now than ever. There are three primary ways to give your time as a volunteer: general assistance (helping with data entry and newsletter mailings), program opportunities (geared toward volunteers with specific skills) and special events (guest registration, breakdown and general support). Go to the website to register for the next volunteer training on Jan. 11, and in the meantime, consider making a tax-deductible donation to the LGBT organization that calls itself the world’s largest. Need extra incentive? Through Dec. 31, filmmaker Roland Emmerich will match all gifts to the L.A. LGBT Center dollar for dollar, up to $100,000. Various locations including 1625 Schrader Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 993-7400, lalgbtcenter.org.
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
With five offices, three domestic violence clinics and four self-help legal access centers spread across the county, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles offers plenty of opportunities to volunteer — particularly for attorneys, law firms, law students and graduates, paralegals and those who are bilingual. Founded in 1929, the nonprofit provides civil legal aid to poor and low-income Angelenos during crises that affect their health, shelter or livelihood. It seeks help with everything from legal clinics and domestic violence prevention workshops to drafting legal memoranda and representing clients at hearings. So you’ve got no legal experience but still want to help? Make a monthly or one-time gift, donate your car, contribute to a capital campaign or sponsor a fundraiser. Multiple locations including 634 S. Spring St., downtown; (800) 399-4529, lafla.org.
Social Justice Learning Institute
Before graduating with a doctorate in education from UCLA, D’Artagnan Scorza returned to his high school in Inglewood and founded the Black Male Youth Academy. The program, which promotes cultural literacy for African-American boys and men, in 2008 birthed the nonprofit Social Justice Learning Institute, which offers educational and health opportunities for black youth within the larger community. The institute has since created youth health fellowships, partnered with the city of Inglewood for initiatives such as hosting the city’s first farmers market, and developed curriculum for students in LAUSD schools and teens in the L.A. County Probation Department. The institute offers volunteer opportunities on its website and accepts tax-deductible donations at membership, one-time and in-kind levels. It's also running a holiday campaign through Amazon in which it will benefit from a percentage of your total purchase. 600 Centinela Ave., Inglewood; (323) 952-7363, sjli.org.
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The community food organization L.A. Kitchen provides three main services: a restaurant industry employment training program for youth out of foster care; a collaboration between local farms and wholesale companies to reduce food waste and feed low-income Angelenos; and a social enterprise aimed at feeding the hungry and elderly. As a result, L.A. Kitchen offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities including gardening, kitchen prep and leading budget-friendly grocery store tours for seniors. Like most nonprofits, it's also hungry for financial help. All donations made through the end of the year will be matched up to $1 million by an anonymous donor, with a goal of raising $365,000 from individuals. 230 W. Avenue 26, Lincoln Heights (no phone number); lakitchen.org.
The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count
Over the course of three days every January, thousands of volunteers scour the streets all across Los Angeles to count the homeless. Known as the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, the effort has been coordinated biannually — and annually starting this year — by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. In addition to determining how many people experience homelessness on a given night, the count tallies demographic statistics and ultimately increases civic engagement. Last year, 7,500 volunteers counted 46,864 homeless people countywide — a 5.7 percent increase since 2015. Sign up online to volunteer for the 2017 count in your neighborhood on Jan. 24, 25 or 26. 811 Wilshire Blvd., downtown; (213) 683-3333, theycountwillyou.org.
When the first outpost of the tutoring nonprofit 826 was co-founded by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Clements Calegari in 2002, the space they rented in San Francisco was zoned for retail — so they turned half of it into a pirate supply store. Fourteen years later, 826 has become a national organization with chapters in six other cities including Los Angeles, but the retail tradition has stuck around. As such, 826 might be the only nonprofit on this list that also sells so-called tar pits, primordial soup and conquistador helmets as part of its Time Travel Marts in Echo Park and Mar Vista. But the real work of the organization is rooted in after-school tutoring, journalism workshops, book projects, college application mentoring and other programs aimed at encouraging creativity and teaching writing skills to local youth. 826 is always in need of volunteers — you’ll need to attend an orientation and undergo a background check — and monetary donations. Donor memberships start at $100. Multiple locations including 1714 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; (213) 312-3388, 826la.org.
My Friend’s Place
Since 1990, My Friend’s Place has been providing homeless youth in Los Angeles a respite from the streets with daytime shelter, meals, clothing and showers. Today, the mostly privately funded nonprofit serves more than 1,000 young people a year and offers services such as arts and creative workshops, life skills and job search programs, GED and homework tutoring, voter registration, substance abuse education and violence prevention training. A favorite organization of the likes of Miley Cyrus (it reportedly inspired her to launch the Happy Hippie Foundation for LGBT homeless youth), My Friend’s Place seeks clothing and food donations year-round and offers volunteer opportunities in fundraising, workshops and food and clothing drives. Make a contribution, become a monthly donor or sign up to be a financial sponsor on their website. 5850 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 908-011, myfriendsplace.org.
East Los Angeles Women’s Center
After realizing in the mid-1970s that counseling services for Latina survivors of sexual assault were nearly nonexistent in their community, Irene Mendez-Banales and Connie Destito began recruiting and training women to become counselors and advocates for a crisis hotline. In 1976, the East L.A. Rape and Battering Hotline became the first Spanish-language, 24-hour crisis hotline in Southern California. Many decades later, the service evolved into what is known today as the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, which still offers a crisis hotline in addition to intervention and counseling services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, HIV and AIDS, human trafficking and more. Through a 54-hour certificate course, the organization trains volunteers twice a year to become sexual assault advocates and also accepts financial donations on its website. 1255 S. Atlantic Blvd., Boyle Heights; (323) 526-5819, elawc.org
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