10 Ways To Avoid a Fiery Descent Into Hell

1.Operation Hero Miles.When our troops in Iraq come home on special leave, the military services pay only for the flight back to one permanent-duty station. So while a Camp Pendleton–based Marine might receive leave to visit a terminally ill family member in Arizona, the government bestows airfare only to San Diego. Operation Hero Miles pays for the extended journeys with donated frequent-flier miles, and offers airfare for relatives to visit loved ones injured in the line of duty and being treated in distant military hospitals. www.heromiles.org

2.The Braille Institute, with five locations throughout Southern California, is dedicated to enhancing the lives of visually restricted persons. Each establishment offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, including teaching arts, crafts and knitting; driving individuals to and from the institute; and assembling Braille books (which are created by hand, because machines would compress the embossed dots).

3.Every weekend, on Saturdays in Venice and on Sundays in Hollywood, Food on Foot volunteers gather to distribute clothing and food to the needy. Volunteers are required to bring two $5 gift certificates from a fast-food chain, which are then given to homeless men and women who turn in two bagfuls of litter they’ve collected from the streets — the program strives to instill a sense of self-worth and accomplishment. Participants, who are offered the chance to continue earning more food vouchers, are also given supplies, bus tokens and phone cards to aid in their search for a permanent occupation. www.foodonfoot.org

4.School on Wheels seeks to make life a little easier for homeless students by matching them with a volunteer tutor who visits them in the shelter for one hour each week, providing help with their schoolwork and a dose of regular stability.

5-8.Bring your own bag to Buffalo Exchange (www.buffaloexchange.com), and Buffalo will donate the 5-cent cost of the bag you don’t use to one of the three following charities:

Tree People: Dedicated to decreasing the concrete jungle that is L.A. and to increasing the greenery that could be L.A. Volunteers organize plantings on campuses, streets, in parks and in shopping districts; you can also raise seedlings in Tree People’s nursery. (818) 753-4600, www.treepeople.org

L.A. Regional Food Bank: 8.2 percent of Los Angeles residents live with hunger, and 29.8 percent are not sure about where their next meal will come from. Volunteers sort, clean and package food donations, and work food drives. (323) 234-3030, www.lafightshunger.org.

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advocates for abandoned and cruelly treated animals. Volunteer opportunities include fostering an animal in need of a home and working in a shelter. (888) SPCA-LA1, www.spcla.com

9.Prior to 1985, the city of Los Angeles regularly dumped mostly untreated sewage into Santa Monica Bay. Thoroughly disgusted, Dorothy Green founded Heal the Bay, dedicated to ensuring that our coastal waters are safe and healthy for people and marine life alike. The organization has largely succeeded, but there is still a lot of work to be done. You can help by participating in any of Heal the Bay’s four annual beach cleanups.

10. While it may not have been at the top of your holiday wish list, or on any of your wish lists this year, www.justgive.org is an effortless way to boost a selfless you in 2005. The Web site is an electronic index of hundreds of unique charitable organizations. With a click of your mouse, you can bestow money on any charity of your choosing or, if you prefer, explore the selfless side of your friends: Give them charity gift certificates that they can redeem on the Web site for a charitable donation made in their name at any organization of their choosing. www.justgive.org


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