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

LA Weekly