December 16, 2018

Volunteer Opportunities for Students in Los Angeles

Photo provided by Big Sunday.

The concept of helping others — the widow, the poor, the orphan — is ingrained in the Jewish faith. When children learn the value of service to others from a young age, it becomes part of who they are. There are plenty of places where they can make a difference in Los Angeles.

Family Volunteering

Westside Food Bank provides food to social service agencies on the Westside of Los Angeles. It needs volunteers to organize and box food received during food drives. It’s a great family-friendly opportunity for all ages.
Location: Santa Monica

Heal the Bay is an environmental nonprofit dedicated to making the coastal waters and watersheds of greater Los Angeles safe, healthy and clean. On the third Saturday of the month (except December) it holds a beach cleanup bonanza from 10 a.m. to noon at various L.A. County beaches. All ages are welcome.
Location: Santa Monica

Big Sunday offers more than 2,000 ways for people to help others through a variety of opportunities and projects. Participants of all ages, backgrounds and abilities come together to improve lives, build community at weekly and monthly programs, and at special events. Big Sunday is located on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, where it holds its Monthly on Melrose workshops, collections, performances, parties, meals and special events to benefit its nonprofit partners. It also has the End of the Month Club food drive, and service project meetings at 10 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. Explore its website and check out the Big Calendar for a comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities.
Location: Hollywood

Other Opportunities 

The My Stuff Bags Foundation addresses the needs of children entering foster care who must leave everything behind when they are rescued from abuse, neglect or abandonment, or who must flee with their mothers to the safety of a battered women’s home. These children enter shelters with little more than the clothes on their backs.

My Stuff Bags are bright blue individual duffels filled with much-needed items (brand new, age- and gender-appropriate toys; books; a stuffed animal; school supplies; clothing; personal toiletries and a security blanket) to help the children adjust to their new surroundings.  

The foundation needs volunteers to help stuff bags, make blankets and help with other needs. Volunteer hours are available most weeks, Mondays through Thursdays from  10 a.m. to noon. The organization also accommodates student schedules with a volunteer hour at 3:30 p.m. and occasionally makes other times available. For more information, call ahead: (818) 865-3860. 

Ages: The organization welcomes volunteers ages 10 and older (check website for guidelines) and provides ideas for activities that younger children can do at home.
Location: Westlake Village

Best Friends Animal Society brings together animal rescue groups, city shelters and passionate individuals dedicated to making Los Angeles a no-kill city. Best Friends hosts adoption and fundraising events and runs two pet adoption centers in L.A. The Mission Hills location includes a newborn kitten nursery, a pet adoption center and a spay/neuter clinic, while the West L.A. location features a boutique-style pet adoption experience with dogs, cats, puppies and kittens from the No-Kill LA Coalition. Volunteers can help with a variety of tasks, ranging from animal care to cleaning at the centers or at events. Volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum of five hours a month for at least six months.

Ages: Volunteers must be at least 12 years old. Those of ages 12 to 15 need to be with a parent or guardian (who must also be a volunteer). Those older than 16 can volunteer on their own. Minimum age may vary, depending on the opportunity.
Location: Mission Hills, West Los Angeles

Ride On teaches adaptive horseback riding to children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities. It also provides physical, occupational and speech therapy, using the movement of the horse to improve specific medical conditions. Ride On has given more than 100,000 safe, effective and individualized lessons and therapy treatments, and serves 200 individuals each week. 

Ride On needs volunteers to groom and tack horses, and to lead and walk beside horses with disabled riders with poor balance. No previous experience with horses or disabilities is required. Ride On provides all volunteers with a basic training session to learn horse care, safety procedures and disability awareness. The volunteer training is normally scheduled once a month and lasts about three hours.

Ages: The minimum age for volunteering in the arena is 14. Prospective volunteers ages 12 to 14 are eligible to volunteer in the barn.
Locations: Chatsworth, Newbury Park

This story appeared in the 2018 Education Guide edition of the paper.