As many people can agree, Los Angeles is an amazing place to live. The endless sunshine and golden beaches are reasons enough to make the move. However, to experience the real L.A. it’s necessary to look beyond the superficial, star-studded persona. There are many residents that can’t afford their next meal, let alone the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Unfortunately, there are many L.A. locals that are underserved and overlooked.
Well, residents have a responsibility to take care of their city. Whether it is to people, animals or nature, giving back is essential. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean with money. Simply donating your time is a priceless way to enhance and provide for the L.A. community.
There are countless volunteer opportunities around the city, so we put together a list of the top ten. Whether you are a long-term local or recent arrival, read below to see where to start your charity work.
Midnight Mission is one of the best-run organizations of its kind. They offer counseling, education, training and job placement to the city’s homeless population. Also, food, shelter, personal hygiene, and medical care. Along with regular meal services and food donation drives, the Mission holds special Thanksgiving and Christmas events. Note: Because it’s an all-male facility, Midnight Mission asks that female volunteers come with a companion (male or female).
USHS, the San Gabriel Valley’s largest social services agency, offers year-round community meal programs and other services for the area’s homeless population. Including emergency shelter, community shower programs, children’s education and recreational activity and adult classes in parenting, money management, and nutrition. For over four decades, USHS has hosted Dinner in the Park, which the L.A. Times has deemed it the biggest potluck in the nation.
One Voice, based in Santa Monica has a variety of services from emergency relief to families in crisis to a scholars program for low-income students. The organization puts on an annual Holiday Food Program to distribute Christmas food baskets, toys, and books to families living in poverty in the L.A. area.
On the Thursday and Friday before Christmas, volunteers come together to prep, sort and package food. On that Saturday, volunteers deliver the food and toys to seven distribution centers, and on Sunday, families arrive to receive the goods and celebrate with volunteers. To be part of the celebration, check One Voice’s volunteer info page and registration form.
APLA Health has volunteer opportunities for all ages. The AIDS organization relies on its volunteers, who contribute more than 65,000 hours of service each year. If you’re interested, you can choose between four types of volunteering: client access volunteer, food pantry volunteer, nutrition/administrative volunteer, and a special events volunteer (like AIDS Walk Los Angeles).
L.A. Animal Services focuses on making a difference in the lives of abandoned or orphaned animals. They manage animal shelters and conduct on and off-site adoption events. Volunteers are needed for every position. From photography and public relations to walking and playing, there are tons of jobs that need to be done.
As someone temporarily staying in a city, adopting an animal might not be on the top of your priority list. However, with the majority of Blueground apartments designated as pet-friendly, there is the option to bring a newly adopted or fostered friend home. You’ll be making a huge difference, and coming home to an apartment with a welcoming pet policy.
The Fred Jordan Mission is a religious organization that has provided food, clothing, blankets, and other services to the homeless population of inner-city Los Angeles for over 50 years. For Thanksgiving, a turkey dinner is offered to hundreds of homeless people. FJM also hosts a Christmas Celebration, during which volunteers hand out food bags, toys, and blankets, and sing to more than 12,000 needy people downtown.
Food on Foot is an organization that distributes food, clothing, shoes, and blankets every week in Hollywood. You can sign up to volunteer anytime, and it usually costs $25 (which provides the funds to feed about five people for a day).
Dream Catcher of Los Angeles is one of many local organizations that focus on horse therapy. The riding center works with children, adults, and veterans with cognitive, physical and emotional disabilities. They use equine therapy to improve the mind, body, and spirit.
Volunteers contribute in a variety of capacities, from providing horse lessons, caring for the horses, fundraising and organizational tasks.
The Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission offers a host of services, including hot meals, health services and housing to the needy population in San Fernando Valley. You can help to hand out meals, clothing, medicine and hygiene kits on weekdays, as well as volunteering for weekend meals on Saturdays.
One Incredible Family comes together to prepare meals which volunteers then bring to different shelters in West L.A. If you’re interested in the prep and cooking, but are not ready for a lot of face-to-face interacting, this could be the group for you. Each November, OIF hosts its annual Homeless Feeding. It’s an all-day event including meal prep, assembly, and packing, delivery, serving at different shelters and post-event cleanup.