With the holidays fast approaching, it can be easy for little ones to get lost in the “getting” part of the season and forget all about the giving. This year, especially, seems like a good time to instill in kids the importance of gratitude and giving back. While many of LA’s annual Thanksgiving and Christmas volunteering events have been called off because of Covid, there are still plenty of ways for you and your little helpers to help out. Keep reading to discover how to volunteer during the holidays—and beyond.

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Midnight Mission’s Christmas Toy Drive

Midnight Mission is perhaps one of the most highly regarded organizations of its kind and a place where every Angeleno hopes to volunteer at one point or another. This year, they have canceled their well-loved Annual Christmas Brunch and Santa's Village charity event but will still be distributing toys to local churches with low-income families in their congregations. The Mission is looking for volunteers to help collect toys through their Toy Drive so please give them a call or email alinares@midnightmission.org to request this year's Toy Drive Toolkit which has everything you will need to kick start your toy drive. They've even created an Amazon wish list to make collecting toys contact-free making it even easier to lend a helping hand! 

601 S San Pedro St.
DTLA, 90014
213-624-9258
Online: midnightmission.org

photo: Creative Commons

Adopt-A-Family

What better way to give back together as a family than adopting another family who could really use the support? Through the Los Angeles County Department of Public and Social Services, you and your benevolent brood can sign up to aid low-income families served by DPSS by providing new items that will be sure to help everyone celebrate the holidays in a special way. Interested sponser families will be carefully matched with one in need and provided with their contact information along with the family’s “wish list” of requested items. These items may include groceries, home goods, clothing, gift certificates, or toys (all items must be brand new, no hand me down donations are permitted). Visit the website for more information or to register and get ready to spread lots of cheer this holiday season!

Online: dpss.lacounty.gov/en/community/volunteer

Santa Monica – Venice Virtual Christmas Run 5k/10K

One of our fair city's largest holiday running events is going virtual for 2020! The Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run is a family-friendly fundraiser for local non-profits, specifically Harvest Home, a non-profit residence for homeless pregnant women in Santa Monica. This year your band of merry runners can still sign up for all the holiday fun you love from the comfort of your own home (or your favorite local route)! Register for either the 5K, 10K, or Kids Fun Run and celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas through seasonal challenges, contests, and activities. Win prizes while spreading holiday cheer in a safe and festive fashion. Registration prices are $25 for the Santa's Little Elves package, $44 for the Stocking Stuffer package, and $54 for the Holiday Feast option. 

Ocean View Park
2701 Barnard Way
Santa Monica, 90405
Online: christmasrun.com

Giving Online

Spark of Love Toy Drive
For 27 years Southern California Firefighters have successfully collected toys for disadvantaged children and teens and, in the past two and a half decades, have provided more than nine million toys to local families during the holidays! Due to the current effects of the pandemic and recent wildfires, they anticipate this year's requests for toys will be higher than ever. Even though necessary safety protocols will prevent Southland fire stations from collecting toys in person, supporting the Spark of Love has never been easier. Safe, quick, and convenient toy donations are possible through their virtual toy-box gift registry or financial donations are also welcome, as they allow this wonderful organization to provide toys to communities with overwhelming needs. 

Online: abc7.com/spark-of-love-2020

Westside Thanksgiving Dinner
For 37 years this community celebration has welcomed all those seeking a festive and fun volunteer experience. This year, however, is different as far as the gathering goes but they are still planning to give back to the community. They will be gathering gift cards and blankets to distribute to those most in need and the safest way to help is by donating online

West LA Civic Center
1645 Corinth Ave.
West LA, 90025
310-394-3153
Online: westsidethanksgiving.org

Food on Foot
Food on Foot is committed to assisting low-income and homeless people through programs that offer meals, clothing, and work placement. The organization receives no government funding and relies entirely on donations. This year, you can donate online (either a set or custom amount) and your gift will go towards meals, groceries, gloves/masks, and even towards rent payments! If you and the kiddos would rather pick out specific items to donate, consider purchasing and shipping hygiene products through their Amazon wishlist where each item bought off the list will be sent directly to Food on Foot for distribution to those most in need!

1625 N. Schrader Blvd
Hollywood
(310) 860-0022
Online: foodonfoot.org

One Voice
For 37 years One Voice has always been able to make sure that thousands of low-income, Head Start families living in the surrounding communities received food baskets filled with everything they needed for a happy holiday. This year, though they can't gather their usual crowds of volunteers in the Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport to help sort and pack, they will be giving gift cards for food and necessities to 2,000 needy families. If you would like to help, please donate what you can through their website
 

Santa Monica, 90405
310-458-9961
Online: onevoice-la.org

Doing Good All Year Long

photo: Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay

While almost all of Heal the Bay's public program activities are suspended until further notice, there are still great ways for your water babies to help out with this wonderful organization. Check out their Adopt-A-Beach Program which provides a cool opportunity to learn about and participate in the conservation of our natural and coastal resources as well as help stop ocean pollution. Families can "adopt" an area by committing to three cleanups in one year at a favorite outdoor location (beach, park, creek, or even local trail). The program is extremely flexible and allows participants to choose the day, time, and location of their cleanups (making it easy to stay socially distant and safe). Volunteers will receive a virtual safety talk from Heal the Bay's staff, educational resources, and fun games as well as an official Certificate of Completion from Heal the Bay and the California Coastal Commission. 

Online: healthebay.org

California State Parks Foundation Park Champions Program

Park Champions projects are a wonderful way for the whole family to spend time outdoors together while beautifying and preserving our state parks. Because most of these sorts of volunteer opportunities take place outside, there are certainly safe ways to continue making a difference. Currently, the CA State Parks staff have worked hard to create safety protocols and procedures (distancing, wearing masks/gloves, and providing hand sanitizer) that will further ensure everyone's safety. They have also decreased the size of their volunteer groups as well as the length of the workdays. Through this volunteer program, they are planning over 100 projects throughout the year to benefit more than 30 parks across California. To sign up you'll need to register online and create your very own volunteer account where you and your family can sign up for and manage upcoming workdays!

Online: calparks.org/help/park-champions

photo: istock

Big Sunday

With over 2,000 opportunities to get involved each year, Big Sunday is the mama of all LA charities. Here you’ll find the rich and famous working alongside homeless teens, in the name of developmentally challenged children. If your kids want to help others but aren’t sure where to start, Big Sunday is the perfect place. Many of the opportunities to volunteer this year will be either virtual or donation-based but there are still plenty of different (socially distant) options to explore on their website or social media pages. For instance, their Annual Thanksgiving Stuffing Event is going virtual this year and will take place online Sunday, Nov. 22 from 4 p.m. - 5 p.m. Families can sign up to either make cards, donate food, make videos, or even help assemble bags in person in small Covid-compliant groups.

6111 Melrose Ave.
Hollywood, 90038
323-549-9944
Online: bigsunday.org

–Janelle Connor & Jenifer Scott

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