At a time when the world feels topsy turvy to many, a great way to turn a negative into a positive is by volunteering and giving back to the community, with efforts big or small.
Tune into your passion to find out how you can help make someone’s life a little better. Whether you want to get down and dirty, have the patience of a saint, or possess deep pockets, you may be wondering, “where do I fit in and how can I do my part?” The truth is volunteers are invaluable, and the foundation of most charity organizations.
That said, there are many places in Los Angeles where you can roll up your sleeves, dig your heels in and volunteer this spring. From cleaning up the shoreline and L.A.’s waterways to walking and raising awareness for a cause near and dear to your heart, opportunities abound for all ages and families.
Below are a few great chances to get involved this spring in the city of angels. Hope you find it useful!
1. Plant trees with TreePeople (April 1, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.)
TreePeople is L.A.’s org dedicated to promoting tree life, caring for and planting trees in this megacity. Bottom line: its goal is to promote climate-resilient plant life and tree canopies, while reducing water waste, pollution and debris in major parks and urban neighborhoods, covering about 4,000 square miles. The TreePeople gang fully relies on volunteers (nearly 4,500) to help plant trees. These particular new plantings help bring shade, transfer rainwater into the ground, and help lower the temperature. It’s recommended that you register on the website. Wear comfy clothes, sunscreen and a hat. The April 1 Tree planting will take place at TreePeople’s facility in Laurel Canyon. -> More information
2. Big Sunday (April 3, 9 and 10)
Sometimes it’s the little things and small outreaches that truly make a difference in someone’s day. This is how Big Sunday and its teams of volunteers make an impact. There are numerous ways to pitch in — everything from delivering meals via Meals on Wheels and assembling hygiene kits for homeless individuals to collecting non-perishable food items for a local food pantry. The next service projects include making Easter goody bags for Boys and Girls Club of Watts/Willowbrook (4/3), spending an evening with America’s veterans at Big Sunday Vets’ Night & Dinner – you can participate by writing letters to active duty military personnel and donating comic books for Operation Gratitude care packages (4/9), and creating animal blankets for Amanda Foundation (4/10). There is always something to do with the Big Sunday crew. -> More information
3. The Great LA River CleanUp (April 15, 22, 29)
Join Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) in The Great LA River CleanUp. Last year 9,000 volunteers picked up and took out 70 tons of trash. This year, the organized river cleanup will take place over three Saturdays in April, offering plenty of locations to work. Protecting and restoring the natural heritage of the Los Angeles River (yes, this city does have one) is what FoLAR is all about. It’s a dirty job, but this is where passion shows up. Cleaning up trash and debris will create a swimmable, fishable and boatable river for people, birds, fish and other native wildlife. -> Registration and more information
4. Walk MS: Greater Los Angeles (April 23)
Multiple sclerosis just doesn’t affect the individual afflicted with the disease: it impacts families, friends and caregivers, too. Help put an end to this life-changing affliction by organizing a team of your best friends and family (perfect for catching up on life) and walk (or run) the beautiful grounds of the Pasadena Rose Bowl. You’ll see some of the participants using walkers and wheelchairs, which in itself is inspiring. Last year, $799,212 was raised to benefit research and resources. If walking isn’t your thing, check out the Walk MS website to join the volunteer team to cheer on walkers — all ages are welcome.
5. Lollipop Superhero Walk (April 30)
Put on your cape and be a superhero at The Grove to benefit Lollipop Theater Network. Officially called the Lollipop Superhero Walk, the event is organized to spread the word and fundraise. Lollipop Theater Network is group of volunteers, movie studios and favorite stars — like Seth Rogen, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann and Ed Helms, just to name-drop a bit — that truly rolls out the red carpet to provide in-hospital movie screenings coast to coast for young patients with life-threatening illnesses. Sign-up to walk, or to make a donation. An awesome after-walk-party is open to participants. -> More information
6. Art Shopping at Venice Family Clinic Art Walk (May 21)
In an unsteady and tumultuous time for health care, supporting places like Venice Family Clinic is essential. The clinic ensures quality comprehensive healthcare to the low-income or uninsured, and those who may be experiencing homelessness, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay. Think pediatric and prenatal care, primary care for teens and adults, dental, vision, mental health, women’s health including breast and cervical cancer screenings, domestic violence intervention, HIV/AIDS prevention and health education, and Children First Early Head Start services. With all that being said, how can you help? Walk the Venice Family Clinic’s Art Walk & Auctions along Main St. The day-long art walk is generously supported by over 200 artists who have donated amazing works of art. Live music, food stations, a barking lot for dogs and an imagination station for kids rounds out the day, and no tickets are necessary. And there are other ways to help out, too. Medical professionals, as well as individuals not in the medical field, are encouraged to volunteer throughout the year.
7. Tour de Pier (May 21)
On the bike or off the bike, the 5th annual Tour de Pier brings together a community dedicated to doing away with cancer. The gist of this fundraiser is 1,500 cyclists riding on 350 stationary cycling bikes for five 50-minute spin sessions. Did we mention yet that bikers spin while overlooking the beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean in Manhattan Beach? This event raises money for The Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer, The Uncle Kory Foundation and Cancer Support Community. Expect the best L.A. spin instructors, fun music, celebrity spin riders, a worthwhile Health & Fitness Expo (with free giveaways), and a Cardio Kids Fun Zone. Last year, the gorgeous Rams Cheerleaders made a special appearance. Last year TDP raised more than $1.1 million. Volunteers of all ages are encouraged to assist (students can earn credit for community service hours), and riders are invited to reserve a bike. -> More information
8. Pedal on the Pier (June 4)
Pedal on the Pier gives spin fanatics another chance to put on spin shoes and ride to the rhythm. The hottest spin instructors and DJS will lead cyclists on a stationary ride on the Santa Monica Pier to raise money for The Harold Robinson Foundation (the goal is $1 million). The Foundation helps send kids from 25 Los Angeles inner-city schools on a three-day camp retreat. The retreat promotes self-esteem, independence and leadership skills — essentials for all students. So what do you need to do to make that a reality? Sign up as one of 400 riders (or on a team of five) to one of the five allotted hours. You don’t have to be a spin maven, and all fitness levels are welcome. Just come prepared to ride, and hang out on the Pier. Each bike commitment is $2,500. -> More information
9. Los Angeles Food Bank’s Alternative Spring Break
More than 300,000 low-income women, infants and families, people with disabilities and seniors on a fixed income rely on Los Angeles Food Bank donations each month. Food sorting is one of the easiest volunteer jobs that is open to teens 14 years and older, as well as adults. Items such as canned fruit and vegetables, rice, and cereal that get donated to the Food Bank need sorting, cleaning and repackaging. The food bank welcomes volunteers Monday through Saturday (check website for times and location). According to the non-profit group, every $1 that is donated provides enough food for 4 meals. -> More information
10. Wags and Walks
Calling all dog lovers with some spare time: Wags and Walks is always looking for volunteers to help the rescue dogs onsite at its Wags Club in West L.A.. This non-profit organization rescues dogs, with no size, age or breed prejudices, and helps them find a proper home where they can thrive. Wags Club serves as a temporary home to up to five dogs until foster homes are found. This is a perfect opportunity for volunteers (in shifts) to come and walk the dogs, feed, clean and groom and, of course, play with them. Wags and Walks is surely appreciative of any amount of time you can give. It’s called puppy love. -> More information
11. Nothin’ But Sand Beach Cleanup with Heal the Bay (Third Saturday of every month, except December)
Beach cleanups with Heal the Bay are offered monthly. This vital work entails Heal the Bay and its volunteers picking up trash in the sand and at the shoreline. The ongoing program gives helpers the opportunity to volunteer as much or as little time as they prefer. The cleanups take place at various L.A. County beach locations, which change monthly. Volunteers trek the beaches, picking up plastic items, styrofoam trash and smoking-related items, which are then removed by Heal the Bay. The cleanups take place rain or shine, and it’s required that you RSVP online. -> More information
12. Teach an Adult to Read
There is still a huge adult literacy crisis in this country, and the Los Angeles Public Library offers their Adult Literacy Program (ALP), which provides free one-on-one adult tutoring. The program can be accessed at the central library in the Singleton Literacy Center, as well as at other branches all over L.A., including Cahuenga, Baldwin Hills, Pico Union, Koreatown, Venice, Watts and many others. After training, volunteer tutors help adults improve reading and literacy skills by meeting up twice a week for 1 to 1 ½ hours for a minimum of six months. -> More information
13. Serve Meals to Veterans
The Salvation Army carries out its tireless efforts and sharing of provisions at The Salvation Army’s Haven, an emergency shelter located on the Veteran Affairs Campus in West L.A. and the Bell Shelter in Bell. Every day, volunteers are needed to serve three scheduled hot daily meals to veteran residents. How can you help? Assist with meal prep and serve either breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Since 1887, the Salvation Army has had a huge presence in Southern California feeding and housing countless men, women and children. Check out the corner of Temple and Broadway in DTLA – visitors will see a plaque in the sidewalk paying tribute to a time when the organization met on that very street. -> More information
14. Embrace Culture and the Arts at Barnsdall Park
Getting involved with the Barnsdall Art Park is an awesome experience. The site of Frank Lloyd Wright’s first L.A. project, the Hollyhock House welcomes visitors all year long. Built between 1919 and 1921, this Lloyd Wright architecture celebrates the climate of L.A. by combining the indoors and outdoors. The house features rooftop terraces, a garden court and many glass doors to appreciate the outdoors. The Hollyhock House is seeking volunteers to be tour docents, and/or get involved with the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation, which hosts various events including wine tastings and movie nights in the spring and summer, along with gallery openings. -> More information