The Do Gooders Guide to Los Angeles

Heal the Bay volunteers

Heal the Bay volunteers | Photo: Heal the Bay, Facebook

Each year on April 22, Earth Day brings volunteerism to the forefront of our often busy lives. But Earth Day isn’t the only day that residents and tourists alike can make a real difference in Los Angeles. Whether you live in LA, or you’re planning a trip here and would like to devote some time to giving back, there are many local organizations that welcome volunteers—without a long term commitment—who want to make a positive impact on children, animals, homeless communities, and the environment all year long.

Heal the Bay volunteers
Heal the Bay volunteers | Photo: Heal the Bay, Facebook

Keep LA Beaches Clean & Beautiful with Heal the Bay & Surfrider

Miles of gorgeous beaches are one of many reasons so many people choose to visit Los Angeles each year. If you would like to help us keep our beaches clean, a great way to get involved is by volunteering at a beach cleanup hosted by Heal the Bay and Surfrider Los Angeles each month. Days, times and location— including Santa Monica Beach, Redondo Beach, Will Rogers State Beach, and Venice Beach—for scheduled beach cleanup days are available online.

Donate Life-Saving Blood at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Blood, platelet, and double red blood cell donations help save lives at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and CHLA makes it very simple to give to kids. Donors can search for a blood drive taking place in the local community, or schedule an appointment to donate at the CHLA Blood Donor Center. Donors must be 18 with a valid ID (17-year-olds may donate with a completed parental consent packet). Before scheduling your appointment, be sure to read all blood donor requirements as established by the FDA and the American Association of Blood Banks. Appointments are available Monday through Saturday beginning at 6:00 am.

Food Forward Volunteers
Photo: Food Forward, Facebook

Volunteer for Farmers Market Recovery with Food Forward

Dedicated to helping to fight hunger while preventing food waste, Food Forward relies on volunteers to help collect leftover fresh, local produce from numerous Los Angeles farmers markets to provide to food insecure individuals in local communities. As a Farmers Market Recovery volunteer, you’ll help distribute boxes to vendors who would like to donate, then collect the boxes for weighing, recording, and preparing for pickup by local hunger relief agencies. Children are welcome, though those under 16 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian who must also serve as a volunteer. You can sign up to help at more than a dozen different Farmers Markets during the week or on the weekend.

Food on Foot

Every Sunday in Hollywood, volunteers ages 6+ are invited to help Food on Foot distribute food and clothing to up to 200 homeless and impoverished individuals and families. A $25 donation fee is required (to cover costs of the food to be distributed and to support Food on Foot’s Work for Food program) and you’ll need to sign up online in advance. Distribution begins at 3:15 pm and ends at 5:00 pm.

Build Homes with Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles counts on thousands of volunteers each year to help build, repair and renovate homes. Group volunteer opportunities to help build homes, communities and dreams are available Wednesday through Saturday, and often require submission several weeks to months in advance (particularly for Saturday builds). Individuals who want to support Habitat for Humanity will also find plenty of opportunities to volunteer in Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores, which sell new and used furniture along with building materials at significant discounts. Check the Habitat for Humanity calendar for other opportunities to volunteer for special events like furniture assembly throughout the year.

Go Green with the Los Angeles Community Garden Council

The mission of the Los Angeles Community Garden Council is “to strengthen communities by building and supporting community gardens where every person in Los Angeles County can grow healthy food in their neighborhood.” But they need help, so volunteers are vital. To sign up online, choose which garden, day and time slot fits your schedule, and pack your water, sunscreen, hat, and shoes. No experience necessary, but green thumbs are also welcome.

Reading to Kids
Photo: Reading to Kids, Facebook

Inspire Children with Reading to Kids

Every second Saturday of the month, hundreds of volunteers read aloud to hundreds of underserved children at elementary schools across Los Angeles, thanks to Reading to Kids. The goal? To inspire children with a love of reading. Reading to Kids events begin with an hour of volunteer training at 9am. At 10am, each volunteer will read aloud to a small group of children, followed by an arts/crafts activity period.  Reading to Kids events are supervised by the elementary school’s own teachers and conclude at noon. Sign up online to schedule your day and preferred school.

Run with a CNN Hero and the Skid Row Running Club

Founded in 2012 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell, the Skid Row Running Club provides a supportive running club for Skid Row residents, who are working to overcome addiction and homelessness. Led by CNN Hero Judge Mitchell, the club also includes members of the greater L.A. community, who serve as friends and mentors to Skid Row resident members. Locals and visitors from around the world have joined the Skid Row Running Club on their weekly runs on Mondays and Thursdays at 5:45 am, thanks in part to the award-winning documentary, Skid Row Marathon (winner of the 2017 LA Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary Film). Meet Judge Mitchell and the runners at the Midnight Mission, which offers free underground parking.

TreePeople Volunteers
Photo: TreePeople, Facebook

Plant Trees with TreePeople

TreePeople aims to build a greener future for Los Angeles, by working hard to provide protection from heat and climate impact affecting under-resourced communities, and by restoring mountain forests. But they can’t do it without the help of volunteers, and there are plenty of ways to get involved. Sign up online for Street Planting events and help plant trees to beautify and protect communities. Or consider registering for a Forest Restoration Event or a Park Work Day, where you’ll be helping to maintain TreePeople’s beautiful 45-acre park in Coldwater Canyon.

Play "Ruff"at Wags & Walks Adoption Center

Wags & Walks Adoption Center welcomes volunteers every second Saturday of the month (though additional Saturdays are sometimes added) to help socialize and care for rescue dogs awaiting adoption. You’ll be invited to play catch, go for walks, or even help give deserving dogs a bath. Open only to those 18+ and volunteer spaces fill up quickly, so don’t delay in securing your spot.

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