Updated for 2021
The holiday season is approaching, and during this festive time we think it’s important to stop and think about how we can help others. Everywhere we look, we all see so many people in need these days. Volunteer and you can make a difference.
Luckily, there are many ways to help — whether you’re looking to help by donating items, time, or money, whether you want to help once a year or on a regular basis, here are ways you can make a positive difference in someone’s life during the holiday season. Thank you for considering these ways to volunteer or do a good deed in Los Angeles this holiday season.
How to Give Back During the Holidays
As you get ready to celebrate the holidays with friends, keep in mind that “according to the latest estimates, as many as 13 million children in the United States live in ‘food insecure’ homes.” There are many ways families can help. You can make a donation to No Kid Hungry, check the website and shop brands that work with No Kid Hungry, host a fundraiser, contact your elected officials, and more. Check the website for details on how you can help and get involved in finding a solution.
Big Sunday: The Holiday List
6111 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038
At Big Sunday, they operate under the belief that “everyone has some way that they can help somebody else.” They offer multiple ways to donate, pitch in, and help. This holiday season they have over 400 different opportunities for families to help others. These include all different kind of projects, for different holidays, in-person and virtual, DIY, and more. You can participate in a community activity, donate (items and/or cash), and check their online calendar for upcoming special events because volunteering isn’t limited to just the holiday season.
Now that the kids may be getting their holiday wish lists ready, it’s a good time to talk to them about the spirit of giving to others. A simple way to do that is to participate in a holiday toy drive. You can help with the Toys for Tots holiday toy drive by donating a toy and/or funds. ABC 7 and Southern California Firefighters are sponsoring the 29th Anniversary of the Spark of Love Toy Drive. Check the website for information about how you can help support this important yearly event.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public and Social Services program assists low-income families served by DPSS by providing new gifts such as toys, clothes, and food to help families and children celebrate the holidays in a special way. This year there are two ways to participate. Check the website to find out how your family can help sponsor a family in need. For more information call (213) 744-4344 or e-mail [email protected]
More ways to Volunteer and Do Good Deeds all year long
– Do Good this Thanksgiving
– Volunteer Options for High School Students
– Ways to Help our fellow Angelenos year ’round
Holidays From the Heart
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
4650 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027
The Holidays from the Heart program aims to make the holidays a little happier for chronically ill children and their families. There are a number of ways to help, including sponsoring a family, making a monetary donation, and donating gift cards. Check the website for more details on how to help.
5830 W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016
Baby2Baby works year-round to ensure that no child is without the basic necessities of childhood. Generally, they accept donations all year long for items that will benefit children (infants to age 12) including but not limited to car seats, clothing (children’s and maternity), hygiene items (toothpaste, soap, sunscreen), coats, and more. However, due to COVID-19, Baby2Baby can only accept donations of new items (diapers, wipes, formula, hygiene items – soap, shampoo, toothpaste) at this time. Families can also get involved by hosting a donation drive (monetary or by collecting items). Check the website for details.
Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles and other Make-A-Wish chapters around the country are inviting friends and families to start a new tradition of bringing joy into the lives of children fighting critical illnesses by taking part in Families For Wishes! Participating in Families For Wishes is as simple as one-two-three: 1. Visit familiesforwishes.org. 2. Enter a U.S. zip-code to find a Make-A-Wish team nearby. Funds raised will support families in the team’s chosen area. 3. Create a family fundraising page, add a picture and begin fundraising!
As part of Macy’s Believe campaign, for every online letter written to Santa, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish America, up to $1 million. (And during National Believe Week, November 28th through December 4th), Macy’s is doubling their donation. All the details to help you write and send your letter are available online.
The Giving Spirit – Winter Outreach
11693 San Vicente Blvd. #113, Los Angeles, CA 90049
The Giving Spirit is an organization that assembles and distributes “survival kits” to families living on the street. Each kit contains 60-70 items. The Giving Spirit has been reaching the homeless in and around Los Angeles for over fifteen years now. Families can help by donating funds and/or items that are packed into the survival kits. Check the website for details.
One Voice Holiday Food Program
The Barker Hangar (aka The Santa Monica Air Center)
3021 Airport Ave., Santa Monica Airport, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Usually, the One Voice Holiday Food Program provides about 2,500 families with Christmas food baskets, books, and toys. To make this program possible, volunteers sort and package the food as well as to help distribute the packages. COVID has canceled that event this year; however, One Voice still needs our help. They plan to distribute grocery gift cards to families in need. You can make a monetary donation to help. Check the website for details.
Brighten the Holidays
The Salvation Army
Most families are very familiar with The Salvation Army’s Red Kettles during the holiday season, so you already know of the wonderful work they do. This year, The Salvation Army is focused on those who have been impacted by COVID-19, including those facing eviction and those living with food insecurity. Because many will continue to do their holiday shopping online this year, funds collected in the Red Kettles are again expected to be drastically reduced this year. Monetary donations may be made online.
Diapers. Sometimes, it’s the one thing that is forgotten about. Food, formula, and wipes are donated, but many families are in desperate need of diapers. Public assistance programs (like food stamps) don’t cover diapers. But your family can help by making a monetary donation to help make sure families most in need will have the diapers they need. (Because of COVID-19, donations of diapers are not accepted at this time.)
149 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90049
Being a part of the Crayon Collection allows families with children of all ages an easy way to volunteer and make a difference. Generally, families (and restaurants and assorted businesses) upcycle gently-used crayons, which provide children with crayons while also saving space in our landfills. Now, however, Crayon Collection, is asking for monetary donations to make sure every child has access to crayons and the magic they bring into a child’s life. Check the website for details.
Food Donations for SOVA Food Pantry
8846 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035
16439 Vanowen St., Van Nuys, CA 91406
Families can donate non-perishable, canned food items to the SOVA Food Pantry. Or, go a step further, and find out how you can start a donation program at your child’s school or your own place of work. Check the website for details.
Help from Home Kits
Downtown Women’s Center
442 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles, CA 90013
The Downtown Women’s Center is “the only organization in Los Angeles focused exclusively on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless women.” Families can help the Downtown Women’s Center by putting together special kits – Snack Packs, Toiletry Kits, and Clean Home Kits. Kits can then be dropped off where they will be given to those who need them most. Details are available online.
UNICEF Kid Power is a “free, interactive video platform that connect kids’ everyday activity to real-world impact.” As kids watch and interact with these physical activity and social-emotional learning videos, they “unlock critical support (food, medical supplies and more)” that are then distributed to children in global and local communities.
“Americans spend more than 7 billion dollars on greeting cards each year,” according to Greet for Good. Now, imagine the good that could be done if those cards were purchased from non-profit organizations. The Greet for Good website “directs you to more than 230 organizations that sell holiday greeting cards, e-cards, and tribute cards to help fund their charitable work.”
LA Family Housing
7843 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91605
LA Family Housing strives to make the holiday season bright for thousands of people experiencing homelessness, and they offer multiple ways to get involved. “This year LA Family Housing will help thousands of people transition into permanent housing,” and help is needed to “make their holidays festive and bright.” Families may opt to donate gift cards (empowering parents to choose the right gift for their children), making or purchasing holiday dessert treats, and helping out in “Santa’s Workshop” by organizing, packaging, and delivering gifts. All details are available online.
7412 Fulton Ave. #3, North Hollywood, CA 91605
Food Forward is a “Southern California organization on a mission to reduce food waste and increase access to healthy fruits and vegetables through food recovery.” Surplus produce (from farmers markets, backyard trees, public orchards) are saved from the trash and given to those facing food insecurity. There are multiple ways to help including volunteering your time and/or donating funds. Check the website for details.
Color a Smile is a “nonprofit organization that distributes cheerful drawings to Senior Citizens, Our Troops Overseas, and anyone in need of a smile.” This is a perfect activity for families because everyone can participate. Families simply print a coloring page from the website (no glitter, use only crayons or markers), mail them into Color a Smile, and then the pictures are distributed each month. The holidays are a perfect time for your family to get involved. Details can be found online.
Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).