The end of the year is a time for reflection and being thankful for what we have. For those of us who have been fortunate this year, consider giving back to the community with these ideas for where to volunteer in and around Los Angeles. From preparing food for the houseless to volunteering in animal shelters or cleaning up our beaches, there are many ways to contribute to the City of Angels—and not just for the holidays but throughout the year.
Where to Volunteer in Los Angeles This Holiday Season
Homelessness is one of the major issues in Los Angeles currently, and Midnight Mission has been working to help those experiencing homelessness since 1914. Not only does this important organization provide emergency shelter and food, but also resources and services to help these individuals get back on their feet. They are always looking for volunteers to help with meal service, food preparation, clean-up as well as provide tutoring and professional services, such as legal services and tax preparation.
2. Heal the Bay
Living in Los Angeles, the health and cleanliness of our oceans and beaches are important and something we all need to be aware of. Heal the Bay was founded in 1985 to make coastal waters and watersheds in the Greater LA area clean, safe and healthy. There are a few ways to take part, including Heal the Bay’s monthly beach cleanup. On the third Saturday of every month (except December), Heal the Bay heads to a different beach in the county for a group cleanup bonanza.
The City of LA Animal Services offers a wide variety of resources from shelters, pet food pantry, lost and found center and more. They serve over 60,000 animals every year—from dogs and cats to guinea pigs—so they are always in need of more volunteers. Volunteers can take on many roles from walking dogs, comforting the animals, interacting with potential adopters and helping with social media.
Best Friends Animal Society is aiming to make every shelter no-kill by 2025. Their LA location offers a kitten care center and pet adoption center, working with animal rescue groups and shelters around the city. There are many ways to volunteer and contribute, from being on-site and helping take care of the dogs and cats, to fostering pets in your home, to remote opportunities where you can help with outreach, social media and more.
Meals on Wheels provides nutritious meals for those who are unable to plan for or shop for meals themselves due to disability, illness or age. And for many of the participants, the days they receive these meals are also one of the few times they come into contact with another person. Not only do the Meals on Wheels volunteers help deliver meals for these individuals, but they also offer friendship and ease the sense of isolation some of these homebound individuals may feel. St. Vincent’s Meals on Wheels look for meal delivery driver volunteers, as well as volunteers to make social calls and teach technology.
This grassroots organization aims to inspire underserved children with a love of reading by having volunteers read to elementary school children in underserved areas. Reading to Kids holds reading clubs on the second Saturday morning of each month at eight elementary schools near downtown LA, and this is where first-time volunteers can first get involved. Those who have volunteered at least two or more reading clubs can also then volunteer with other aspects of the organization from planning to administration.
7. LA Compost
Committed to reducing food waste, in 2021 LA Compost kept over 800,000 pounds of organic waste out of landfills. This eco-friendly group creates community compost locations and larger regional compost hubs to recover organic waste from food recovery programs, local farmers markets and more. The compost is then used by local urban farms, community parks and others. Get involved by volunteering to maintain one of their compost hubs across the city, engage and educate the community at farmers markets, or join one of their special events including compost workshops.
Union Station Homeless Services helps homeless individuals and families rebuild their lives. You can help by volunteering to prepare meals for shelter residents and others in need or participate in one of their community reintegration programs that build social networks to support wellness and housing stability.
One in five people in Los Angeles County experiences food insecurity and the LA Regional Food Bank helps fight hunger by distributing food and other essentials to those in need. Individuals and groups can help by volunteering to sort and box food to be later distributed to over 2 million people in the county, or volunteer to support administrative duties. You can also volunteer to distribute food at a partner pantry site.