Nonprofits making a difference in the community

The Westchester, Playa and Marina area is full of a great nonprofits and volunteers that are working hard to make a difference in the community. With the holidays upon us, the HTN would like to highlight some of the organizations that work year-round to make a positive impact in other’s lives by offering services and help for those in need.

• The LAX Food Pantry. Since 1984, the LAX Food Pantry has been providing meals to those without food. The nonprofit is sponsored by the Westchester Clergy Association, which is made up of pastors from 10 local churches.

According to LAX Food Pantry president, Scott Tanner, every week, the pantry distributes food to almost 300 families. The food pantry, which serves clients from Westchester, Inglewood, El Segundo, Hawthorne and surrounding areas, provides them with a grocery bag with two days worth of food. Volunteers work on creating weekly menus and providing clients the ingredients to make a complete meal like spaghetti or chili. Roughly ten-percent of the pantry’s clients are homeless and are given food that can easily be eaten on the go, as well as personal hygiene items like socks and tooth brushes.

The pantry is the only organization in the Westside Food Bank area that is run completely by volunteers who donate their time picking up food from the food bank, which is purchased at 7-cents a pound, picking up donations from restaurants and super markets and manning the distribution center every Tuesday and Thursday morning to distribute the food.

Tanner says the pantry is always appreciative of food drives that collect non-perishable food items. Items can be dropped off at the pantry or a pick-up by volunteers can also be scheduled. The pantry is especially in need of donations of canned protein (tuna, hot dogs, etc) and soup, because they chronically run a shortage of these items. The pantry is also in need of volunteers to do food pick-ups as needed.

During the holidays, more than 700 bags will be distributed to needy families thanks to a collaboration between the Westchester Clergy Association and the pantry.

Want to get involved? Donations can be sent to 8726 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Suite D PMB 741 in Westchester. Interested in holding a food drive or donating food items? Email foodpantrylax@gmail.com or call Scott Tanner at (310) 720-0139.

• The Westchester and Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Clubs. While the Rotary’s global mission is eradicating polio, local groups are making a difference at home through a variety of programs and events aimed at raising money for community projects and those in need.

The Westchester Rotary Club is known for its yearly book sale, which raises thousands of dollars that the club uses to help fund scholarships, service projects, to sponsor community activities and for the Home Makeover Project. The Home Makeover Project is the club’s largest philanthropic effort and involves the club making over a home in the Westchester/Playa area. The next home makeover is scheduled for 2015.

The Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club holds numerous service projects and events throughout the year including the Teacher Mini-Grant program, Holiday Adopt a Family program, donating Build-A-Bears to needy children and the December LAFD Santa Tour through Westchester and Playa del Rey.

The Rotary motto is “Service Above Self” and both clubs welcome guests to visit a meeting to learn more about their programs and how they live up to this creed.

The Westchester Rotary meets every Wednesday afternoon. For more info, visit rotary-westchester.com.

The Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary meets every Wednesday morning. For more info, visit playasunrise.org.

• St. Margaret’s Center. Since 1987, St. Margaret’s Center has provided support to low-income families in an effort to teach individuals skills to become more self-sufficient and gain economic security. The center, which is located in Lennox, helps more than 10,000 people every year from the LAX area with food services,  emergency housing vouchers, health screenings and tutoring.

For years, Westchester’s Visitation School has helped with the organization’s Christmas Program toy drive. For the last twenty-three years, St. Margaret’s has provided holiday festivities, food and gifts for more than 1,000 low-income families that receive at least one service at the center.

Donated toys are now being accepted at a drop-box located at the school at 8740 Emerson Ave. in Westchester. Toys are asked to be in the $20-$30 price range so that all of the children in a family receive equitable gifts. Toys for babies and tweens are especially needed. Toys will be collected Monday through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m to 11 a.m.

Those interested in donating can also visit amazon.com, choose “Wish List” and search “St. Margaret’s Center.” Toys can be shipped directly to the center.  The last day to donate toys is December 15.

For more info on donating or about St. Margaret’s Center, please contact Terry O’Connor at (310) 994-9904 or via email at terry_oconnor2012@yahoo.com.

• Vision to Learn. Although Vision to Learn has only been around for a little more than two years, the Los Angeles-based non-profit has quickly garnered support from local organizations like the community Rotary clubs, the Drollinger Charitable Foundation, Loyola Marymount University and the William H. Hannon Foundation,  for its mission of providing free eye exams and glasses to elementary school students in low-income communities.

Recently, members of seven local Rotary Clubs (including Westchester, Playa Venice Sunrise and Hawthorne/LAX/Venice) raised more than $60,000 to help fund more than 650 eye exams and glasses for students in the Los Angeles area.

Vision To Learn works to solve the problem of students in low-income communities who lack the glasses they need to see the board, read a book, study math or participate in class. Many times, for a variety of reasons, these students are not able to visit an eye care doctor, so Vision To Learn brings their mobile clinic to selected schools and community organizations and proves eye exams and glasses free of charge.

To date, Vision To Learn has visited more than 260 schools, including schools in Westchester, and 40 community organizations, where they have facilitated vision screenings for more than 160,000 children and provided over 18,000 children with free glasses.

Interested in getting involved or suggesting a school for Vision to Learn to visit? Visit visiontolearn.org.

Passionate about a local non-profit that you work or volunteer with? Let us know! Contact us at westchesterhometown@yahoo.com.

Photo: Volunteers at the LAX Food Pantry assemble bags of food for the hundreds of people in the LAX area that visit every week.