Season of Giving: Local nonprofits share how you can get involved

The holidays are here and as our thoughts turn to family, parties and presents, it also turns to giving back. We recently connected with some of our favorite Westchester/Playa area nonprofit leaders to learn more about their organizations and find out how people can get involved to support these worthwhile causes. Below are our Q&As with the executive directors or board presidents of 7 groups that are passionate about their missions and supporting the community.

Westside Pacific Villages

A WPV member and volunteer try to take a selfie.

Carol Kitabayashi has been helping “seniors age in place” in her role as Executive Director of the Westside Pacific Villages (WPV) for the last seven years. Based in Westchester, WPV offers a variety of services to its members with the help of pre-screened volunteers that assist in transportation to and from medical, hair and other appointments; help with technology issues; and social/wellness programs. More importantly, however, the large pool of village volunteers provide companionship, friendship and a healing human connection through the organization’s activities and events.

Q. In your own words, what is the mission/goal of your organization? A. At WPV we seek to strengthen and recreate a sense of community of “neighbors helping neighbors,” with a focus on the older adult population.  Our goal is to enable seniors, often neglected and overlooked, to maintain their independence, dignity and respect, from the homes they love. Our efforts are vitally important as we help combat loneliness and social isolation, which negatively impacts overall health and wellbeing.

Q. How does your nonprofit positively impact the Westchester/Playa area? A. Our nonprofit positively impacts our community’s area by addressing loneliness and supporting healthy purposeful aging, while simultaneously creating civic engagement opportunities for individuals of all ages by volunteering in meaningful ways. In fact, we have been voted as one of the best places to volunteer for the past seven years, and received a 2019 top-rated award from GreatNonprofits. In terms of numbers, this translates to more than 100 seniors receiving support from approximately 200 dedicated volunteers. WPV provides more than 400 services per month to our client members. 

Q. What is something that most people might not know about your organization that you wish they did?A. Many people think that WPV is a physical place where seniors live or a senior citizen center. However, we are not a facility or residence. WPV is an intergenerational community (or “village”) of older adults and volunteers from local neighborhoods who come together to support one another, but in particular, the oldest adults in our community. WPV is made up of people living in the neighborhoods of Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Marina del Rey, Del Rey, Mar Vista, Culver City, Ladera Heights, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach and adjacent areas. There are many ways that someone can be part of WPV; it is not limited to senior citizens. Some people join to receive full services such as transportation and additional supports to stay active and connected in the community and home. Others join the Village to find a sense of purpose and civic engagement, volunteering their time to become more deeply connected to the community through supporting older people who have been part of the community for years. We also recently implemented a volunteer driver mileage reimbursement program so our volunteers can receive reimbursement for driving our members.

Q. What are some opportunities for people to get involved with your organization? A. There are many ways that people can get involved with WPV! We welcome volunteers of all ages and talents. WPV will work with you to create a flexible schedule that fits with your lifestyle. Whether you are fully employed, retired, or a student, less than 30 minutes a week can make a very meaningful and huge difference in the life of an older person in our community. Volunteers can help with transportation (even if it’s only one way), become a friendly visitor or monthly caller, help with yard work, chores or minor repairs around the house, run errands, provide technology support and much more! 

Overall, you can volunteer directly with the older residents in the community, at our office, or find ways to volunteer tailored to your specific interests. Call us at (310) 695-7030 or email us at to learn more.

Q. Who are your top community partners? A. Some of our top community partners are Westchester Family YMCA, Westchester Senior Centers, Loyola Marymount University, Westchester and Playa Venice Rotary Clubs, Westchester Woman’s Club, LAX Coastal Chamber, Drollinger Properties, Los Angeles Fire Station #5, Covenant Presbyterian Church and other local churches and schools.

LAX Coastal Education Foundation

Runners get moving at the Rock Roll & Run 5K at LMU.

Since its relaunch in 2017, the LAX Coastal Education Foundation has been able to distribute more than $250,000 back to local schools through grants and its signature event, the Rock Roll & Run. Led by board president and Westchester resident, Andrew Chereck, the foundation is working on a strategic plan to bring more funds and support to the 27 public, private, charter and parochial schools that are within the group’s boundaries of Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Marina del Rey and beyond.

Q. In your own words, what is the mission/goal of your organization? A. My goals for the LAX Coastal Education Foundation are threefold:  

• to support and enrich the LAX Coastal educational environment by providing resources and opportunities to all of our local schools, educators and students, including through grants, training and other programs;

• to provide an invaluable resource to parents and students when considering the unique and diverse educational opportunities in the LAX Coastal community; and

• to be a catalyst for partnerships between our local schools and local businesses with the common purpose of further increasing the quality of education in our community. 

Q. How does your nonprofit positively impact the Westchester/Playa area? A. Most notably, since our inception in 2017, we have had the privilege of giving back more than $250,000 to our local schools. These funds have included STEM grants, teacher grants, arts & beautification grants and more. In addition to providing much needed funding and grants to our schools, teachers and students, we host free education-focused events throughout the year, including the Neighborhood School Expo each fall and a Spelling Bee for local elementary students.  The foundation also sponsors and participates in community events supporting our schools, including the LAX Coastal Chamber’s Teacher Eddy Awards and the Teacher Mini Grants.

Q. What is something that most people might not know about your organization that you wish they did? A. Unlike many local and regional educational foundations, the LAX Coastal Education Foundation was established to serve and support all of our local schools, whether public, magnet, charter, private or parochial. 

Q. What are some opportunities for people to get involved with your organization? A. Volunteer!  Anyone interested in getting involved with the LAX Coastal Education Foundation can simply email We are always looking for eager volunteers to help with our events and programs, particularly the Rock, Roll & Run in March. This event brings together the entire community and includes hundreds of participants, but requires significant manpower to put on each year. And, donations are of course welcomed and greatly appreciated. Visit us online at to learn more.

Q. Who are your top community partners? A. Our top community partners and program sponsors include LMU, SoCalGas, The LAX Kiwanis Club, the LAX Coastal Chamber and The Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation.  We also receive consistent and substantial support from LAWA, Cedars-Sinai, Kaiser Permanente, The Hannon Foundation, The Stephanie Younger Group, Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary and Westchester Rotary.

Part 2 featuring AMCS and the Westchester Rotary Club coming soon. Stay tuned!

Posted November 2019.