The spirit of giving: local groups work to give back to those in need

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Local groups are hard at work making sure the less fortunate have a good holiday season thanks to food drives, toy collections and adopt-a- family programs.

One such group is the Rotary Club of Westchester, which is hosting a donation drop-off for the nonprofit Safe Place for Youth (SPY). Located 
in Venice, SPY acts as a drop-in center for homeless youth, offering much needed food, clothing, Internet access, health services and case management.

The club regularly works with 
SPY by cooking meals at the group’s drop-in center a few times a year, but a recent tragedy spurred Rotarians
 to hold a special donation drive after learning that SPY’s storage unit was severely damaged in a fire last month. The destroyed unit contained the socks, blankets and clothing that the organization provides its clients during the winter months to help stay warm.

“The Westchester Rotary Club has been partnering with SPY to help homeless teens over the past few years. When we heard about the fire that depleted their supply of warm clothes, sleeping bags and hygiene products, it was just instinctive for us to jump in and help,” said Darlene Fukuji who is spearheading the collection drive as part of the rotary’s young professional group. “We hope that this donation drive will help SPY to alleviate their stress of trying to recover from the damage of the fire. SPY is a great nonprofit near and dear to the Westchester Rotary Club.”

The donation drive will be held at Sifted:LA, an antique and vintage store located at 6259 W. 87th Street in the Westchester Triangle on Saturday, December 6 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The group is looking to collect new or gently used winter clothing, new underwear, socks, sleeping bags, warm blankets and hygiene products. Monetary donations will also be accepted.

“Giving back is what rotary is,” said Westchester Rotarian Nora MacLellan. “It’s about giving back to the community or the world at-large. It can be as large as eradicating polio or helping these young homeless people in Venice or putting eyeglasses on kids.”

In Playa del Rey, organizers are getting ready for the 11th annual community Toy Drive held at Triangle Park. Every year, the event collects hundreds of toys for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to be distributed to the hospital’s families. The collection is scheduled for Saturday, December 6 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is sponsored by Jane St. John, RE/ MAX Estate Properties and Felicia
 St. Denis, Flowers by Felicia, with support from Beach Pizza, Starbucks-Marina del Rey and Bristol Farms. Triangle Park is located between Trask Ave. and Waterview Street (off of Pershing) in Playa del Rey.

This event takes on a festive atmosphere with neighbors socializing and sharing coffee and snacks while volunteers collect new and unwrapped toys. Gift cards for grocery stores and Target are also appreciated.

St. John, who is organizing the event for the first time this year, is grateful for the work of the drive’s founder, Playa del Rey resident Pam Stacey, in creating an event that gives back to so many in need and brings the community together.

“This event is a great way for neighbors to connect with each other while supporting a good cause,” said St. John. “It’s important to give back to our community in whatever way you can, and we are always overwhelmed by the amount of generosity that our neighbors show in supporting the event.”

The animal shelter drive that is usually held in conjunction with the toy drive has been postponed, but donations for animals will still be accepted at the event.

Through December 15, Visitation School is collecting toys to benefit 
St. Margaret’s Center, a nonprofit dedicated to providing support services to homeless and low-income families. The toys will be distributed to the center’s clients at its annual Christmas Program, which will be held on December 20 at Inglewood’s Morningside High School. Toys for infants and tweens are especially appreciated. A drop-box for toys is located at the school at 8740 Emerson Ave. in Westchester.

The Neighborhood Council is also asking the community to give back this season. They are encouraging people to join in Councilman Mike Bonin’s efforts to donate to the Westside Food Bank’s Holiday Drive. The food bank supplies food to social service agencies across Los Angeles and is in need of non-perishable food items. Donations can be dropped off to the councilman’s Westchester office, located at 7166 W Manchester Ave. through December 20. Donations can also be made online at the Food Bank’s “virtual food drive” at 11thdistrict.com/wfb_drive.

Photo: Jane St. John and Felicia St. Denis are sponsoring this year’ Playa del Rey Toy Drive.