The Spirit of Giving

The holidays are quickly approaching and while our focus turns to decorating, family gatherings, food and gift buying, many are also taken with the “spirit of giving–” a desire to give back to the community, the less fortunate and to nonprofits whose missions’ resonate with our hearts. While there are many worthy causes to give back to, here is our round-up of local opportunities to help spread some good cheer this holiday season:

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Badge of Heart Turkey Drive. What would Thanksgiving be without a turkey? Pacific Division police officer and former Westchester resident, Ken Lew, is hoping to distribute as many turkeys as possible on November 22 to help create a memorable Thanksgiving meal for families in need. After visiting home after home, while on duty as an office, and seeing empty refrigerators and families struggling to get by, Lew felt compelled to give back and founded the nonprofit Badge of Heart last year. The organization is holding its first “Tis the Season Turkey Giveaway” for families living in Westchester, Del Rey, Venice, Mar Vista and Palms, and has set a goal of raising $10,000 for the program this season. The families receiving the turkeys will also be sponsored by Pacific Division police officers, and the nonprofit’s partners from local schools, churches and youth groups.

Donations are being accepted online at badgeofheart.org and Drollinger Properties has also set up a collection box at their office, located at 8929 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 130 in Westchester.

St. Margaret’s Center 23rd Annual Christmas Program. Every year, St. Margaret’s Center, just a stone’s throw away from Westchester, donates thousands of toys to underprivileged children who live at or below the poverty level and reside in the areas surrounding LAX, at its annual Christmas Program. For the last five years, the HomeTown News, in collaboration with local community groups, has partnered with St. Margaret’s to help collect toys for the program. Toy donations are requested to be valued between $20-$30 to ensure that all children receive a gift of equitable value and toys for babies and tweens are especially needed. At the Christmas Program, parents are able to browse the donations and select a toy for their children, which is then beautifully wrapped by volunteers. A drop-box for toys is located at the LAX Coastal Chamber office, located at 9100 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Suite 210 in Westchester and donations can be dropped of Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Interested in donating online? Visit amazon.com, choose “Wish List,” select “St. Margaret’s Center” and toys you purchase will be shipped directly to the center. The last day for donations is Monday, December 14 and the toys will be distributed at the Saturday, December 19 Christmas Program at Morningside High School in Inglewood.

For more information, please contact Terry O’Connor at (310) 994-9904 or email terry_oconnor2012@yahoo.com

Annual Playa del Rey Toy and Animal Shelter Drive. For the last twelve years, neighbors have gathered in Playa del Rey’s Triangle Park to rally the community to donate toys and animal care items for the less fortunate. This year’s drive will take place on Saturday, December 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Triangle Park (at Waterview and Trask) in Playa del Rey.

Interested in getting involved? Organizers are looking for new, unwrapped toys or gift cards for grocery stores and Target to give to the neediest families with a child in Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Those interested in donating to the animal shelter drive, benefiting the ASPCA, are asked to bring new or gently used blankets, pet beds, food and toys.

For more information, please call Jane St. John or Julie Porter at (310) 577-5300 x 303.

30 Days of Giving to help end Homelessness. Westchester nonprofit, Homes for Life Foundation (HFLF), will embark on its first-ever “Giving Tuesday” campaign starting Tuesday, December 1. Giving Tuesday, a national movement aimed at encouraging people to donate to charities the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, will help kick-off   

“30 days of Giving” for HFLF with goal to raise $30,000 by the end of the year. HFLF is the first nonprofit organization in L.A. county dedicated to providing permanent, service-enhanced housing for homeless people who suffer from chronic mental illness. Now in its 28th year, the nonprofit operates 22 facilities throughout L.A. County and serves 500 clients per year. The nonprofit was founded by Westchester resident, Carol Leiss, after she became frustrated with the lack of help and resources available to the homeless and mentally ill.

To donate or learn about HFLF, please visit homesforlife.org or call Jeff Henson at (310) 337-7417 x22.

Holiday Coat Drive. The Kentwood Players are holding their third annual Kentwood Kares Coat Drive for the holidays starting this month. Led by Kentwood Players President Kathy Dershimer, the drive gives the community theater group the opportunity to collect new or gently used coats, jackets or sweaters that will be donated to the Union Rescue Mission located in Downtown.

Donations can be dropped off during the theater’s box office hours, Wednesday through Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. The Westchester Playhouse is located at 8301 Hindry Ave. in Westchester.

Hold a Food Drive. Since 1981, the Westside Food Bank has supplied aid to food assistance organizations, including the Food Pantry LAX, which serves the Westchester/Playa areas. Those interested in holding a food drive for the holidays can contact the food bank to receive a collection barrel to place at their home or office. Participating in the organization’s virtual food drive is even easier, and with a few clicks on westsidefoodbankca.org, you can purchase items like 50 pounds of potatoes for $8 or 20 pounds of spaghetti for $10.

Is your organization holding a charity drive or giving back to the community? Let us know at westchesterhometown@yahoo.com!