There’s no shortage of opportunities to get involved, enhance the community

January is often a time for people to make goals and a list of things they’d like to accomplish in the next 12 months. If one of your resolutions this year is to give back and get involved in your local community but you’re not sure where to get started, Covenant Presbyterian Church is hosting its second annual Community Connections event on Sunday, January 29. The goal is to showcase, in an expo type environment, local groups, organizations and nonprofits that can “help you or help others.”

While we recommend stopping by the event to learn what opportunities are available in the Westchester/Playa area, we’ve also compiled a short list of local groups that can help you accomplish your goal of feeling more connected to your neighborhood in the new year!

1. Attend a NCWP Meeting. The Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa (NCWP) meets the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. and all of its meetings are open to the public, and the community is encouraged to attend.

The advisory board is made up of 31 members who either live, work or own property in Westchester, Playa del Rey or Playa Vista. Almost every local issue from parking, homelessness, LAX, development, education and more comes before the board, who can take a position and then send their recommendations to Councilmember Mike Bonin or the appropriate city office. The audience is invited to participate by making public comments at the meeting that are considered by the board before they vote. If you’d like to take a more targeted approach, the NCWP has 8 committees that meet regularly or on an as-needed basis. Two of the most popular committees are Planning and Land Use, which meets every third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. and Education, which meets the fourth Wednesdays of the month at 6:30 p.m.

The monthly board meetings are held in the Westchester Community Room, located in Westchester Park at 7166 Manchester Ave. in Westchester.

For more info, visit ncwpdr.org.

2. Join a Rotary Club. Locally, there are two Rotary Clubs that are dedicated to making a difference in their communities and the world. The Westchester Rotary Club meets every Wednesday for lunch at 12:10 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel, located at 5985 W. Century Blvd. in Westchester. The club is involved in variety of service projects, most notably with Vision to Learn, which provides free eye exams and glasses to students in low-income areas and its makeover project. Next month, the club is leading a makeover of Safe Places for Youth (S.P.Y.), a center for homeless teens and young adults in Venice. The club is also responsible for the annual book sale that takes place in the Ralph’s parking lot on Sepulveda Blvd. in the spring.

For more info, visit rotary-westchester.com.

The Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club meets every Wednesday morning for breakfast at 7:15 a.m. at Whiskey Red’s, located at 13813 Fiji Way in Marina del Rey. The club participates in numerous projects and events throughout the year, including its Cultural Dinner that honors a community member with the Sunrise Service Award, the teacher mini grant program, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month and has provided teachers with donations of more than $200,000 since its inception  and its pancake breakfasts held at local fire stations.

For more info, visit playavenice.org.

3. SIgn-up for a volunteer opportunity. Every organization and nonprofit relies on volunteers to help accomplish their missions. Some local groups that always welcome new volunteers is Westside Pacific Villages, Meals on Wheels West and the LAX  Volunteer Information Professionals (VIPS).

Located in Westchester, Westside Pacific Villages is a membership organization that helps seniors 55 and older remain active and in their homes for as long as possible with the help of volunteers. Volunteers are paired with seniors to help provide services like: transportation to medical appointments and the grocery store; to help with simple tasks around the home; help with computer/smart phones and provide companionship.

For more information or to sign-up to volunteer, please visit thewpv.clubexpress.com.

Whether you’d like to donate your time to deliver one meal a year, or a one meal a week, Meals on Wheels West offers volunteers flexible schedules to help feed the home-bound and those in need. Volunteers pick up meals at the organization’s  headquarters in Santa Monica and then they deliver food to around 10 people in a neighborhood. The group serves the Marina area.

 For more information and to volunteer, visit mealsonwheelswest.org.

4. Become a member of the LAX Coastal Chamber. The LAX VIPs help passengers have a positive experience at LAX. Volunteers in the program help alleviate the stress of travelers by providing directions, assisting with finding transportation and providing recommendations for sight-seeing. Volunteers work in groups of two in four-hour shifts once a week or more if desired.

The group is having an information meeting for volunteers on Thursday, January 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the LAX VIP office, located at 205 World Way at the airport. To RSVP, email vip@lawa.org.

For more than 6o years, the LAX Coastal Chamber has served as an advocate for the local business community. For small business owners, joining the organization can be invaluable when it comes to networking with other local entrepreneurs and business leaders. The group is more than just a place to network at mixers however. The membership organization offers a variety of opportunities to connect with the neighborhood through its committees including Public Policy and Education; and through volunteer opportunities at events they host like the Teacher Eddy Awards and the Fourth of July Parade.

For those that work at home or are launching a new business, the chamber is also home to LAX Coworking, where people can work for the day or sign-up for a membership to work in a collaborative space with like-minded individuals.

For more information on the LAX Coastal Chamber, visit laxcoastal.com.

5. Get involved with the Emerson Avenue Community Garden. The Emerson Avenue Community Garden (EACG) has the motto “Build a Garden, Grow a Community,” and since 2011, the group has transformed a one acre portion of land at Wright STEAM Magnet into a beautiful garden and a community resource that can be enjoyed by all. You don’t necessarily need to want a garden plot to get involved however. The EACG offers a variety of volunteer days throughout the year, including monthly work days where volunteers can learn about composting, gardening and more. The group has also branched out to special events, hosting movie nights in the garden during the summer and last year held the popular WAM Block Party, that saw a portion of Emerson Avenue closed off to make room for art, local vendors, bands and entertainment.

For more info, visit eacgc.org.

6. Participate in a local event or happening. Every month there is a local group, nonprofit or organization that holds an event that organizers hope will be attended by community members. These events are a great way to meet like-minded people that share similar interests and are interested in being part of working to make the community better.

Interested in education? Create a team and sign-up for the 10th annual Race for Success held at LMU on Saturday, March 11.

Love farm to table? Visit one of the community’s farmers’ markets (Wednesdays and Sundays in Westchester; Saturdays in Playa Vista and Saturdays in Marina del Rey).

Like outdoor activities? Attend a hike, bike ride or community clean-up with Councilmember Mike Bonin.

Whatever your passion, if you’re interested in getting involved in 2017, there’s no shortage of opportunities to help enhance the community, make new contacts and have a positive impact on your neighborhood!

What ways do you like to get involved in the community? Let us know at westchesterhometown@yahoo.com.