Want to get involved? Local groups offer opportunities to give back, enhance community

Westchester Rotary Club volunteers, including President Elect Tori Hettinger, help paint a wall at Safe Place for Youth during last year’s Makeover Project. Joining or participating in a Rotary Club event is just one of the many ways volunteers can donate their time, talent or treasure to enhance the community.

For many of us, the new year creates an opportunity to make plans and goals to accomplish in the next twelve months. For those looking to get more involved in their neighborhood, January is a fresh start to give your time, talent or treasure to the myriad of local groups that are always looking for new, enthusiastic people interested in joining their organizations.

Here is a short list of local groups that can help you accomplish your goal of getting involved and giving back to your neighborhood in 2018:

• Love having a voice in the community?

The Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa (NCWP) is an advisory board to the City Council that meets monthly to hear and vote on pressing issues that impact Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista. Board meetings regularly involve discussing development projects, airport issues, public safety and more. The volunteer board is made up of 31 members that live, work, volunteer or own property in the community. Currently, there are three residential seats and two business seats that are vacant. The NCWP also has 9 committees that meet regularly (or as needed) that the community is invited to participate in and attend.

The NCWP monthly board meeting takes place on the first Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. Due to the holidays, the NCWP is holding its January meeting on Tuesday, January 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Westchester Community Room, located at 7166 Manchester Ave. in Westchester. To celebrate the New Year, in lieu of a regular meeting, the January meeting is a community dinner. At the dinner, guests will have the opportunity to hear from board leadership about ways to get involved.

For more info, please visit ncwpdr.org.

• Love animals?

Since opening in June of last year, the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace has been a hub for animal lovers looking to learn more about their four-legged companions, those looking to adopt a new family member and people interested in workshops on a variety of helpful pet-related topics. The center, with a mission to strengthen the human animal bond, has a variety of opportunities for dedicated volunteers in areas including animal adoption assistance, animal enrichment, cat and dog care, guest experience, photography, education and more. Prospective volunteers must attend a volunteer information session, which includes a tour of the facility and an overview of PetSpace’s policies. The center also offers volunteer opportunities for youth 15-17 with a parents’ approval.

New volunteer orientations take place monthly with the next two shifts taking place on Saturday, January 6 and Saturday, February 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

For those with limited time and looking for a kid-friendly activity, PetSpace also offers weekly opportunities to help adoptable pets with its Paw & Pages program. Taking place on Sundays at noon, guests are invited to sign-up online or check-in at the reception desk for the opportunity to read to the center’s animals or listen to a story.

The Wallis Annenberg PetSpace is located at 12005 Bluff Creek Dr. in Playa Vista. To learn more about the center’s volunteer opportunities or to sign-up for an orientation, please visit annenbergpetspace.org/about/jobs-volunteer.

• Love meeting new people?

Traveling at the airport can be stressful, so Los Angeles World Airport’s Volunteer Information Professionals (VIPs) program works to make the experience at LAX a positive one. VIPs assist passengers by providing directions, finding transportation, offering sightseeing suggestions and facilitating communications between passengers and airlines. While most of the time VIPs are stationed at information booths, they also are assigned to roam the baggage claim area. Volunteers work four-hour shifts in pairs between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the weekdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the weekends.

For those who own therapy dogs, there’s also the Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program, where volunteers and their dogs help relieve passengers’ stress and anxiety while offering assistance. PUP volunteers must have a registered therapy dog with at least one year of experience working with a dog therapy organization to be considered.

As a bonus for being part of the VIP program, volunteers are invited to LAWA events, are eligible to apply for human resource training courses like CPR and Spanish and are invited to an annual recognition event.

For more info please visit lawa.org/VIP or lawa.org/pup.

• Love working with seniors?

Seniors can often feel isolated and alone due to limited mobility, families with busy schedules and lack of transportation. Since Westside Pacific Villages (WPV) was formed in

2009, however, the organization has worked hard to help seniors stay active, engaged and independent in their homes as long as possible by pairing them with volunteers.

WPV is a nonprofit membership organization that provides its members with help and companionship with the aid of volunteers. With a commitment as little as an hour a week, volunteers can help seniors with a variety of needs including transportation to doctors appointments, errands or grocery shopping; simple handyman tasks like fixing a door knob or changing a light bulb; help with household chores; taking dogs for walks and teaching members how to use email, cell phones or computers. A big component of the program is also offering friendship to seniors, whose social circles inevitably begin to shrink as they get older. A “friendly visitor” volunteer opportunity can mean becoming a walking buddy, sharing a meal with a WPV member, playing a game, watching a movie or attending a social outing together.

To learn more about volunteering at WPV, please visit thewpv.clubexpress.com.

• Love doing community service?

Westchester/Playa is home to two thriving Rotary Clubs that work hard each year to give back to the community. Rotary Clubs are made up of a diverse group of professional leaders that look to effect positive change in their local community and beyond.

The Rotary Club of Westchester was founded in 1950 and is known locally for its signature events including the annual book sale in Westchester and its Makeover Project, which has helped make over people’s homes, the Westchester Senior Center and the Venice nonprofit Safe Place for Youth. The club meets every Wednesday afternoon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel LAX for fellowship, lunch and sharing.

The Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club offers club members numerous ways to get involved with the community. This month, the club will be distributing thousands of dollars in grants to local teachers and supports local education through sponsoring scholarships and events like the Teacher Eddy Awards. The club also hosts pancake breakfasts at local fire stations, the Santa Tour, a holiday adopt-a-family program and is integral in providing support to the Fourth of July Parade. The club meets Wednesday mornings at Whiskey Red’s in Marina del Rey.

Both clubs also participate in international projects and are always looking for new members that are enthusiastic about Rotary’s mission of “Service Above Self” and living by the Four Way Test: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

While there’s yearly membership dues associated with joining to help support the clubs’ activities, the wealth of projects both clubs participate in each year make joining Rotary a worthwhile choice for those looking for volunteer opportunities.

For more info about joining the Westchester Rotary Club, please visit rotary-westchester.com. For info about joining the Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary, please visit playavenice.org.

• Love special events?

The LAX Coastal Chamber is a business membership organization with more than 500 members made up of large and small businesses.

The chamber hosts monthly networking opportunities for its members (visitors can also attend for a fee) where guests can collect business cards, exchange ideas and build synergy with other business owners and representatives.

More than just a business organization, however, the chamber also hosts numerous community events throughout the year where volunteers are appreciated, including the Fourth of July Parade, the Protectors’ Luncheon and the Teacher Eddy Awards.

For more information about joining the chamber or volunteer opportunities, please visit laxcoastal.com.

• Love the environment?

The area is home to one of the last remaining wetlands in South California and local nonprofit, the Friends of Ballona Wetlands, has made it their mission to help restore and protect the roughly 600-acres along Culver Blvd.

For those with limited time, the Friends of Ballona offers habitat restoration and creek clean-up days where volunteers put in a few hours of work helping clean and restore the wetlands.

For those looking for a bigger commitment, the group has opportunities for helping in the office, at community events, at educational programs, photography and at special events.

For more info about volunteering, please visit ballonafriends.org.

Love gardening?

Over the years, the volunteers at the Emerson Avenue Community Garden have transformed an empty plot of land on the campus of Wright STEAM Magnet into a thriving organic garden, green space and a community hub. Run by a group of enthusiastic volunteers, the space is more than just a place to grow fruits and vegetables, and you don’t need to have a plot to participate in the nonprofit’s activities.

Those looking to volunteer can help at community work days in the garden, staff a booth at community events or assist at one of the group’s special events including a pancake breakfast, movie nights and the popular Westchester Arts and Music (WAM)Block Party.

For more information about volunteering, please visit eacgc.org/take-action.

• Love history?

Since opening the storefront “Westchester’s Jewel and Playa’s Treasures presented by the Westchester/Playa Historical Society” in June of last year, local volunteers with a love of history have been helping catalogue and organize the historical society’s archives. The archives, which include pictures, newspaper articles, memorabilia and yearbooks, have been in storage for years, and the goal is to offer these treasures from year’s past for public viewing.

Volunteers are currently being sought to help organize the collection, as well as serve as docents for the historical society room, which is located in the Westchester Triangle and open on Sundays during the Farmers’ Market. For more information about volunteering, please call (310) 645-5151 or visit facebook.com/westchesterplayahistory.

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