Riding a bike, teaching kid scientists, and 21 more L.A. ways you can help others.
True
SoCal Honda Dealers

How can you help out in Los Angeles? We counted 23 ways.

There's no shortage of things to do in sunny Southern California. And that's also true when it comes to helping others and doing something good for the community.

But with so many different things to do, it can be a wee bit tricky to know where and how you can be most effective. After all, where do you even start?


Well, we took care of that for you by breaking down concrete ways to help along with actionable steps, so you, my friend, do not have to worry. Just run through our handy how-to guide that has a little something for everybody:

1. Express your artistic side and help others hone their craft.

Organizations such as Inner-City Arts and Piece by Piece give volunteers a chance to help students gain confidence and creativity through the magic of painting, crafting, writing, and other art forms.

2.  Adopt a new member of the family at the zoo.

Image via Ricky Li/Flickr.

From amphibians to invertebrates, all animals in the L.A. Zoo are available for adoption. You can't take them home, of course, but your contribution will allow the L.A. Zoo to join international conservation efforts geared toward protecting all endangered species from extinction.

3. Help put a roof over the heads of people in need.

More than 46,000 people in L.A. are homeless on any given night. Luckily, you can donate or volunteer at organizations, such as PATH and the Downtown Women's Center, to help staff support those in need and create affordable permanent housing.

4. Be a big brother or sister to the next generation.

Image via iStock.

Everyone needs someone to look up to — and that someone could be you. Get involved with organizations like Spark and 100 Black Men of Orange County and mentor a young person.

5. Have loads of fun improving the environment.

Image via iStock.

Creating more parks and planting more trees can be more fun than you think when you do them with People for Parks and the TreePeople. From volunteer photography to in-house research to getting your hands dirty, there's an opportunity for everybody.

6. Lend a helping hand to people with disabilities.

Image via iStock.

Provide one-on-one assistance and have loads of fun helping others at AbilityFirst. Or, if you're looking for a much bigger role, you can take training programs to help people with disabilities at the CSUN Center on Disabilities.

7. Discover the teaching side you never knew you had.

Image via iStock.

Whether it's showing young people the ropes on writing with 826LA or teaching young women the value of building with their hands at DIY Girls, you might surprise yourself with how good an educator you are.

8. Become your own champion of LGBTQ rights.

Image via iStock.

When LGBTQ youth need guidance or just someone to talk to, The Trevor Project is there. In fact, you could be the one answering their call.

9. Help homeless individuals get back on their feet.

Image via iStock.

Volunteers at Imagine LA and Chrysalis provide job training and mentorship and even throw fun family events geared toward getting people's lives back on track.

10. Make sure as many people as possible have a hot meal.

Image via iStock.

Whether it's helping distribute unclaimed food with The Manna Room or providing food for thousands of hungry citizens regularly through the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, volunteers can fill up tummies and hearts at the same time.

11. Create access to safe water for people around the world.

Image via iStock.

783 million people worldwide still don't have access to clean water. Help make water as accessible as possible for communities in need by starting your own fundraiser through local organizations such as Wells Bring Hope.

12. Set up emergency relief packages for vulnerable communities.

Image via iStock.

Reach out to Operation USA or the International Medical Corps and donate your time, money, or even your airline miles to help give assistance when disaster strikes.

13. Unleash your inner scientist!

Image via iStock.

A project called 9 Dots is creating a brighter future for kids in underserved communities who want to pursue a life in science. And guess what? You can tutor them after school or on the weekends to help get them there.

14. Get in the fight for human rights.

Image via iStock.

The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) helps victims escape the cycle of modern day slavery by connecting them with other survivors and getting volunteers to fight the good fight with them. You can conduct talks, be an in-house attorney, or even use your graphic design skills to help out.

15. Harness the power of technology to create change.

Image via iStock.

Free community Wi-Fi and affordable solar power? Yes, please! Open Neighborhoods is providing just that to connect communities and help Mother Nature in the process. Lead the charge now to connect your neighborhood and make the shift to solar.

16. Help former gang members find a new path in life.

Image via iStock.

Homeboy Industries provides assistance such as job training to gang-involved and recently incarcerated men and women in order to help them find a new lease on life. Volunteers can help tutor and counsel participants and employers can even check out their talent pool for some emerging candidates.

17. Help prevent young people from entering gang life at all.

Image via iStock.

A Better LA focuses on community solutions to bring peace, order, and prevent the gang way of life from taking over in the first place. In fact, they're always looking for leaders just like you to help push the mission forward.

18. Park that car and stretch those legs for a cause.

Image via iStock.

CicLAvia has a straightforward plan: get people moving to promote better public health and cleaner air quality. Help out by getting your community to join, managing traffic, or just providing an extra set of hands.

19. Read, lead, and help your local library succeed.

Image via iStock.

The Library Foundation of Los Angeles provides people of all ages with different resources to help your local library. Whether through charitable donations or teaching others the value of reading, there's no shortage of ways to help.

20. Show how much you care about the coast.

Image via iStock.

With the help of Heal the Bay and Wildcoast, volunteers can help with beach cleanups, setting up educational events, or even just keeping a lookout and recording all the activity you see on the shore.

21. Reach out to an org to fund your own nonprofit.

Have an idea for a nonprofit that could help address an important issue? Reach out to the Goldhirsh Foundation or the Los Angeles Social Venture Partners and get your game-changing, life-altering idea out there.

22. Plant a garden and promote nutrition.

Image via iStock.

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and the Ron Finley Project are planting more urban garden spaces in underserved communities and giving them much-needed access to nutritional food. And they're always on the lookout for helping hands to help in the garden or in their offices.

23. Raise your voice and engage the public.

Image via iStock.

Communicating is a crucial part of implementing change. And that's what LA Voice is all about. You can donate to help get people's voices heard or volunteer to help train your community in the art of public speaking.

Whatever you're passionate about, there's always something you can do to help.

In fact, if you're looking for more options, you can always check out Do Good LA for a comprehensive list of ideas.

No matter your calling in life, there's an organization out there calling to you as well. So listen closely and listen good because the answer could change someone else's life forever.

Photo courtesy of Yoplait
True

When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

Keep Reading Show less
Canva

Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

Keep Reading Show less
True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!