Riding a bike, teaching kid scientists, and 21 more L.A. ways you can help others.
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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!

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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.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

The difference between a politician and a public servant may be a matter of semantics, but when it comes to getting legislation passed that actually helps people, the contrast is stark.

Texas Representative James Talarico is on a mission to get his constituents the life-saving medicine they need. The 31-year-old lawmaker has just introduced legislation that would cap the price of insulin—a medicine people with type 1 diabetes need to live, which has become unaffordable for many—at $50 a month.

The mission is personal for Talarico, as he nearly died three years ago when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

He shared his story on Twitter:

"In May 2018, I was a healthy 28-year-old running for the Texas House. I decided to walk the entire length of my district and hold town halls along the way. I hike Big Bend every year, so I wasn't concerned about a 25 mile walk...

But halfway through the walk, I began feeling nauseous and fatigued. Before the town hall in Hutto, I vomited in the bathroom."

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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