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Give a hand and give back by volunteering this holiday season with Big Sunday

Posted By Karen Young On November 25, 2009 @ 1:15 am In Featured,Features,My Daily Find,Profiles | 4 Comments

Karen_Young_MDF100A Note for Thanksgiving

Instead of a sharing a typical “My Daily Find” today, I want to introduce you (if you aren’t already aware) to the largest regional community giving organization in the nation — Big Sunday.  Founded as Mitzvah Day in 1999 at Temple Israel of Hollywood by David Levinson as a single day of service with 200 volunteers at 19 non-profits, Big Sunday has grown into a weekend event every May that involves over 50,000 volunteers and 500 non-profit sites throughout the Southland. Earlier this year, Executive Director Levinson was named Non-Profit Leader of the Year as part of the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service which was awarded by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shiver.

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11-year-old Jamey Geston ran a lemonade stand at Big Sunday with ten peers to raise money for Shane's Inspiration. Photo: Jamey Geston

Rather than waiting until May, Big Sunday has a calendar of volunteer opportunities for everyday of the year.   They also have put together a grand list of places to volunteer over the holidays  (see their list below).  The goal is community building for people of all ages and from every walk of life — with the motto — “everybody helps, and everybody wins.”  Check out www.bigsunday.org throughout the holiday season for updates and additions to this list.  If you have an event or opportunity to add to the list, contact Rachel Linton at rlinton@bigsunday.org or call 323-549-9944.

Please take a look a see what you can do to give a hand.

Wishing all of you a very safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Karen Young, Publisher/Editor

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Volunteering in your community is the greatest gift of all. Photo: Courtesy Facebook/BigSunday.org

THE BIG SUNDAY LIST:   HOLIDAY VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

November 25th and 26th. Every year, The St. Finbar Catholic Community hosts their annual Thanksgiving Dinner for “families, singles, couples, seniors, youngsters, middle-aged people, homeless people, and all those with no other place to celebrate Thanksgiving with a community or family.” This year this great event will take place at the Bellarmine-Jefferson High School in Burbank. And, of course, they need turkeys! Specifically, they need turkeys cooked – but not stuffed. Turkeys can be delivered to the Bell-Jeff cafeteria on Wednesday, November 25th, between 12:30 PM and 3 PM. If you can donate a turkey, please call Nella Ebli at 818-842-5916. They also need volunteers to help (in every possible kind of way, and all ages are welcome) at the actual dinner on Thanksgiving Day, November 26th. If you can donate your time, please call Frank Kolbask at 818-840-6972. For more info contact Mary Parcells at mary134e@yahoo.com or 818-848-2994 or check out http://www.stfinbarburbank.org.

Throughout December. The AbilityFirst Lawrence Frank Center in Pasadena is a terrific place for kids who are developmentally disabled. They have a unique and wonderful request: They are looking for a caroling group to work with their kids so they can go out caroling in the local neighborhood around the holidays. Per their request: “It would be terrific to get other children to go caroling with our children.” The goal is to go caroling the third week in December. If you can help, please contact Michael Barkyoumb at mbarkyoumb@abilityfirst.org or 626-449-5661, x106. By the way – they would also really appreciate unwrapped gifts for the kids, too.

December 1st and December 3rd-7th. Project Angel Food delivers more than 1,300 nutritious meals daily to people in Los Angeles County who are suffering with AIDS/HIV, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses. Their annual fundraiser, Divine Design – “a shopping extravaganza with high-end fashion sold at charity prices” – is coming up, and they have two requests: 1) They need raffle prizes for the more than 500 volunteers who help make this event so wonderful and successful. Prizes can include gift certificates, movie and theatre tickets, free massages, bath and beauty products, candles, coffee, chocolate, etc. etc. In their words, “We like to reward our terrific volunteers for all the work they put into this event.” 2) They need volunteers! Specifically, they need 500-600 enthusiastic, customer-service oriented volunteers to take shifts throughout the weekend of the event. Volunteers are especially needed on Friday the 3rd and Monday the 7th.) (Actually, they could also use volunteers on Thanksgiving weekend, too!) For more info contact Brandon Roberts at Brandon@divinedesign.org or 323-845-1800, x236. You can also learn more at www.divinedesign.org or register to help at http://www.angelfood.org/DD09Volunteer.

December 1st, December 6th and December 20th. The Annual From The Heart Book Sort and Giveaway. Each year, From the Heart provides thousands and thousands of new books to kids living below the poverty line all over Los Angeles. For many kids it’s the first book they’ve ever owned. This year they are collecting new books for kids, plus new and used books for adults. Books will be collected until December 1st. Then on Sunday December 6th from 10 AM to 1PM, volunteers are invited to help sort books in preparation for the book giveaway. This is a family-friendly event, and kids ages five and up are welcome. (Dress casually – book sorting is dusty work!) The Big Book Giveaway will be on Sunday, December 20th from 9 AM to 3PM. From the Heart will be sending volunteers to Head Start Centers across Los Angeles to “put brand new books into the hands of children at Christmas time.” They need drivers, schleppers, and hander-outers. This is an incredibly festive and inspiring family-friendly event, but best for kids ages ten and up. (Dress casually – and warmly – for this, too.) Those who volunteer will need to stay for the entire time specified. If you have books to donate, or want to volunteer sorting or delivering at any of these amazing and inspiring events, email the tireless and awesome Barri Evins – officially named one of the ten biggest mensches in L.A. by The Jewish Journal – at FromTheHeart345@aol.com, or call her at 310-657-7733. Unable to volunteer? Consider a tax-deductible donation. Thanks to From the Heart’s partnership with First Book, just $25 puts books into the hands of a dozen delighted children! Check out www.firstbook.org/fromtheheart.

December 1st. Inland Valley Hope Partners helps families with no income or very low incomes by providing such important necessities as food and shelter. For the holidays, they are hoping to provide something special by collecting and distributing toys to the kids in these needy families. Toys for all ages are welcome. Also, please donate the toys unwrapped. To help out, or for more info, please contact Wade Kyle, the program director at wadek@hope-partners.com or 909-622-3806, x 230.

December 3rd. Families Forward will be providing gifts to more than 700 Orange County families who are low-income or at risk of becoming homeless through their Adopt-A-Family Program. Gift cards to all kinds of stores are always great (and remember, most supermarkets now sell these, too). If you‟d prefer to donate toys or gifts, please deliver them unwrapped. For more information, contact Debbie Regele at dregele@families-forward.org or 949-552-2727, x226. You can also check out http://www.families-forward.org/events_adopt_a_family.htm.

December 4th. United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County helps lower income families that have a child or children with a disability in all kinds of important ways. Each year, they sponsor an “Adopt a Family Program” where they give away toys, games, children‟s‟ books and clothing, canned food, blankets, and other items – both fun and necessary – to their grateful clients. They appreciate all donations, and have requested that people deliver them unwrapped. For more information, please contact Cathleen Collins at ccollins@ucp-oc.org or 949-333-6424.

December 4th and December 24th. United Friends of the Children provides many essential programs and services to current and former foster youth (ages 4-to-23), including transitional housing, independent living skills, career planning, emergency assistance and college readiness and sponsorship. They would like to give new, unwrapped gifts to the kids in their programs. Here are some of the things they‟d really appreciate: Gift cards to places like grocery stores, clothing stores, Best Buy and, of course, Target; children‟s toys and games; electronics like iPods and digital cameras; bath & body sets; CD‟s and DVD‟s. They would also love tickets to sporting events. For the full and detailed wish list, check out www.unitedfriends.org. If you can help, please contact Emily Larson at Emily@unitedfriends.org or 213-580-1849. One other thing that’s nice to buy and that they could really use: Christmas trees and decorations.

December 5th and 6th. The National Council Of Jewish Women is having their amazing Annual Free Clothing Giveaway. This year, they’re expecting more than 2,000 needy and deserving people (of all faiths) at this incredible event. There are three ways you can help: 1) Clean out your closets and make a tax-deductible donation of clothes; 2) help sort clothes on Saturday, December 5th; 3) Volunteer at the Giveaway. The Giveaway will be at the NCJW parking lot at 543 N. Fairfax Ave. (1 block south of Melrose at Clinton). If you can help in any way, please contact Melissa at Melissa@ncjwla.org or 323-852-8505.

December 5th and December 12th. NO LIMITS for Deaf Children is an awesome group that helps deaf and hard-of-hearing children from all backgrounds develop self-esteem while having a great time performing. (You should see their shows! Amazing!) In the words of their founder, the incredible Michelle Christie-Adams, ―We need a donation of $1000 to help us provide a holiday party for over 450 deaf children. Last December, our deaf children celebrated the holidays by seeing their first captioned movie on the big screen. The children were thrilled to be able to understand the movie and share it with friends. Through this year, the children have not stopped talking about that special day. We provided popcorn and drinks for everyone, gifts for every child, face painting and so much more. It was an extraordinary time since most of our children are from lower income families and cannot afford to go to the movies and then to have it captioned, it was unforgettable for them. Most deaf children have to wait for the movie to come out on DVD for it to be captioned and then talk about it with their peers. By that time, the movie is outdated. By providing this holiday experience, it bridges the gap between the hearing child and child with a hearing loss. Last year, we received a grant to cover the costs, but due to the economic downfall, we are unable to have a holiday party unless it is funded.” Okay folks — try saying no to that. If you can help, either with a donation or access to a screening facility, please contact Michelle at nolimitstg@aol.com or 310-280-0878. They are hoping to have this party of December 12th and need ten volunteers to help facilitate it. NO LIMITS would also love toys for kids such as Frisbees, yo-yos, books, stuffed animals, holiday candy, gift cards, etc.

By December 5th and December 22nd. PROTOTYPES provides supportive services to more than 100 survivors of domestic violence and their children. They have resource centers in Hollywood and South L.A. It is a wonderful organization that we enjoy working with on Big Sunday. For the holidays, they need $300 to provide a special holiday at two different sites. The holiday parties will be on December 22nd. They could also use unwrapped holiday gifts for the women and children in their program. These could include such basics as vouchers for grocery stores or discount stores like Ross or Target (of course, if we had a nickel for every time Target appears on this list, we could supply everyone with whatever they need)! They’d also greatly appreciate tickets to things like movies or museums. If you can donate your time or money – and for a full wish list, please contact Rabeya Sen at rsen@prototypes.org or 323-464-6281. Also, if there’s any way someone could underwrite a holiday party at a nearby restaurant for Prototype’s hard working, underpaid staff — $200 should cover it – that would be very much appreciated.

December 6. The 18th (!) Annual Friends and Helpers Foundation Holiday Party. Friends and Helpers is a fantastic grass-roots organization that has been helping battered women and kids for many years now. Their annual Christmas wrapping party is amazing. Right now they have more than 2,000 women and children they‟re helping, each one of whom needs to be “adopted” for the holidays. When you adopt a family, you will be given the family’s specific Christmas wish list. Buy the gifts when you can, then join Friends and Helpers on December 6th to wrap them. This great event is a wonderful project for families. (Not only is there lots of stuff for people of all ages to do, there‟s always great food, too!) If you want to shop but not wrap, or vice-versa, that’s fine, too. Finally, if even the thought of shopping around the holidays makes you want to commit hari-kari, but you still want to help, Friends and Helpers happily and gratefully accepts checks and gift certificates, too. To help, or to get more information, call Lynn Ballew at 818-231-2907 or email her at lynnballew@ymail.com. You can also check out the full wish list at www.friendsandhelpers.org. Something else to consider: Sponsor a Stocking. For just $25, you can provide a teen or foster child with a colorful Christmas stocking filled with loads of candy and a $25 Target gift card so they can do a little shopping for themselves. If you can’t adopt a whole family this year, this is a wonderful way to provide some young people with a healthy dose of holiday cheer!

December 6th. The Annual Veteran’s Holiday Celebration is something to see: Each year for the past 16 years, there is great food, new gifts, entertainment and a huge holiday party for men and women who have, per the V.A. “given everything of themselves for our freedom and our country.” It‟s always a great event, and this year they are expecting more than 2,000 guests! The Annual Veterans Holiday Celebration is produced jointly by the Veterans Administration of Greater Los Angeles Department of Voluntary Services and Men’s Divisions International (MDI) and the Family of Women (FOW). They welcome all volunteer and sponsor involvement. Here are the things they could use, both from individuals and corporate donors: 1) Cash donations – this event costs $55,000 to put on. (We told you it was an amazing!); 2) toiletries; 3) gifts for the vets, including T-shirts, baseball caps, CDs and DVDs, sports and movie tickets, new clothing and underwear, phone cards, and gift cards (in all amounts, to local stores and chains); 4) transportation for the vets from Long Beach, the Valley and elsewhere to the V.A. grounds in West L.A. (FYI: To rent a school bus is about $350. Is there someone out there who can sponsor one or two?); 5) Food donations of all types from restaurants, grocery stores, and home-baked goodies, too. In addition, they could use lots and lots of volunteers to help make the event run smoothly. If you would like to become involved in any aspect of the event, please email info@vaevent.org or call 866-955-VETS. This will be a wonderful and memorable event for wonderful people who deserve a nice time.

December 7th and December 12th. The Aviva Center helps children and teens who are at-risk and in foster care. They’re a wonderful organization who we always enjoy working with on Big Sunday. They are hoping to give holiday gifts to all the kids in their programs and could use your help. They have requested toys and gifts for boys and girls of all ages, with a special emphasis on teenage girls and boys. (FYI: It’s always harder to get folks to donate gifts for teens. So if you can help here, that’s great, and thanks!) Please bring gifts unwrapped. If you can help, please contact Arlene Joye at ajoye@avivacenter.org or 323-876-0550, x104.

By December 9th. We’ve been working with the great folks at My Friend’s Place for years as they work hard to help homeless youth in Hollywood. This year for the holidays they are hoping that they need help providing holiday gifts for their kids. Here are some of the things they‟d really appreciate: $5 gift cards to Target, $5 gift cards to fast food restaurants such as McDonald‟s or Subway, flashlights, playing cards and bus tokens. All easy to get! They‟d like the gifts unwrapped please, and hopefully by December 9th. If you can help, contact Stuart Brewster at sbrewster@myfriendsplace.org or 323-908-0011.

By December 9th and December 10th-13th. Our old friends at The Giving Spirit help homeless individuals in shelters and on the streets by giving them “survival kits,” full of important and necessary items. This year, they are asking the Big Sunday community for one important item: black or dark cotton socks. These socks can provide both warmth and comfort to the homeless folks who will be receiving them. They need thousands of pairs. Donations of any amount – in plastic bags or boxes – are greatly appreciated. They need the socks by December 9th. From the 10th through the 13th, The Giving Spirit will be distributing the socks and they need volunteers to help. Children must be accompanied by an adult. To volunteer, register at www.thegivingspirit.org. The full wish list is at http://www.thegivingspirit.org/index.php?id=24&link=kits. For more info, contact the indefatigable Tim Ingram at tim@thegivingspirit.org or 310-386-9179.

By December 10th. The Mar Vista Family Center has many wonderful programs that help wonderful and hardworking children from low-income families. This year they would love to be able to give gifts and toys to these kids for the holidays. Specifically, they need gifts for children ages 3-to-11, and would prefer that they be unwrapped. If you can help, please contact Belen Amaya at bamaya@marvistafc.org or 310-390-9607.

By December 11th. Para Los Ninos helps low-income children and families in all kinds of amazing ways. For the holidays, they have asked the Big Sunday community to help with their kids ages 12-18 who participate in their after-school care program and Youth Development Services, which helps foster care youth transition into independent living. What they need is very simple and specific: 500 gift cards of $15 each. You know the stores teens like – Target, Walmart, The Gap, Best Buy, etc. Any number of these cards is greatly appreciated. (Is there an office out there that wants to take this on?) Please deliver the cards unwrapped. If you can help in any way, contact Kristen McGuiness at kmcguiness@paralosninos.org or 213-250-4800, x524.

December 11th and 12th. Our old friends at HomeSAFE help poverty level and at-risk kids through a variety of excellent prevention and early-intervention programs. This year they are hosting a Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa Party. They have requested unwrapped presents for kids ages 0-to–8 to give out at the party. They would also greatly appreciate cash donations for refreshments. Finally, they‟d love to have volunteers – ages 14 and older, please – to help out. Gifts are requested by December 11th. The party will be on December 12th, from noon until 3 PM. To donate or volunteer, contact Robin Sheiner at homesafe@vistadelmar.org or 323-934-7979.

December 11th and 12th. Our great friends at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church are hosting a big Holiday Cheer Party for more than 150 kids and their moms from local shelters and poverty centers. In the words of the amazing and indefatigable Jane Wilson: “We play games, do crafts, have a singalong, teach knitting and decorate gingerbread castles, as well as serve a huge lunch. Each child receives a new outfit as well as a gift from Santa from their wishlists. As they leave, each mom is given a goodie bag and each child a new hat and mittens for winter. If you’d like to donate gifts, outfits, food, beverages, gift cards or just plain, old-fashioned cash, it would all be greatly appreciated. St. Mike’s has an “Adopt-a-Child Program” so you can get something just right for some lucky kid. If you can help in any way, large or small, please contact Jane at superqueerjane@yahoo.com or 818-343-8438 by December 11th. Note: They would also love volunteers to help in all kinds of ways. Kid volunteers are ―most welcome‖! Contact Jane for that, too.

By December 12th. MEND (Meet Each Need With Dignity) provides all kinds of wonderful education, training, opportunities and support to low-income people. Their Christmas program helps less-fortunate families during the holiday season with a new toy for each child. Not only that, but MEND provides meals and blankets, too! For the holidays, they are hoping to give new toys and gifts for the kids in their program, ages 8-to-14. They are also looking for blankets for the families, as well as turkeys so that every family can enjoy a festive Christmas dinner. If you can help, please contact Maggie Torres at Maggie@mendpoverty.org or call 818-897-2443, x7350. Also check out www.mendpoverty.org for great ways to volunteer at MEND during the holiday season.

By December 12th. The 10th (!) Annual Barbie’s of Color Drive. An annual holiday favorite. Beyond Shelter is an outstanding organization that helps more than 300 homeless families each year find affordable housing and get back on their feet. (And, at this point, many of you have outstandingly helped Beyond Shelter on Big Sunday, too!) Many of their clients are African-American or Hispanic. Unfortunately, many of their toy donations are of blonde, blue-eyed dolls. Help us again collect at least 100 African-American and Hispanic Barbie dolls to give to homeless girls of color. (And by the way, the dolls don‟t have to be Barbie‟s. Any African-American or Hispanic doll will do.) We do this project every year because it’s important for these kids’ pride and self-esteem. If you want to donate anything, please contact Big Sunday’s own Rachel Linton at rlinton@bigsunday.org or at 323-549-9944. We always list this one separately because people start collecting the Barbie’s even before we post this. Some years we’ve collected hundreds of them. For more info about Beyond Shelter’s many holiday giving opportunities, please go to www.beyondshelter.org.

By December 14th. Our old friends at Catholic Charities’ St. Mary’s Center serves many low-income and homeless families in the Hollywood area. They are having a big holiday event for the families they serve and would love to be able to give their clients holiday gifts, some of which are necessities, and some of which are just fun. They could use: T-shirts for men, socks, soap, blankets, sweaters and jackets. (All sizes are appreciated!) Of course, they would also really appreciate toys for the kids. Please bring all items unwrapped. If you can help, please email the helpful and friendly Marlene Rodriguez at mrodriguez@ccharities.org or call her at 323-662-4392. By the way: They could also use canned food for gift baskets for the parents!

December 15th. The Phoenix House has wonderful residential facilities and programs that help people of all ages struggling with addiction. Our old friends at The Phoenix House Sante Fe Springs are hoping to provide gifts for the women and children in their program. Among the requests are diaries and journals, umbrellas, kid‟s learning toys, shoes and socks, jackets (children’s newborn – 12 and women’s sizes 10-20), pajamas, G and PG-rated DVDs, arts & crafts supplies, and books with non-violent story lines. New or gently used (no stains, etc.) are okay. If you can help in any way, please contact the hardworking Twyla M. Whitley at tmcnutt@phoenixhouse.org, or 562-941-8042, x4960. One more thing, per Twyla: If there is a team of individuals in our area who will be caroling or feeding the less fortunate this year, please let us know your schedule and we may participate. We want to give back to others.

December 15th. The AbilityFirst Newport Mesa Center helps disabled children through their terrific after-school program. They are hoping to give holiday gifts to the 40 kids, ages 5-to-18, in their program. The wish list includes dolls, Legos, trains, a racing car set, board games, a bingo set, checkers, DVDs (including Disney movies and Nick Jr. shows), and something called a “Pretty, Pretty Princess.” (Something tells me that it’s a doll, but someone out there must actually know what this is.) Unwrapped gifts are requested by December 15th. To help out contact Joy Thomas at jthomas@abilityfirst.org or 714-546-6727. By the way, the center could also use musical instruments, a projector, puppets, and crafts projects.

By December 15th. New Directions provides comprehensive services to thousands of veterans in Los Angeles County. More than 1,000 men and women seek services from the agency each year. Many of you were lucky enough to meet some of the great guys from this program at Big Sunday last spring, or hear the fantastic New Directions choir when they performed as part of Big Sunday Weekend „09. For the holidays, they are hoping to give gifts to these wonderful vets who have sacrificed so much. Here are some of the things they‟d like for the men: gently-used suits, sport coats and interview clothes; new socks; new underwear; belts; umbrellas; raincoats. And for women (and they need 20 of each): face and bath towels; twin or queen sized sheets and blankets; movie passes; coffee gift certificates; body wash and or lotion. If you can help, please contact LaShanda Maze at Lmaze@ndvets.org or 310-914-4045. Or, check out their wish list at http://www.newdirectionsinc.org/help.html.

By December 15th. Our old friends at The Asian-Pacific Women’s Center helps ―women and children who have endured and escaped violence within their homes and are now in need of supportive services and a safe place to rebuild their lives.‖ This year, the APWC staff are planning a fun and exciting Holiday Event. They are hoping to collect 50 toys (non-violent toys, please!) for the kids in their program (ages 2-16). In addition, they are hoping to get a tax-deductible donation of $300 to cover the costs of the party. If you can help, please contact Dottie Wang at dwang@apwcla.org or 213-250-2977. For the full wish list please check out: http://www.apwcla.org/files/2006%20APWC%20HOLIDAY%20Wish%20List.pdf.

By December 15th. Hillsides Home for Children is an excellent group home for emotionally troubled kids in Pasadena. These kids have experienced abuse, neglect, and abandonment. This year, their kids have two pressing needs: 1) One underprivileged group that always gets less (because they’re way harder to buy gifts for) are teenagers. The Hillsides folks have made a special request to see if people would be willing to donate $10.00 gift certificates to stores like Target, Wal-Mart, Gap, Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, etc. We are hoping to get at least 40 $10 gift certificates (that would cover just over half the kids at Hillsides). 2) Some of the kids are unable to go home at all, even over the holidays. The holidays are a particularly difficult and sad time for these kids. So, they would like to take the kids on an outing or two – specifically, “I was hoping we could get another 40 $10 gift certificates for restaurants like Islands or California Pizza Kitchen for the other half of the kids. (And, if you‟re really feeling flush, know that there are actually 66 kids there.) And, any movies passes, or G, PG, or PG-13 DVDs you could throw in would be great, too. (Anyone out there work for a studio? Do you have extra promo stuff?) Hillsides also has an Adopt-a-Family program for the holidays to help the families in the program. If you can help in any way, please contact Hillsides‟ wonderful Laura Kelso at lkelso@hillsides.org or 323-254-2274, x251. Laura also has a nifty Hillsides holiday pamphlet, and a comprehensive wish list she can send you.

By December 15th/December 19th. The Mid-Valley YMCA helps all kinds of underprivileged kids in all kinds of wonderful and important ways. We’ve been happy to work with them for years. They would like to give toys for the holidays to all the kids (3 – 17) in their programs. Some of the suggestions include board games, sports equipment, dolls, trucks, craft kits, art supplies, and gift cards from places like Jamba Juice, book stores, movie theatres and, of course, Target). All unwrapped, please. The preschool could also use four new CD players as all of theirs are broken. They are having a great, big holiday bash, tentatively scheduled for December 19th, and they‟d love some extra volunteers. If you can help in any way, please contact Sopha Pok at sophapok@ymcala.org or 818-989-3800. Also, per Sopha: ―Our kids desperately need arts and crafts supplies of all kinds, including crayons and markers, and group craft kits so the kids can make Christmas presents for their parents.‖

By December 15th/December 19th. The Foundation for Second Chances helps disadvantaged youth from 4 -14. Their Annual Gift of Giving Event takes place on December 19thfrom 12pm-4pm at Veterans Park in Culver City. They will be inviting about 100-150 kids with their parents and/or guardian to enjoy a fun-filled day. Chef Brian (from Top Chef) will cook and invite folks to help him, too! They would really love to be able to give toys to each child that comes. Per FFSC‟s Melissa Wyatt: ―If there are any volunteers from Big Sunday that could/or would be willing to volunteer and/or donate toys that would be great.‖ If you can help, (they hope to have the toys by December 15th, unwrapped), please contact Melissa at melissawyatt@ffscinc.org or 310-383-0785.

December 16th. Last spring we worked with the Immaculate Conception School on Big Sunday for the first time. We were thrilled to be able to work with this incredible community. Immaculate Conception serves kids grades Pre-K through 8th, and includes many families living below the federal poverty line. They would like to provide holiday treats for their families, including baskets of non-perishable food; candy; toys; household items (e.g., toiletries, linens); and necessities such as toothbrushes, new socks and underwear. The school holiday program is the evening of December 16th and they need all donated items by that morning. To help out in any way, please contact their devoted teacher, John McKenna at john@kennascope.com or 213-382-5931, x23.

December 17th. Our old pals at The Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women and Children have been helping homeless people in countless ways for many years. They would like to provide holiday gift bags for the women living in their shelters. Requested items include nightgowns, bathrobes, slippers, and personal care items (such at lotions and shower gels). They have asked for the items to be unwrapped, and if you can provide a gift bag and tissue paper, that would be is especially appreciated. (And feel free to add a personal note or Christmas card, too.) The gifts are needed by the 17th. To make a donation contact Annemarie Howse ahowse@gshomeless.org or 213-235-1962. Per Annemarie: ―Thank you for an open heart and a generous smile.‖

December 17th. The San Gabriel Children’s Center does wonderful work helping kids who have been abused and neglected. We were introduced to them for the first time last spring on Big Sunday, and are glad we were! They would like to provide holiday gifts for their kids. All toys are appreciated. However, if you‟d like to see a specific wish list, contact Amanda Gonzalez at Amanda@sangabrielchild.com or 626-859-2089, x 209. Also, they‟d prefer gifts by the 17th, but will gratefully accept them right up until Christmas Eve.

By December 17th. This just in: Big Sunday vet Ellie Herman is now teaching drama at Animo Pat Brown, a terrific charter high school in South L.A. As a special holiday treat, she would like to surprise her students with a field trip to see a professional play. She can get discount tickets ($20 each) at the Mark Taper Forum or Ahmanson, but is looking for sponsors to help buy the tickets as well as pay for a bus. Altogether, she needs to raise $1,000. Per Ellie: “Growing up in South Los Angeles below poverty level, most of my students have never seen live theater. For a holiday present, I want to give my two drama classes tickets to a professional play. For $1,000, we can hire a bus (LAUSD no longer provides them) and buy tickets for a glamorous and thrilling evening my 50 students will remember all their lives!‖ If you can help at all (or in part), contact Ellie at ellie.herman@gmail.com or call at 213-610-3617. Okay, full disclosure: Ellie is my wife, but her students are great and they’ll love this. Also, if you have access to free theatre tickets, let Ellie know!

By December 18th. Angel’s Flight helps at-risk runaway boys and girls ages 10-to-17 in all kinds of wonderful and important ways. We have worked with them on Big Sunday for years, and always love it. They‟d love to be able to give gifts to all the kids in their program for the holidays. Here is what they‟ve asked for: art supplies, athletic equipment and gift cards to music stores, athletic stores or, of course, Target. (I swear, every year we recommend Target gift cards for half these listings. I think they owe us a commission!) Their holiday event is on December 18th, so they‟d need the gifts by then. To help, please contact Arlene Ferandelli at aferandelli@sbcglobal.net or 213-413-2311.

December 18th and 19th. The Real Medicine Foundation helps underprivileged families all over the world who suffer from poverty or from natural disasters. Here in L.A., they do great work in East L.A. and Inglewood. They will be having a holiday party at both their sites on December 19th. They‟d greatly appreciate food and decorations for the party. It would also be great if anyone could donate gifts for the kids (the gifts may be wrapped, but please include a tag with the age and gender the toy is appropriate for. Food baskets for the families and clothing donations would be great, too. Finally, volunteers of all ages (kids, too!) are needed to help out and join in the fun at both parties. To help in any way, contact Sarah Stern at sarah@realmedicinefoundation.org or 818-793-1234.

December 18th – December 21st. Alexandria House is a wonderful transitional facility for homeless women and children. Once again, they are having not one, but two holiday parties for the families they serve both at the home as well as in the neighborhood. They want to give their all the hardworking folks they help gifts for the holidays. Their wish list includes: non-perishable food, diapers (all sizes – always expensive, always a drag to have to buy, but great to give or receive), new childrens‟ clothes, and new toys for kids (unwrapped, please). Gift cards are also very much appreciated. The full wish list is online at www.alexandriahouse.org. Please deliver any donations, unwrapped, by Friday, December 18th. The holiday parties will be on the afternoons of Saturday, December 19th and Sunday, December 20th. They would love to have volunteers at both events (for set-up and, yes, clean-up, too). If you‟d like to help in any way, and for all the details, please contact our pal Michele Richards at 213-381-2649 or Michele@alexandriahouse.org. Volunteers must be 12 or older, please.. Per Michelle: ―Gift cards for the teens in our teen program are a BIG help!

By December 20th. Our old friends at the Serra Project help men and women living with AIDS/HIV in many ways. We have worked with them for years and admire all the wonderful things they do. They have four lovely group homes, which house 40 residents (15 women and 25 men). This holiday season, they are looking for clothes and gifts for their residents. Here‟s what they could especially use: New sweatshirts (hooded and regular), shoes, slippers, new socks and underwear and bathrobes. All sizes are needed. They need shampoo, soap, razors, deodorant, blankets, comforters, pillows, DVDs and puzzles, too. By the way, the residents are from 30-to-70 years old. If you can help in any way, please contact the Serra Project‟s devoted Terry Soldano at terrysoldano@serraproject.org or 562-595-4877.

December 20th. Step Up on Second helps persons without a home who have severe and persistent mental illness. On Christmas Day they will be hosting a party for 100-125 people. They don‟t need volunteers for the party, but they would love to be able to give each of the guests a gift. This could include pens and paper, toiletries, gloves, an umbrella, coats, hats, or socks – very basic items that everyone needs. If you can help at all, please contact Kimm Baersch at kimm@stepuponsecond.org or 310-576-1308. Per Kimm: ―We help the most vulnerable members of our community. Anything you can do will be appreciated! Thank you!

December 20. Project Chicken Soup has cooked and delivered home-cooked meals to people with HIV/AIDS year-round for many years. (We’ve enjoyed working with them on Big Sunday for a long time!) This holiday season they need five volunteers to cook extra special and delicious holiday meals for their clients. They need another five volunteers to deliver the meals. If you‟d like to help, please contact PCS‟s hardworking Executive Director, Cathryn Friedman at projectchickensoup@sbcglobal.net or 323-933-5402 and mention the Big Sunday Holiday List. (Their idea, not ours!) If you’d like to help, please contact Cathryn ASAP so she knows how many to expect.

December 21st. The Exceptional Children’s Foundation Early Start Program helps very needy families whose young children have developmental disabilities or conditions such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, and epilepsy. They work with families in L.A., the San Fernando Valley and the South Bay. This holiday season they have asked for help restocking the shelves of their Big Sunday Food, Diaper and Toy Pantry with size four and five baby diapers, baby wipes, canned or boxed food staples and toys appropriate for 0-3-year olds. If you like, you can sponsor an entire family with toys and clothing (very gratifying and less expensive than you‟d think)! For more info contact uber-mensch Karen Gilman at gilperson2@gmail.com or 323-466-1541 or Gabriella Kayacan at gkayacan@ccf.net or 323-735-1424, Two other things: New underwear, socks and pajamas are also appreciated. Or, if you’d like to donate a platter of appetizers or desserts for one of their holiday parties, that’s great, too!

By December 21st. The Ettie Lee Youth & Family Service Center works to save lives, change lives, and build hope for kids with all kinds of serious problems, in a family-like setting. They have a number of wonderful and successful group homes throughout town, serving more than 150 kids, and they‟ve asked us if there‟s any way to help get holiday dinners and holiday gifts for the kids in their program. For the dinner, they are asking for 38 turkeys (nine for their group homes and 29 for their foster homes). These homes are located in L.A. San Bernadino, Riverside and Orange Counties. (Any number of turkeys you can donate is great.) For the gifts, they have a very helpful and user-friendly wish list for kids and teens who would love to know that they are not forgotten this holiday season. If you would like to help – maybe your group would like to “adopt” one of the Ettie Lee Homes (each has an average of about 10 kids) – in any way, or see the wish list, please contact the awfully nice Vicki Mastro at 626-960-4861 or Vicki_m@ettielee.org.

By December 21st. Phoenix House Orange County works with adolescents between 13 and 18 with substance abuse and alcohol dependency problems in a residential setting. They focus on low-income families who might not be able to pay for treatment. This wonderful organization is hoping to give holiday gifts to the hardworking kids – both girls and boys, who are trying to improve their lives – in their program. If you can help, please contact Howard Friend at HFriend@phoenixhouse.org or 714-953-9373, x4841. PHOC would also really appreciate dress clothes for the kids in their program.

By December 22nd. Under the Bridges and On the Streets helps homeless people in Los Angeles, Orange County, Long Beach, and Santa Monica in many important ways. They want to make sure that homeless people not only receive gifts, but also that they stay warm this holiday season. Thus, they are requesting the following clothing items: new jeans of all sizes, T-shirts (medium to xxx-large), tube socks, warm hats, and new men‟s underwear (medium to xxx-large). They could also use toiletries. For kids, they would love some new stuffed animals. If you have any of these things, in any quantity, please contact the hardworking John Shinavier at ma4me@earthlink.net or 310-402-3130. One more thing: If there’s a grant writer out there, let John know. He needs you!

By December 22nd. Children of the Night is a wonderful and important organization that rescues children ages 11-17 from pornography and prostitution. For many, this will be the first year they‟ve ever had a Christmas tree. Right now they have 24 teen girls living in their facility. They could really use: New winter jackets, 3 small, 16 medium, 5 large; 24 electric toothbrushes; shower radios; iPod Shuffles (no iPods that carry photos or internet access); memory/scrapbooks; facial kits; bath sets; pastel-colored shag rugs for bedrooms; feather pillows, and more. The whole wish list is at http://www.childrenofthenight.org/wishlist.html. If you can donate in any way, please contact the wonderful Dr. Lois Lee at llee@childrenofthenight.org or 818-908-4474. They are also planning a series of fun holiday parties, and would love some volunteer help. If you want to help (and COTN is “always” looking for volunteers) or for more info on the parties, please contact Candice Ali at Cali@childrenofthenight.org or 818-908-4474, x 111. Volunteers must be at least 21 years old.

December 23rd – 25th. The folks from Covenant House are giving gifts to 125 homeless and at-risk youth, from babies to age 24. Their wish list includes MP3 players, iPods, and disposable cameras; sporting goods (basketballs, soccer balls, footballs); wallets and watches (you can‟t believe how cheap some of these are at places like Target!); and school supplies. They also need clothes in all sizes, especially X- large and XX-large and baby clothes. And, speaking of babies, they can always use diapers! Gift cards (Old Navy, Gap, Target), phone cards and movie passes are very much appreciated. They could also use household items such as toasters, irons, coffee makers, etc. All unwrapped please, and if you could bring the gifts by December 23rd, that‟s great. To see the whole wish list go to www.covenanthousecalifornia.org. To make a cash donation go to www.covdove.org. For more info contact the incredible Sister Margaret Farrell at mfarrell@covca.org or call her at 323-461-3131, x 237. A note from Sister Margaret: ―Our residents come to us with very few personal belongings. We use every opportunity to let each individual know that he or she is special and unique. Remembering these older teens (18-21 yrs of age— especially during the holidays makes them feel wanted and loved.” Editor‟s note: a couple of years ago we sent over a Santa Claus to distribute the gifts on Christmas morning. They asked if there was any way we could do it again. The cost for Mr. Claus is $250 (which includes a tip for Santa). Is there someone out there who‟d be willing to underwrite it? Er, him? If you are, please contact…me…at david@bigsunday.org.

December 24th and December 25th. The 26th Annual Temple Israel of Hollywood Christmas Dinner for the Hungry and Homeless of Hollywood. The Mother of all Holiday events, sponsored, as always, by Temple Israel of Hollywood and taking place at the Hollywood United Methodist Church (corner of Highland and Franklin). Last year volunteers fed, entertained and gave much-needed toiletries, blankets and holiday gifts to more than 1,500 homeless and needy people. All different kinds of help are needed before, during and after the event. On Christmas Day, 8 AM to 5 PM only those 13 and older, please. Younger kids and their parents are needed to help set up on Christmas Eve from 10 AM to 3 PM. To volunteer, call 323-876-8330, x3100 or email dinnerproject@tioh.org. In addition, the Christmas Dinner folks need toiletries, disposable razors, toothbrushes, blankets and batteries. They also need 700 toys for kids ages 2-to-13. For questions please call Stephanie Bressler at 323-876-8330, x 1006 or email her at stephanieb@tioh.org. A special request this year is that they need 400 warm winter jackets. Finally, they could also use people with trucks or large SUVs the day before and after. The budget for this event is $8,000; any additional money goes to “luxuries” like the warm jackets. If you’d like to make a monetary donation, don’t hold back. Please make checks to TIOH—The Christmas Dinner Project, and send to TIOH, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., LA, CA 90046. And, if you can send donations by December 15, that’s even better.

By December 25th. Project New Hope’s Benton/Dallas Residence in Lawndale is for people with AIDS/HIV. Our friends there are planning a festive holiday gathering for the nice, yet ailing, residents. The ten men and women who live at this facility have put together a modest wish list that includes gift cards, gift baskets, movie passes, amusement park tickets, board games, arts & craft items, and linens (sheets, blankets, pillows and towels). For a full list, please contact Myesha Hickman at myeshahickman@hotmail.com or 310-675-9942. By the way: If you’d like to volunteer at the party, they’d love to have you.

By December 31st. DonorsChoose.org is a very cool Website where you can make a donation directly to a classroom in need of supplies and resources. There are currently more than 18,000 teacher requests on this nonprofit Website. DonorsChoose also has gift cards, which allow you to “give the gift of giving” – these make great holiday gifts. Many Big Sunday volunteers have visited DonorsChoose and been thrilled to see their donations put directly into action in needy classrooms (and they‟re thrilled to hear from appreciative students, too)! For more information contact Julie Lacouture at julie@donorschoose.org or 323-596-1124. You can also go right to www.donorschoose.org. The wish list is at http://bit.ly/4o7m4t. Gift cards are available at http://bit.ly/1vOgbY.

December 31st. Many of you out there know that here at Big Sunday we have a big soft spot for basset hounds. Our friends at Daphneyland, part of the Basset Rescue Network, have 100 hounds (!) looking for loving homes for the holidays. Bassets make great Christmas presents. Then again, have you ever noticed how many bassets have the same names as elderly Jewish people? (So, they make great Hanukkah presents, too!) And I know, I know: Before you give someone a dog as a present, make sure they‟re prepared to take on the dog for years to come! These hounds come in all ages and sizes. And many of them are housebroken! Daphneyland also gratefully accepts monetary donations to help defray the cost of housing these great dogs as well at veterinary care. Daphneyland was scarily close to this year’s fires and they could also use: Kirkland (Costco) dog biscuits, bleach, allergy-free Kirkland laundry detergent, new dog toys, new dog blankets. There is a full wish list at www.bassetrescuenetwork.org. If you‟re interested, please contact the wonderful and tireless Dawn Smith at basset911@aol.com or 661-269-2682. A personal note: Last month we adopted a wonderful 2- year-old basset named Lou. He’s a really fine fellow, sweet and housebroken, even if he mistakes the upstairs hall for outside.

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