The holiday season is right around the corner. While many of us are still struggling to process 2020 and the madness that ensued, 2022 is coming at us pretty fast. Although millions never recovered, many businesses have opened back up, welcoming customers with open arms (well, not exactly. We are still in a pandemic). It’s exciting to think about the possibilities this holiday season may bring, as more and more people are fully vaccinated and ready to see their loved ones so they can smother them with gifts and love.
It’s a lovely mental picture to paint, but it’s just not a reality for so many Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic led not only to job loss but the loss of loved ones as well. Families are still struggling, with no way to buy groceries, let alone purchase gifts for their children and relatives. And while this has been a reality since long before the pandemic, the pandemic certainly heightened the problem.
If you’ve been looking for ways to give back to your Los Angeles community this upcoming holiday season, consider donating to or volunteering with these wonderful charitable organizations.
No Us Without You stepped up big time during the pandemic, feeding and caring for the countless families experiencing food insecurity. Cofounder Othón Nolasco says the project was born out of a moment of anger after seeing the numerous GoFundMe pages that restaurants created to raise money for the front-of-house staff. Generally speaking, most front-of-house employees, such as servers, hostesses, bartenders, and managers, tend to be better paid and have citizenship status, making them eligible for government relief during the pandemic.
Nolasco feared the back-of-house staff, which frequently consists of undocumented hospitality industry workers, were getting left behind. He knew he could make a difference— and he did. Alongside co-founder Damian Diaz, Nolasco helped bring food and other necessities to hundreds of families.
And it doesn’t take much to help Nolasco and Diaz make a difference in these struggling families’ lives. Just $33 will provide food for a family of four for a week. So, instead of going out to dinner one night, consider donating what you’d typically spend at a restaurant and donate it to No Us Without You.
The Giving Spirit is an organization that gives “survival kits” to families living on the streets. The housing crisis has only worsened amid the pandemic, and if you’ve been wondering how you can help displaced families, volunteering with or donating to this organization is a great start. Their December Outreach Kits contain about 70 items, covering health, hydration, hygiene, nutrition, utility, and weather protection. Unfortunately, while The Giving Spirit usually holds a sponsored Winter Outreach event where volunteers can assemble and distribute the kits, due to COVID-19, the event may not take place.
Even if the event is canceled, The Giving Spirit will still work around the clock to ensure families have basic necessities— and they need our help. You can offer a one-time donation or set up a recurring monthly donation. Additionally, you can sponsor an item and ensure that these families have items such as warm gloves, hygiene products, and first aid kits.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public and Social Services program’s mission is to bring new gifts such as toys, clothes, and food to low-income families in need so they can truly celebrate the holidays in their own special way. You’ll be matched with a family and given their “wish list.” Last year, the organization brought over 1,700 families food and gifts, making a real difference in the lives of those who struggle to provide necessities.
Everyone deserves to have a comfortable holiday, with food and gifts to celebrate in the way we all want to celebrate. Through this program, you can ensure a family will have what they need and feel supported by their community.
The Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run is Los Angeles’ largest holiday running event. This family-friendly fundraiser raises money for local non-profits, specifically Harvest Home, a non-profit residence for homeless pregnant women in Santa Monica. Due to COVID-19, last year, the organization opted for a “virtual run” where participants could do the run from the comfort of their own homes or on their favorite running route.
You can either register for the 5K, 10K, or Kids Fun Run and celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas through seasonal challenges, contests, and activities. You and your family can win prizes while spreading holiday cheer throughout the community.
For many of us, Thanksgiving means surrounding ourselves with our loved ones, eating a massive dinner at 3 pm for some reason, followed by a selection of several pies and cookies. But, as you can imagine, this isn’t the reality for everyone. For almost 40 years, Westside Thanksgiving’s program typically hosts a large event during which volunteers set up a wonderful and free sit-down dinner for families and individuals in need. The program also provides free haircuts, blankets, clothing, hygiene kits, medical, optical, and dental services, vaccinations, and a resource fair.
Due to COVID-19, this event may not take place. However, while we may not be able to gather in person, Westside Thanksgiving will still be collecting gift cards and blankets to distribute to those most in need, and you can safely help by donating online.
No matter which way you choose to give back to your Los Angeles community, doing so will bring joy to people who need it most right now. There are so many ways to give back, and after everything we have been through this last year, showing your community you truly care is one of the most rewarding ways to celebrate the holidays.