Monday, October 31, 2005

What has volunteering done for you?

We're anxious to hear stories from L.A. Works volunteers about the impact volunteering has had on your life. Do you have a great volunteer experience to share? Your personal story might be the very thing that inspires someone else to make a difference!

Click on the comment button below and tell us your volunteer stories. We'll print the best of them in upcoming issues of our monthly newsletter.


L.A. Works said...

Our Project Leaders have said some amazing things about volunteerism.

Here's a selection of comments from L.A. Works Project Leaders. (To read more about and from our Project Leaders, go to and click on the 'Project Leader Recognition' link on the left menu.

“There is a coming together that happens during volunteer projects that bridges the gap between “us and them.” Volunteer and you get to see a part of the city you’ve probably never seen and have probably been told not to go to. Volunteer and you get to talk with people you would probably never talk to. Volunteer and you meet people you would probably never meet, and do things you would probably never do. Volunteer and you get to make a difference you would probably never have made.”
Ken Hagopian

“The call to serve has really been in my heart for a long time. I didn't know how to harness this call until I found L.A. Works. I feel like I've been on a true journey being put in places I've been needed the most. I volunteer regularly with a number of projects including the Union Rescue Mission, Project Angel Food, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Gramercy Place, and Aviva Family Services. I lead the Senior Social at the Hallmark Cheviot Hills Retirement Center and occasionally lead Aviva. I get no greater joy than knowing that I've made a difference. I know from the wonderful residents of the Hallmark Cheviot Hills Retirement Center how important the visits are from us as volunteers. I understand how tough life can be so I want the people we serve to think about goodness whenever they think about L.A. Works and all of us as volunteers”
Clarence Smith

“L.A. Works has been an integral part of the person I have become, affording me the opportunities to refine my organizational and leadership skills with hands-on practice (not to mention my painting, planting, hanging of drywall and mosaic tile skills). I volunteer because I believe life is about gaining knowledge and experience to offer comfort and support for those in need. It’s about understanding and celebrating our differences. This is the beauty of the melting pot of Los Angeles. We can resolve our conflicts with a little more human consideration and human contact using L.A.Works as our tool for change.”
Alexa Benson

“I feel very grateful to this wonderful city of Los Angeles, and whether I lead a project with kids, seniors, animals, or for the environment, I go in a state of gratitude, for all the blessings in my life. I go to each project knowing that we are all connected, and that by the end of our lives, it does not matter what we have accomplished or accumulated, but what really matters is what hearts we have touched, one person at a time.”
Laura Bonilla

“L.A. Works has been a wonderful enhancement to my life and I know I will always be a part of it, one way or another. I especially love the flexibility that it allows. One can volunteer every week, like one of my friends does, or one can volunteer once a month or once a year or whenever their schedule allows! I know that many people are hesitant to volunteer because they do not, or cannot commit too much time in advance. So, whenever I meet someone new, I take the opportunity to tell them all about L.A. Works and stress how convenient it is and what a great organization it is as well."
April Fields

“One of the most important things I've learned at L.A. Works came out of this experience. It's about patience and being open. Some days, you walk into a facility and the patients or residents or whoever you're helping may be in a bad mood or tired - and you wonder if what you're doing makes any difference at all. But it DOES. Through patience and persistence, I've seen a stroke victim draw a flower and watched a patient who started out pushing the paper away, soften her resolve and start to draw. I've also applied this to my work with the girls at Aviva and it works in any setting that one might go into. When you give of yourself openly, you always make a contribution. Whether that's giving someone their space, giving them support, talking, laughing or even just sitting quietly - it's all good. And it's not as serious as I make it sound - by all means, have fun.”
Mia Farrell

“I first started with L.A. Works in April of 2004 during a transitional period in my life. I have volunteered with quite a few groups with L.A. Works including, The girls at Aviva, the elderly at Alliance Nursing home of Echo Park, Friends of Animals in West Los Angeles and the wonderful children of Alegria. I have given the children at Alegria my ongoing commitment because I truly found something so special and have made such a great connection with each of them. I have always held a special place in my heart for children and through teaching and laughing with them I have come to realize that these children have made more of an impact and difference on my life than I ever could have on theirs. I feel it is so important to continue to give these children my time and commitment as a constant in their lives so that we can truly learn from one another and be able create a bond between us by, along with the other volunteers, helping them learn new and exciting things while having a great time.

I have greatly enjoyed volunteering especially the time I spend with these incredible children. You will be surprised by how much you truly help yourself and improve your quality of life by helping others. I encourage others to take the time out of their busy schedules to give back to the community and to yourselves. It's an incredible and fulfilling feeling to know that you are making a difference in these people's or even animal's lives and you will forever feel rewarded.” Sandy Boscarino

“The actual act of community service kindles and fans sparks of goodness into flames of justice everywhere. I have witnessed change in people I believed were immune to it, I have seen hope rekindled in children who assumed that no one cared for them, and I have been able to restore some faith in those who lacked it. I have seen volunteers rise to any and every predicament and take charge to ensure a good time for those whom they were there to help. I have also met children who were befriended by other L.A. Works volunteers, and whom later grew up to become project leaders themselves in order to give back to others and to thank us for our contributions. These have been the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Mandana Dayani

"Life is short. What is life about if you aren’t doing something meaningful with it? It takes a little bit of courage to take that first step to get involved, but the rewards are so great. Make the leap! You won’t regret it!"
Mark Kimura

Jo said...

LA Works has made it really easy for me to feel like I am doing some good in the world. I’m so glad I found their website. You always watch the news and hear something awful or see a homeless person on the street and think oh that's so sad...and you mean to do something about it, you want to...but you never do, because you don’t really know HOW to go about it. Well if you ever feel like that, LA Works makes it really easy to volunteer and do your part, on a one-off or ongoing basis- your choice, and any little thing you do really does makes a difference. You just sign up for individual projects in all kinds of interest areas. I had so much fun getting down and helping out at the Gibbon Conservation Center that I feel like I should have paid them for the opportunity to do this!! I left with smiles knowing I was finally feeling like a whole human being. We weren’t put on this earth to walk around with our eyes closed. I went alone and was apprehensive at first but everyone was nice and normal just like you! But they feel lucky for what they have and they understand not everyone is so fortunate, due to all kinds of circumstances. Getting motivated is always the hard part (to even just sign up which takes less than a minute!) so just do it. It doesn’t matter WHAT motivates you- do it just for your Karma if you have to- just DO IT!!! It’s the piece of the puzzle in your life that you’ve been missing.

Anonymous said...

Volunteering made a big impact on my life, it was a great stress reducer. It was always great to get away from the hectic life and slow down to work with kids. The sites (Good Shepard and Alegra) were always grateful to have LA Works there. The kids were always excited, no matter what the project, to have volunteers come! Although I haven't had as much time to volunteer as of late, I can't wait to begin again next year. Maybe I'll even become a Project Leader.

Tom Hoctor said...

I looked at this blog for the first time today, and I really like it. Although I'm an advocate for face-to-face meetings between volunteers to exchange stories and project ideas, I know that this is not always possible. The blog may be the next best thing.

Although most of the comments here seem to be generally about the feelings that one gets from volunteering, I'll go back to the original posted topic and share some specific volunteer experiences I've been lucky enough to enjoy with L. A. Works over the years.

There is a saying at L. A. Works that somehow everything always works out as needed on L. A. Works Day, no matter how badly our plans may be disrupted. One year, I was working at one of two central sites for L. A. Works Day in the S.F. Valley. We had a shortage of volunteers to send to one of our smaller sites, an elementary school. They were also expecting 40-50 local volunteers to show up, but got only a handful. The end result was that a painting project targeted for 90-100 volunteers had less than 30 to do the work. The Project Leader (working on her first project!), frantically called me asking for more help. All of our volunteers had already been sent to other locations.

It seemed that, short of some kind of divine intervention, we were going to have a major failure at one of our sites. Ten minutes later, a man walked up to me and said "I'm a professional painter and I have my crew and equipment here with me. Is there anything we can do to help?" To make a long story short, this group painted everything needed at the short-handed site and returned to the central site (another school) to paint a couple of extra buildings there, too. Maybe that old saying is true. By the way, that frantic PL and I are still good friends and occasional L. A. Works Project Leaders many years later.

A more personal reflection comes to me from Angel's Flight, a project that I used to lead quite frequently. Although I had worked with the staff and residents of the shelter for several years, I did not really recognize how much our being there meant to the kids.

One of the boys at this shelter for run-away children wrote a letter to me and the rest of the volunteers. We had played basketball with this boy on several occasions since he had returned to the shelter numerous times, and the volunteers always went out of our way to encourage all of the children to belive in themselves. His letter opened my eyes to how our volunteering impacted hiim and the other kids.

In his letter, "Luis" said "thank you for everything you do for us. You actually brought up my self-esteem like I always thought I did not know how to play basketball. I thought I sucked but when you guys come to A.F. you shoud (sic) me that if I put my mind to it I can do it. And since that day I get better every day. Thank you very much."

After that, I kept Luis' letter around in case any volunteer wanted to know how our being there just once or twice a month could make any difference. I still have that letter.

Bottom line? I volunteer because I feel good about making even a little difference in the lives of other people, especially kids. Thanks, L. A. Works, for providing me with lots of opportunities to do just that.

Tawanda said...

I am so thankful that I am able to volunteer my services to others. Many times in our lives we truly do not realize how blessed we are. When we look at others and take a look at ourselves, we need to think about how other people feel. Again, I am thankful that I am able to offer my assistance to other individuals. No matter what the cause may be, lend a helping hand and you will be surprised how important it si to someone else.