Giving back is often at the top of new years resolution lists, but as the holiday season fades away and the hustle and bustle of daily life returns, those good intentions can often slip by the wayside.
Fortunately, it has never been easier to donate to good causes in the community or get involved with volunteer work.
The We Are Santa Monica Fund is a one stop shop for local charitable giving. Established at the outset of the pandemic to raise COVID-19 relief funds, the organization has recently altered its donation categories to serve a broader range of causes.
These causes include supporting small businesses, providing resources to BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ organizations; ensuring access to healthy food and places for play and exercise; investing in sustainability; and sharing resources with families who need extra support. Donations can be made at calfund.org/wearesantamonica/.
Individuals who donate to the fund can write off their contributions as tax deductible, while supporting non-profit organizations and community initiatives in need of funding. The fund is managed by the 501(c)3 California Community Foundation, which is able to provide this tax deduction benefit and helps review non-profits who apply for grants from the fund.
“Santa Monica is a wonderful community and the people that live here have such big hearts and I think anytime that you can invest back in the place that you live, it helps make it a better and a stronger community,” said Debbie Lee, Chief Communications Officer and staff liaison to the fund’s advisory board.
Grant applications are currently open for registered nonprofits that operate in Santa Monica and support one of the fund’s broad causes. Grants are available for up to $25,000 and applications can be submitted at tinyurl.com/WeAreFundApplication.
For individuals who wish to give their time the City has a database of volunteer opportunities at www.weare.santamonica.gov/get-involved. Listed below are a selection of current opportunities that span a range of community initiatives.
The 100 Homes Initiative is an effort run by the City to move 100 people from Santa Monica’s interim shelters into permanent housing across Los Angeles.
The initiative is seeking volunteers to assist in three ways: by phonebanking property owners to find buildings that will accept federal housing vouchers, by donating furniture and household items and by helping manage moving day logistics. Those interested in getting involved can fill out a short survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/100homes.
“That would probably be right now to be the most beneficial way for people to get involved and contribute towards a very important need in our community,” said Lee in regards to the 100 Homes Initiative.
Other nonprofits addressing homelessness that are seeking volunteers include The People Concern, Upward Bound House, Step Up On Second and Chrysalis.
Chrysalis is seeking volunteers to help their formerly homeless clients practice job interviews, perfect their resume and write cover letters. This mentoring work has a six month commitment and is completed entirely remotely. Volunteers can sign up at https://tinyurl.com/ChrysalisVolunteer.
Fighting food insecurity
Meals on Wheels West is one of the leading providers of free nutritious meals in Santa Monica, and is always seeking volunteer drivers to deliver its meals to homebound neighbors of all ages. This is a critical resource for elderly residents, veterans, formerly homeless individuals, the immunocompromised, people with disabilities and individuals with acute mental health issues.
Driving shifts begin at 10:45 or 11:45 a.m. and last for around two hours. Individuals interested in signing up can email Jen Kappelman at [email protected] or visit the online scheduler at https://west.mowscheduler.com/helpwanted.
The Westside Food Bank is another key provider of food locally and supplies the Virginia Avenue Food Pantry that has supported around 200 families who experienced food insecurity over the course of the pandemic. Individuals are able to donate dried foods and canned goods directly at the food bank on 1710 22nd St.
Improving education and childcare
The Santa Monica Boys and Girls Club is looking for volunteers to assist with their youth programming for one or more hours a week. There are a wide range of opportunities and commitment lengths available.
Volunteers can assist with athletics, arts and crafts, tutoring, computer skills, the teen center, fundraising and more. More information is available at https://www.smbgc.org/get-involved/volunteer/.
Another key community need is increased funding for the Santa Monica Public Libraries, which lost 40 percent of its staff during the City’s pandemic-related budget restructuring. Currently the Main Branch Library, Pico Branch, and Ocean Park Branch have reopened with limited hours and services, while the Fairview Branch and Montana Avenue Branch remain closed to the public.
Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library is an advocacy organization dedicated to restoring funding to the libraries. The organization also helps fund the library’s summer reading program, Dia Celebration and the Arts & Literacy Festival, and library branch Teen Advisory Councils.
The organization is currently looking for volunteers who can contribute in the areas of fundraising, advocacy, social media marketing and graphic design. Those who are interested can email [email protected].