We are in need of volunteers to help prepare and serve meals to the women, children, and senior ladies at Hope Gardens Family Center located near Sylmar, CA. If you are interested in helping and meet the criteria below, please contact Monique Johnson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Age Requirement: 14 years and older
Volunteer(s) must be able to drive or coordinate a ride to property, as there is no bus access or shuttle service.
We need up to 3 volunteers per shift.
If you would like to serve, contact Monique (email@example.com) to confirm your service and schedule a shift date. All Volunteer Activities must be scheduled/confirmed in advance. Thank you!
“Wait till you see my feet… you won’t be smiling no more!” the man chuckled with his lips curling into a smile.
The wrinkles on his face betrayed his young age. The volunteer laughed warmly as she started to remove his discolored, worn-down sneakers — if you could call them shoes. Beyond broken in, the darkly crusted laces puffed out a cloud of dust as she began to untie them.
She pulls off his grey socks — once white — and she carefully places his feet into the washing bin. He flinches, unused to the touch of clean water swell around his toes, but finally begins to relax — restfully placing his interlocked fingers onto his belly.
Armed with gloves, soap, and a lot of love, she gently washes away weeks — maybe even months — of grime and grit. There isn’t any hesitation in her motions as she calmly continues to pour pitchers of water over the crooks and crannies of his feet. Focused, her eyes gleam with grace the stranger in front of her is probably not used to. Grace on Skid Row is always at a premium.
They continue to engage in conversation as she dries his feet off with a fresh towel. This was her first time volunteering at the Mission and he has been around Skid Row for one too many nights. If you had removed the wash bin, you would have thought they’d been friends for ages — the authentic tone in their voices erased the reality of the circumstances.
“Can I pray for you?” she asks.
He shyly mumbles some words I couldn’t overhear, and it was probably for the best — sacred moment are better left untainted. She lifts up some words of prayer and stands to retrieve one of the UCLA podiatrists on call. Equally as friendly as the volunteer, the physician and the supporting medical students begin to ask questions to ascertain the overall health of the man’s feet.
While running through a battery of different tests, the medical students offer the man useful tips on how he can maintain better foot health. With each piece of advice, his furrowed brow lifts with more and more understanding. They offer fresh new socks — a luxury — and direct him to the section where he would be given new shoes.
Many of these unique stations were trickled around our parking lot, as our Thanksgiving Outreach tries to give those living on the dangerous streets of Skid Row a comprehensive list of items necessary to get through another day. To the left of the foot washing station, other volunteers were handing out toiletries — shampoo, toothpaste, and the like, much to the delight of those in line.
For those needing legal counsel, a group from Loyola Marymount University set up a booth to hear the struggles of the homeless with so little hope left in their pockets. The lawyers-turned-listeners each carried a packet of tissues, as tears would frequently roll down the faces of those airing out their troubles. The lawyers repay those tears with hope and many left those tables with a definite change in their countenance. Someone had heard their story, and they were equipped with the knowledge to do something about it.
A Persian group from Palos Verdes was eager to serve Skid Row’s denizens a filling meal of chicken, salad, and fruit. Like clockwork, this group would take the meal ticket provided to each person in line and produced a box filled to the brim with food, sending a few back inside to reload when needed.
Today was not the day people would go hungry.
As the event was coming to a close, I couldn’t help but notice the booth at the center of our parking lot. Sitting behind the table sat two men, twirling pencils in their hands. In front of them were stacks of blank papers accompanied with the sign — Cartoons.
They had spent the whole morning volunteering their time drawing caricatures of anyone who would want one. Young and old would line up, and each would seek me out to take their picture — to capture a screenshot of their joy. Sometimes it isn’t enough to just give people “necessities”, but giving them something as superfluous as a caricature goes a long way.
Something about offering your gifts, whether if it’s legal advice, medical work, cartooning, or even just giving up your Saturday morning, made me contemplate the true meaning of being thankful. And much of that was present — thankfulness was present in the servants and the served.
None of this work would be possible without the good work and donations that people like you cheerfully give to Union Rescue Mission. This day was just one of 365 days that helps make the Mission a light in the darkness.
“Hey, this guy is on Facebook!”
“That’s his job, Deshay”
And that’s how my first experience at the teen LifeSkills class began. I had tried to blend into the background, to be an invisible observer, but that just wasn’t an option. On Monday nights, everyone participates—everyone is part of the group.
These Life Skills Classes have been going on for almost three years—this particular one was class #126. Christopher Kai (an entrepreneur among many other things) is the lead volunteer, and has devoted every Monday night (sans holidays) to enrich the lives of the teens at the Mission. Each lesson encourages, inspires, and teaches the students how to work toward their dreams. He also has an awesome and diverse group of volunteer mentors: a former marine, an preschool teacher, a wealth manager, a model/photographer, and a ballerina.
From the moment the door opened up you could feel the excitement emanating from the teens. As they entered the room, their faces would light up—one right after the next. You could definitely tell this class was one of the highlights of their week, a place of retreat from the monotony of Mission life. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Chris approach all of the first timers and make an effort to memorize all of their names. Impressive indeed.
Today’s meeting revolved around the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech”.
“We are each made exactly 99.6% the same,” Chris explained as he pointed to individuals in the group. He continued on how MLK fought for civil rights and how it’s significance in history affected not only those in America, but to all people worldwide.
We were then broken up into three groups in a little exercise to the roof.
Each group was given a mentor and instructions on how to tackle the flights of stairs before us. The first group would ascend to the top by skipping as many steps as possible, the second would skip every other step, and finally the third would take every step.
When all of us finally reached the rooftop we regrouped under the cityscape of downtown LA. The exercise was designed to show that whether we are skipping steps or taking our time with each individual stair, we are all on our individual journey. All we needed to focus on is our dreams and the goals we needed to set to get there.
If anyone is interested in volunteering, please visit: www.fb.com/mondaysatthemission or email Christopher Kai directly at Chris@christopherkai.com
On Saturday, May 25th, Wells Fargo volunteers came to Union Rescue Mission for their annual Wells Fargo Acts of Kindness Day. Some volunteers took part in an Ice Cream Social, serving delicious ice cream sundaes to people in the Skid Row community. Others helped out by organizing storage closets and cleaning the Learning Center in our building!
Thanks so much to all the Wells Fargo Volunteers who gave up their Saturdays to serve – we appreciate you!
This weekend, a cast of Disney characters appeared on the URM roof! Thanks to some amazing and generous Disney VoluntEARS, URM kids were given Disney costumes, decorated cookies, and played water balloon games.
There were an array of Disney Princesses, Power Rangers, Nemo, and Buzz Lightyear all enjoying the party as they each got to pick out several toys!
Thanks so much to Disney for the toys, costumes, clothing and shoes that they donated, and to the VoluntEARS that made this event possible!
Last week, a group of USC Graduate students came to share information with the guests of Union Rescue Mission on a variety of health topics. From women’s health, to tuberculosis, general information and where to go for help was shared.
Connections were made over delicious cupcakes (big thanks to Big Man Bakes!), and many people were able to increase their knowledge on topics relating to their health and that of those around them!
Thanks so much to all the students from USC Med Connect who came out to make this event possible.
We are looking for volunteers to help us expand our Little Steps program, helping preschool aged children and their moms!
Until a year ago, there were no set activities for the toddler/preschool aged kids living at Union Rescue Mission. Many of the mothers with little ones had a hard time getting to appointments, searching for jobs, and apartment hunting; others needed some assistance in teaching their children the things they needed to learn before heading off to school.
One of our faithful volunteers saw this need and started up Little Steps on Tuesdays for children ages 2-6, reading to them, doing arts and crafts, and playing with the children. Now, we are looking for more volunteers to facilitate the learning and fun time Monday through Friday!
What it is: Reading, arts and crafts, and playtime with children. Some library organization while children are eating lunch.
Time/Commitment: Little Steps is from 10am-2pm. We also ask that volunteers be willing to commit to a minimum of every other week for 3 months.
First Step: Contact the volunteer department to set up a “job shadow” of Little Steps on an upcoming Tuesday. After the visit, you can decide whether or not you are willing and able to make a commitment to be a volunteer.
Last Saturday, we were honored to have 180 incoming freshman from the University of La Verne visit URM to serve and learn more about us.
After a quick welcome, the students got right to work on a variety of service projects such as serving lunch in the kitchen, playing volleyball and ping pong with the CLDP men, and serving ice cream to the single men, women and families. Many students scrubbed our walls and stairwells, and others took to the streets to provide cold water to the community!
We wrapped up with testimonies from 5 inspiring men that are recent graduates or currently in the program. Some students even got up to share ways they had been touched throughout the day and during their service projects!
Thanks to all the students and staff from University of La Verne who made this event a success!
Last week, 20 tons of snow marked another successful Christmas in July at Union Rescue Mission! The yearly event was made complete with a visit from Santa, toys for all, and a carnival for everyone to enjoy.
To kick off the festivities, World Boxing Council Silver Welter weight champion Josesito Lopez threw the first snowball. Kids of all ages enjoyed playing in the snow, especially amidst the summer heat!
Mealwhile, kids and adults alike were able to snack on snow cones, popcorns, and cotton candy as they played basketball games, can throws, and earned raffle tickets in the money booth. Jamie Graden, from Paint on Your Face, painted faces while Joslyn Larsen of Creative Balloons created balloon animals, characters, princesses, and more! A variety of delicious Subway sandwiches, chips and drinks were served for lunch.
We are so thankful for the generosity of Subway restaurants for making this fun event possible yet again! On behalf of everyone at URM, we say “Thank you!” for treating the families at Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens to a one-of-a-kind experience!