For Jeff Lowenson, there's no such thing as too much math. Some days, he puts in as much as four straight hours solving algebra and geometry problems at Lawrence Junior High School in Chatsworth. And he's not even a student there.
He's one of several hundred senior citizens who are Dedicated Older Volunteers in Educational Services (DOVES) for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
"There are tough moments," said Lowenson, a retired Hughes Aircraft employee who lives near the school he has volunteered at since 1990. "Math isn't always everyone's favorite subject. But it's very rewarding to see that certain look in a child's eye when they finally understand and work it out for themselves."
The volunteers "really help ease the pain of large classrooms," said Brenda Winter, assistant principal at Lawrence. "And when you have someone like Jeff, well, what a bonus! He's able to bring so much knowledge into the class. But he also gives his time and energy after the bell rings. He's really trying to get the kids involved."
Lowenson has also formed the Hughes Futuristics, a lunchtime club that works in conjunction with the company to expose young minority students to math- and science-related jobs.
"We need lots of manpower all year long, people who are willing to give their time and care to the children," said Soung-An Kim, the DOVES coordinator. "That's really all you need to volunteer."
For details, call (818) 997-2300, Ext. 6080.
Volunteering often goes up during the holidays, but many people continue to give their time after the last gift is unwrapped.
Dee Dee Davidson-Porter is no exception.
"One day several years ago, my daughter and I went on a Nursery Nature Walk and I really loved it," said Davidson-Porter, whose daughter is now 5.
"It all came flooding back. You see, the women in my family had taught me to look at the world through gentle eyes."
The Woodland Hills resident, who grew up in Malibu, has been a volunteer docent for Nursery Nature Walks for two years. The group, based in Pacific Palisades, offers walks for young children and their parents at parks and trails throughout the San Fernando Valley and surrounding areas.
"Children and parents need to explore nature together. Sometimes you get so housebound, you forget to connect with the world around you," Davidson-Porter said.
"Each volunteer adds a little something unique," Davidson-Porter said. "For me, it's usually a Native American perspective. I like to incorporate traditional songs or stories into the walk."
To volunteer as a Nursery Nature Walks docent, call (310) 998-1151.
Other organizations in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys that need volunteers during the holidays and the rest of the year:
* Loaves & Fishes is a Van Nuys-based food pantry that is under the umbrella of Catholic Charities. The organization has been serving those on limited incomes and the homeless for four years. Barbara Ausburn, volunteer coordinator, says the group provides groceries for about 3,000 people each month. During the holidays, the food production line and distribution of groceries is busy. Loaves & Fishes is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Volunteers are needed to interview applicants, fill food orders, sort and organize the food pantry, and assist with office work. Call (818) 997-0943.
* Meals to the Homebound provides just that--a hot meal and beverage to the elderly who are confined to their homes. "Several years back, there was a boy, about 12, who asked me if he could deliver meals on his bicycle," said Evelyn Luckow, volunteer director. "Unfortunately, I couldn't use him. But that's the spirit we need around here. I know he grew up to be a really fine citizen." Volunteers must be 18 and hold a current California driver's license and insurance. Drivers are reimbursed for mileage. Call Van Nuys: (818) 988-7188; North Hollywood: (818) 761-6224; Sunland: (818) 353-1413; San Fernando: (818) 361-8089.
* Lutheran Social Services, Emergency Center, has existed since 1946. The operation uses about 300 volunteers to help thousands of the needy and provide job assistance. Jerome Nilssen, the Valley coordinator, said volunteers are especially needed around the holidays for interviewing, case management, staffing the job desk, running the thrift shop and food distribution. Bilingual volunteers are in demand. Call (818) 785-2114.
* The Valley Interfaith Council, based in Chatsworth, provides nine different food pantries for the needy. The organization, a network of temples and churches throughout the Valley, serves millions of meals each year. Volunteers are needed to set and clean tables, prepare food and serve it, and do telephone and office work. Call (818) 718-6460.
* The Burbank Temporary Aid Center provides Christmas food pantries to local families and individuals. People are needed for preparing food, making baskets, sorting donated items and answering the telephones. Call (818) 846-2330.