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Volunteers Needed to Bring Holiday Cheer : Community service: Groups and agencies helping the needy seek donations of food, toys, clothing or time.


For many, holidays can be cheerless occasions. But many organizations in the San Fernando Valley are trying to change that. And they need your help.

The following groups are asking for help--in the form of time or donations--in making the holidays special.

To find out about these or other holiday opportunities, call the numbers listed or the Volunteer Center of San Fernando Valley at (818) 908-5066.

For wards of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, a holiday visit from a volunteer makes "all the difference in the world," said Joan Vitale, volunteer program coordinator.

The department cares for about 2,200 people cut off from family and friends by age or mental or physical disability.

Clients range from the indigent to the wealthy, but the common denominator is their loneliness. For some, their only companionship is with busy health care workers.

The department hopes to have enough volunteers to visit every client and deliver gifts bought through donations. The gifts are of minor significance compared to the companionship, Vitale said.

"The main gift is the visit of the volunteer," she said. "It means everything in the world."

Because the department's clients are in all parts of the county, volunteers can request visiting assignments in their areas, Vitale said.

Volunteers are asked to make a one-time trip to the downtown office to sign up and pick up gifts and addresses by Thursday. For more information about the holiday project and to find out about free parking near the downtown office, call Joan or Chris at (213) 974-0400 or (213) 974-0543.

Walden Environment-Foster Family Agency needs volunteers to help with its holiday reception Wednesday. Up to 250 children and their foster families will come to the reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Volunteers are needed to supervise, bring baked goods, hand out name tags and help with cleanup. Call Tanya at (818) 365-3665.

The Salvation Army of the San Fernando Valley needs donations of toys and clothing for children ages 13 and under. The organization will give toys, clothing and food to more than 900 needy families this holiday season. For more information, call Eileen Halverson at (818) 781-5739.

Hospital Home Health Care Agency in Van Nuys is looking for sponsors to adopt needy families for the holidays. The sponsors can call the agency to find out clothing sizes and children's ages. The agency hopes the children will get gifts of toys, books, "anything that kids would like," said Lisa Nagy, the agency's volunteer director. To ask about adopting a family, call (818) 785-1800.

Volunteers of America-Maud Booth Family Center needs donations of toys and clothing for children ages 2 through 12. The day-care center for low-income or one-parent families will give gift and food packages to 110 families. For more information, call Evelyn Anguiano at (818) 980-2287.

The Glendale Salvation Army Corps is providing dinners and gift baskets to more than 900 families this year. The Salvation Army needs toys for children 12 and younger, boxed and canned foods, clothing and money. For more information about donations, call (818) 246-5586.

Independent Living Center is asking for donations of canned or dried food for its clients.

"People can bring anything by, anytime," said Evelyn Frye, job preparation specialist.

The nonprofit organization serves adults who are physically, sensory or developmentally disabled. It served 2,461 Valley residents last year, said Frye. The Van Nuys-based agency provides emergency food and shelter, transportation, housing referrals, benefit assistance, independent living training and employment assistance.

The agency also needs volunteers to help shut-in or invalid clients who need assistance tidying their homes, shopping for groceries, or who need transportation to medical visits or holiday shopping.

Call Frye at (818) 988-9525.

Glendale Head Start Family Service Center needs volunteers to help with a Christmas party Friday for more than 200 low-income families, said Kelly Donaldson, client service coordinator. The center also needs donations of toys, clothing, wrapping paper, fresh fruit, canned food, Christmas stockings and trees. Contact Donaldson at (818) 552-2046.

In Val Verde, the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center, which serves low-income families, needs wrapped gifts for children by Dec. 21. The clinic also needs volunteers to address greeting cards to sponsors. Call Peggy Freeman at (805) 257-4008.

Telfair PTA Health Center in Pacoima needs donations for the children of low-income families who use the center. The center needs gifts, food and clothing for gift baskets, and volunteers to put together the packages before Friday. Call Andy Cervantes at (818) 899-6113.

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