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Finding a Way to Give Thanks by Giving Back

The Valley has plenty of volunteer jobs for youths. Some schools not only provide credit for service but require it for graduation.


Many Valley kids have plenty to be thankful for today--lots to eat this afternoon, and it's the beginning of a long weekend for such pursuits as shopping, going to the movies or engaging in recreational sports. Plus, there's the coming prospect of getting off school for an extended winter vacation.

During this season, high school and junior high kids might consider a question raised by Joan Kagan, a coordinator at the Assistance League of Southern California's Volunteer Center in Panorama City: "Why not take a break from hanging out or shopping by giving some of your time--giving some support to others and sharing what you have?"

The kind of sharing she has in mind isn't merely a reference to buying and/or bringing a toy or can of food to a charity collection site--although that's a good way to start. The need for young people's volunteer services during this season goes beyond that. And the payoff for young volunteers goes beyond just feeling good.

According to Debbie Leidner, an administrator in the Valley for the Los Angeles Unified School District, "in recent years 'service learning' or volunteer work has become one of the requirements for high school graduation."

Although this isn't yet the case with every school in every district, and the hours required can vary from 50 to 100 depending on the school, the practice of giving academic recognition to "service learning" is spreading. One reason, Leidner said is, "Youngsters need to learn to give something back to their community."

A word of advice to kids: If you want to get academic credit for volunteering, contact your school principal's office. Your school may have certain rules and even a specialized list of opportunities.

But even if your school doesn't make volunteer activity a requirement for the diploma, share a bit of yourself anyway. In the words of the ubiquitous advertising campaign, "Just do it."


* FYI: For referrals to agencies that will accept young volunteers for vacation and after-school work involving the care of young children and the elderly, or food, clothing and holiday gift sorting and distribution call:

Volunteer Center--Assistance League of Southern California (818) 908-5066. Also inquire about the league's new local guide, "Let Us Volunteer: A Young Person's Guide to Volunteerism."

Boys & Girls Club of San Fernando Valley (818) 896-5261 or the Santa Clarita Valley (805) 254-2582 or the Antelope Valley (805) 267-2582.

Catholic Charities of Glendale (818) 409-3080.

San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council--Food Pantry Coalition (818) 718-6460, Ext. 3012. (Dec. 4-14 food collection drive at Promenade Mall in Woodland Hills, plus packing holiday gift baskets).

Salvation Army, San Fernando Valley Corps--Angel Tree program at Fallbrook Mall, Friday-Dec. 14 (keeping watch over gift collection site). (818) 781-5739.

American Red Cross--Holiday season replacement volunteers, ages 15 and older, to make "reminder calls" to donors to the Blood Service program. (818) 376-1732.

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