Help spread cheer to others in need during the holiday season

By Holly Jenvey

Santa Monica Bar Bingo Virtual Pub Crawl and a holiday lights tour are among fun holiday activities that will raise money to help others.
Images courtesy of Santa Monica Bar Bingo Virtual Pub Crawl and Westchester Mental Health Guild

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and the holidays are a season of giving. Whether it’s through donations or volunteering time, we all have the ability to help lift the spirits of others that are in need.

From supporting local businesses and charities to donating supplies and time, read on to discover the different ways you can get involved and give back to others this holiday season.

Giving Back:

• The Virginia Avenue Park Holiday Food Pantry is providing holiday meals and food boxes for families. There are also other ways to donate clothes, food, personal protective equipment and more. Learn more at santamonica.gov/coronavirus-volunteer

• RUNWAY has teamed up with the LAPD’s Pacific Division for the shopping center’s Toy Drive this year. The LAPD Pacific Division will be distributing toys to underprivileged children/low-income families on the Westside of LA in partnership with local Westside communities and organizations. Visitors are able to drop off new toys and books at bins located outside of Huzzah! Toys and Micro Kickboards until December 20.

For more information, visit runwayplayavista.com

• Allies for Every Child is hosting a drive-thru event on December 19 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for families struggling through the holidays to offer support with free food and fresh produce. If you or anyone you know is in a serious financial struggle, please donate and spread the word about this event. For more information, visit alliesforeverychild.org

• Loaves and Fishes Ministry Christmas Food Pantry on December 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. This year, St. Mark Parish in Venice and Nourish LA are hosting a special Food Pantry for Christmas. Their Loaves and Fishes Ministry is collecting $25 gift cards from Target, Ross or Big Lots to help bring joy to families in need. Donations can be brought to the Parish Office between Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or dropped off after each mass. Volunteer opportunities are also available. For more information, call 310-821-5058 or email: loavesandfishes@stmarkvenice.com

• Santa MoniCARES has also partnered with local restaurants, hotels and retailers to host donation activations along with blanket and clothing drives. The Giving Tree with Loews Hotel has invited businesses and residents to sponsor a personalized tree to be shown the hotel lobby. The winner will receive $1,000 to donate to a local participating nonprofit. The community can also donate new and used blankets for Santa Monica’s homeless with a partnership with Perry’s Cafe. New or gently loved business clothing can be donated to benefit Chrysalis in partnership with the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.

For more information, visit santamonica.com/volunteer-opportunities

• The Santa Monica Place Million Meals Challenge has extended its participation with the Macerich Million Meals Challenge for another month for a $3,000 goal, which it just surpassed! These donations are eligible to feed 8,000 people in the community who are in need of a meal. Every $5 in donations is tax deductible.

• The Westchester Mental Health Guild will be presenting a Holiday Lights Tour from December 13-19. There are 21 houses and one church participating in the tour. To participate, you must donate at least $10 and register online. The donation covers your entire carload and provides a map of the homes on the tour, plus the right to vote for your favorite. All the proceeds of the fundraiser will benefit the Airport Marina Counseling Service. For more information, visit holiday-lights-tour.eventbrite.com

• Marina Del Rey Pharmacy is hosting a Food Drive to collect non-perishable items for Westside Food Bank this holiday season. People are encouraged to drop off a non-perishable food item anytime at the pharmacy from December 4-18. Items needed most are dried pasta, pasta sauce (unbreakable packaging), juice and breakfast cereal. For more information, visit marinadelreypharmacy.com

• Gelson’s stores across Southern California are hosting the company’s Annual Toy Drive from December 1-20, which will benefit disadvantaged children throughout the region. The toy receptacles at the stores will be designated red bins or branded containers. A list of suggested donations can be found at the store front desk and at gelsons.com

Support Local Businesses

• The City of Santa Monica’s Buy Local Program has partnered with local businesses to launch the Buy Local Holiday Gift Guide, where they have planned ideas for local gifts that support businesses and the community with each purchase. The themed gifts of this year include Buy Local on a Budget, Safer at Home Gifts, Gifts that Give Back (percentage of proceeds donated to support charities) and also highlighting safe shopping during the pandemic. This includes supporting local businesses that offer curbside pickup, contactless payments, delivery services and senior shopping hours.

For more information, visit buylocalsantamonica.com

• Santa Monica Bar Bingo Virtual Pub Crawl, December 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. Dust off your Santa hats and ugly sweaters, the 12th Annual Santa Monica Pub Crawl returns with a virtual Bar Bingo game night to support bars and restaurants while raising money for the Westside Food Bank! Join hosts Brian Thomas Smith from “Big Bang Theory” and DJ Kooleo of FREE SPACE for a two-hour, holiday party with cocktails, music, games, bingo, costume contests, trivia and a ton of prizes. Attendees are encouraged to order takeout and keep their receipts, because the more businesses they purchase from, the more chances they have of winning. For more information, visit santamonicapubcrawl.com

• Gift certificates are a great way to support small businesses while giving your loved ones flexibility. With a gift certificate, people can buy whatever they want from the places they love. Plus, all the money will go back to the business!

• You can support small businesses in other ways aside from buying products. Whether it’s helping with their website, checking in, volunteering or other measures, a small act can go a long way.

Virtual Opportunities

• Westchester Pacific Villages, a nonprofit organization, is helping seniors stay in touch through this time of vulnerability. They are looking for volunteers to make phone calls to seniors to help them stay connected, provide social support and have a sense of companionship during this time of isolation. Volunteers can also learn about their essential needs and help arrange meal delivery, groceries, medications and other care packages. For more
information and to find out how to volunteer, please visit volunteermatch.org

• Virtual Veteran Brigade members will use content from the AARP National Team to share content on many digital and social platforms. They will help provide information for supporting veterans of all ages, military and their families. For more information on duties and qualifications, please visit aarp.org

• Every year since 1912, the USPS has permitted the public to read letters from underprivileged children to Santa. You can become an elf today by reading these letters and sending gifts to children. Volunteers can access these letters on their website and see requests from all over the county. To find out more about how you can make a child’s Christmas this year, visit uspsoperationsanta.com and beanelf.org.

• The pandemic has taken a toll on mental health as well. To see how you can connect with others as well as be kind to your mind, check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Westside Los Angeles website. They are offering virtual support groups, peer groups, classes and more. See all they offer at namila.org

• Baby2Baby provides essentials to children ages 0-12 living in poverty and has celebrities including Julie Bowen, Rachel Zoe and Jessica Alba as board members. It has currently donated 50 million basic essentials to children impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Find out how you can help this holiday season by visiting baby2baby.org

• The American Book Drive is an organization dedicated to redistributing used books. Books are either resold through online marketplaces or if they are for children, they can go to schools, hospitals and children’s centers. You can donate a book to a collection bin, which can be located on their website. For more information, visit americanbookdrive.com

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