Featured Project: Beauty and Charm: To Lift Women’s Spirits

Beauty to Lift Women’s Spirits

 – Good Shepherd Centre for Homeless Women & Children
Written by L.A. Works Volunteer Reporter Wendy Green

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Project Leader: Jessica Bavel

Who is Jessica Bavel?

I suppose I’m just a regular girl. 

This is always a difficult question to ask yourself who you are. 

I suppose I’m a lot of things. I try be a good sister, a good daughter, a good aunt. 

I grew up in LA. I’m one of four I have 2 brothers one sister. 

My mother is Puerto Rican and my father is black, I’m very fortunate to get the best of those 

worlds. I love to hang out with my family we have so much fun. We might throw on some 

salsa music my mum will get and start dancing its just easy and good fun, I just love my 


Tell me about your journey as a volunteer.
I’ve been in a position where growing up was difficult and no matter what happened I 

remained determined- only because I had someone there. I had influences that impacted 

me either directly or non directly, it’s just the thought of having someone there. I really 

would like to be that person, a person who helps others. Its the reason I signed up with L.A. 

Works its actually why I started volunteering. 

I do a lot of volunteering such as working at Food Banks, Downtown Woman’s Center and 

elderly homes but my focus has always been with woman. I suppose its because I am a 

woman and I can relate to them on a larger scale.

Tell me the project you lead called Beauty and Charm: To Lift Women’s Spirits. 

I just love this project. The project runs once a month, volunteers come together to offer 

facials, manicures, pedicures, make up application and you don’t have to be a beautician 

its just about women enjoying each other company- eating , talking, laughing, its really 

good fun.

Do you have a volunteer story to share?
Yes I do. One day I had a lot of volunteers turn up, the clients were so spoiled they had so 

many women pampering them. I noticed one of the clients who had signed up, hadn’t 

shown. I inquired and was told she was in her room and was feeling pretty low, she didn’t 

feel like joining in. With a bit of coercing she came down and sat in a chair within a few 

minutes there was a group of women all over her. We had so many volunteers that day, that 

she had a person on each foot and hand, someone giving her a facial, someone making 

her a coffee.They were all laughing and having a great time. At the end of the day she 

came up to me and told me how much the experience meant to her. She had never 

experienced people to be so kind, she had never been pampered like that in her whole life. 

Stories like that are what this project is all about.

How do you feel volunteering impacts the community?
Establishing a connection with another human being is important, its fundamental, we 

relate to each other, we connect we one another- that should be embraced more. 

Unfortunately in our society there is a complacency, an interdependency, people are only 

worried about themselves. When you connect with someone its wonderful, dare I say even 

magical. Some people say magic doesn’t exist but when I connect with woman Ive never 

met before and there’s a connection, it’s really powerful, its magical.

What do you believe makes a good project leader?
A project leader needs to have sincerity. The ability to lead and inspire people. To have 

passion for what your doing which then creates a common goal. If a volunteer can see how 

much work and effort you put in as a project leader, hopefully that inspires them and in turn 

they too can make a difference.

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What are 5 words would sum you up?
Happy, Bubbly, Loving, Sassy and Compassionate.

Tell me a little about your heritage.
I’m African American. I’m a mix of black, French and American Indian. I live in California, an actual LA native.

Tell me about your volunteer experience
Well today I’m volunteering at a project called Beauty and Charm Lifting Women’s Spirits. It was really touching and lots of
fun. I haven’t volunteered in so long and I wanted to start the New Year volunteering at least once a month. I found L.A. Works and I liked the fact they had something for everybody. It caters to all personalities, interests or an intention that you would like to accomplish from volunteering. I found Beauty and Charm which is totally up my alley. Women bonding over manicures and facials-how much fun does that sound.

Volunteering is really important to me. My dad passed away when I was 12. Part of the grieving process is to find ways to heal, to cope, to have acceptance. One of the ways I did that, was when I was in my freshman year at University, I volunteered with Relay For Life.  In my junior year we didn’t have Relay for Life at my University (we didn’t meet the quota) so I started a team at another University. We had one month to raise $1000, we ended up raising $2000 which is exceptional for Hampton Virginia. From that the Atlantic region contacted me and wanted to reopen Relay for Life at Hampton, which I headed. I then started Colleges Against Cancer. My intention was to try and raise money to help fund research so no other person, had to lose a person to cancer like I did. I had so much fun with those projects, I just wanted to get back into volunteering when I got back.

What do you gain from volunteering?
Well that’s interesting. I don’t really volunteer to gain a personal gratification I just like putting smiles on peoples faces, so I suppose if I’m able to do that then thats what I gain. I don’t need to know someones personal story. I just like being together, laughing hanging out. I really like meeting new people. I actually thought I would be coming with a bunch of friends but they couldn’t make it, so I came alone and I ended up making new friends.

What would we be surprised to learn about Jade Howard?
My father was a legendary Jazz recording artist but unfortunately I cannot play an instrument, sing or dance.

Copy of DSC_0071_2Volunteer: Rosanna O’Guynn

Ive seen you at so many volunteer groups tell me when you started?
I’ve been volunteering in LA for a few years. I was searching the internet for things to do and volunteering came up. I was interested in what that was and meant, so here I am.

You volunteer a lot, I’m guessing on a weekly basis, tell me why your so passionate.
Well it sounds silly but as I said I was just looking for something to do and the word volunteer came up. I searched some more and thats when I found L.A. Works. L.A. Works had a calendar that made it very easy . I thought that is a great thing to do and gave it a go. I do it every week so I can be involved with the community, I want to participate. I did try other places but L.A. Works just made it so simple and easy.

What do you gain from volunteering?
People saying thank you. People commenting they feel inspired and motivated by us coming by.

Do you have any volunteer stories?
Not individual stories but people are always so grateful. People are so appreciative and I’m appreciative for the opportunity, it creates a great vibe.

What makes a good volunteer?
It’s an ongoing process I don’t think its one factor that makes someone good at it. You learn every time you volunteer.

Did something inspire you to be so active within the volunteering community?
No not really I just wanted something to do. I wanted to be involved and L.A. Works was there and made it easy to volunteer.

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Volunteer Leader Spotlight: Mary Connors

L.A. Works had the privilege of learning long-time project leader, Mary Connor’s volunteer story when we nominated her for the Halo Award. We’re still waiting to hear if we won this year, but don’t want to wait to share the story of this inspirational leader.

The quote on a poster at Mary Connor’s desk says “Leadership is action, not position”. Mary embodies action.
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Mary is a longtime Angelino, having moved here from New Jersey with her sister right after high school. She loves California, and would never leave. She has been an aerospace engineer for over 30 years, starting her career with Hughes Aircraft Company, and staying in place while the company changed hands several times over the years.

Mary’s dad worked but her mother stayed home and raised their family of five. She always instilled in her family to love others and have compassion. “I grew up in a small town and our house was always filled with kids from the neighborhood. Even though we didn’t have much, mom always fed whoever was in the house no matter how many of us there were,” she shared.

Back in 2009, Mary stumbled upon the L.A. Works website while looking for some new ways to get involved in the Los Angeles community. Working full-time was not enough; she had energy to burn. She started with one-time L.A. Works activities…a beach clean-up, food pantry work and the like. Soon she was volunteering at the Food Bank two to four times a month. But then, Bobby Marin, the L.A. Works volunteer leader for the Los Angeles Food Bank needed a replacement. Mary stepped up. Through L.A. Works, she has coordinated the Greater Los Angeles Food Pantry project since March 2010. Intimately involved in management of the facility, she supervises the receipt, sorting, distribution and delivery of food to individuals and groups, and the delivery of bulk orders.

The Food Bank has a corps of volunteers that are long time workers. The number can range from seventy to one hundred volunteers in the summer to two hundred to three hundred the rest of the year. Volunteers come as individuals as she did. They also come in groups from schools, colleges, churches and workplaces. It also attracts frequent newbies to join their ranks. Mary has described the volunteers as being like family. Mary is proud of the fact that the Greater Los Angeles Food bank is the most efficient food bank in the country. Ninety-seven cents of everydollar goes to food. Non-food items get passed along to groups that can use them. The food comes from the USDA, local grocery chains, private donations and virtual donations online.

Mary is committed to leading the Food Bank project twice a month but goes more often. She has recruited new leaders to take over the other two Saturdays of each month. As if running the Food Bank project is not enough, Mary also volunteers regularly at another L.A. Works project at Alexandria House. She describes her work there as doing anything that needs to be done to help the resident families. Alexandria House is a transitional housing facility for single women and children. They house about nine families at a time and the average stay is about ten months. They have a huge support system for these women, not only giving them shelter but also providing classes on parenting, job skills, and financial skills. They provide childcare for the residents. They are also a community center providing for the needs of the surrounding community through a volunteer run thrift store that provides donated goods at a low cost.

Mary has also helps L.A. Works lead large-scale community building events like L.A. Works Day of Service, Martin Luther King Day of Service, and Cesar Chavez day. When not volunteering through L.A. Works, she is also involved quite a bit with her church. Just before Thanksgiving the church members collect fill bags of groceries to be donated to families from an inner city school. A few years ago her pastor had her take over that project completely. Before Mary, the church would feed about 30 families. After she took over the project, the church doubled the number of families served. Mary inspired her church family to make this leap by including them in her volunteer efforts at the Food Bank.

Why does she do this? Her answer is as simple as it is heartfelt: “That’s how my mom raised us. She taught us that even if you don’t have money you could always help someone in need. Sometimes just by listening to them, giving them your time, neither of which costs us anything and is sometimes all we have to give.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Lindsey

Linsey KellyLindsey Kelly graduated in 2007 from UC Santa Cruz, with a BA in Environmental Studies. She is excited to be interning as a Program Coordinator and to get involved in the important work that L.A. Works does for our community. She intends to pursue a career in which she can affect positive change in the world, but says she is still trying to figure out exactly what that looks like for her. She is hoping this internship will be an opportunity to explore the possibilities, and looks forward to gaining practical experience working at a non-profit and managing volunteers. She currently works as an educator at the LA Zoo. On her free time she enjoys working in her vegetable garden, cooking and eating all kinds of food, hiking, riding her bike, and hanging out with her cat, Gizmo. A fun fact about Lindsey is that she rode an ostrich while in South Africa. “It was as terrifying as it sounds,” shared Lindsey.

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Ao

AoAo Tang is an international student pursuing a Masters of Public Administration (MPA) at USC’s Price School of Public Policy. He is expected to graduate in May of 2014. He comes from Chongqing, a marvelous city situated in Midwest-China, renowned for its spicy food. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Security at the Shanghai University of Finances and Economics. Ao will serve as L.A. Works’ Nonprofit Management Coordinator. He is interested in learning how different nonprofits run their programs. He ultimately wants to work in an international agency, possibly the UN or the World Bank. Ao is fascinated with traveling and photography. Once he rode in a 20-seater plane to Crescent City, a small town of only 8,000 residents to take pictures of the scenery. Every morning he woke up at 5:00AM to visit the Redwood National Forest and take in the grandeur and delicacy of Mother Nature. He is also planning to visit more places around California in the future. Another fun fact about him is that one semester he took public transit to dine out at 20 different restaurants serving various ethnic foods. Besides Chinese cuisine, he thinks the best is Cambodian. 

Volunteer Spotlight: We Come Running


Last month, dozens of corporate workers and community members participated in the 3rd Annual Service Crawl, a competition in which teams of volunteers raced to complete significant service projects at shelters, missions, food banks, and other charitable non-profit organizations. For this month’s newsletter, we interviewed team We Come Running, an all-female quartet that won 1st Place in the Service Crawl, even though it was the team’s first time participating.

Team We Come Running successfully completed three service projects for Service Crawl: refurnishing furniture at the Downtown LA Women’s Center; altering clothing at the Downtown LA Women’s Center’s retail store; and lastly, organizing children’s books at La Plaza De Culturas Y Artes, a Mexican-American cultural center on Olvera Street.

According to the members of We Come Running, the Service Crawl was much more than a fun competition with standard community service projects; it was a great learning experience. “We did a lot of service in college, but now that we’ve graduated, it’s been hard to set up a weekly service commitment,” said team member Kym. “The Service Crawl taught us a lot about local nonprofits and it showed us how to get more involved within the L.A. community.” Another team member, Alli-a kindergarten teacher, told us that the Service Crawl had inspired her to utilize the places and information she had come across during the competition as additional educational resources for her students.

When asked if they would participate again, all four team members of We Come Running responded with a definite, “Yes!” Get involved today! Find and register for other community service opportunities at www.laworks.com and don’t forget to join us next year for our 4th Annual Service Crawl!

I came to Los Angeles to be the change

Antonio Fernandez_editsA few years ago, when MLK Day was officially named a National Day of Service in the United States, Kaiser Permanente urged employees to use the day to volunteer in their communities. The company not only permitted its employees to go out and be of service; it often sponsored many of the events in the communities where its facilities are located.  It’s a comfort knowing that I work for a company that not only cares about the individual’s wellness, but also one that knows the importance of the impact individuals have on the community. For the past three years, I have signed up to volunteer on MLK Day. Last year was the first year I worked with L.A. Works- a non-profit volunteer organization that has been a trusted partner to Kaiser Permanente for several years, offering volunteer leadership services to its employees for big service events.

Kaiser Permanente runs its own internal employee volunteer site called KPCares. This site is a place where employees, as well as organizations that reach out to Kaiser and meet certain criteria, can post events in which volunteers are needed.  These events can be local, regional, national or international, and can be seen by employees based on these preferences. Coming from Northern California a short time ago, a place where I did a lot of community service, it was frustrating to learn that the region-wide effort to get the volunteer site off the ground in Southern California was only a couple of years old and still in its infant stages.

Last year when I was looking for a place to donate my time, I was having trouble finding an event. So I started scouring the Internet and that is when I found the L.A. Works Web site. This year, I noticed they listed a big MLK Day 2013 event in which they would revitalize a school in Glendale and were in need of many volunteers. I also observed that LAW welcomes oyuproject leader positions still needed to be filled, so I signed up for one, and within a couple of days I received an email from L.A. Works notifying me that there would be a project leader training for the event. L.A. Works makes it easy to find and sign up for events, and in addition they usually offer training for all the requested positions.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the training, but I showed up for my shift at the school bright and early at about 6:30 am on MLK Day. Having done quite a bit of volunteer work in the past, I was a little skeptical that things would run smoothly. One of the biggest problems with the large service day events where I have volunteered in the past has been disorganization. Often organizations are taxed because of the large amount of volunteers that show up and then are left scrambling to provide work, find tools or be able to actively manage the sheer amount of people without running into a multitude of problems. A lot of this has to do with funding, so let me note how important donations are to an organization. They cannot run on sheer manpower alone. There are so many moving parts that make every event possible, from having enough pencils to making sure there is water and people are taking breaks.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that L.A. Works really had their act together. I tracked down the project leader manager, Becca Bloom, who greeted me with a smile and let me know that breakfast and coffee were being provided. After I made a cup of Joe, I tracked her down again. It takes a lot to coordinate the fine dance that is a big volunteer event, and you will never find the head person standing in one place for more than a moment. Once I located her again, she told me my duty. While I was waiting for all the volunteers to show up I lent a hand doing anything I could– this included setting up tables, hanging banners and basically just going wherever I could lend a hand. The thing I like least about volunteering is not making the most of every moment that I am there.  I am sure most people have the same sentiment.

IMG_5837While I worked, it was great to network and meet people from all the great organizations that partner with L.A. Works. I have to say, I especially enjoy when I see the red shirt with the big white target sign. I will vouch for Kaiser Permanente volunteers. I have never worked with such passionate and dedicated people as the employees that sign
up from Kaiser Permanente to volunteer, but man, Target volunteers not only come ready to work, they come in droves. I swear the last two MLK Days I have volunteered with L.A. Works, there have been several hundred Target volunteers and man they know how to put in an honest day’s work. A great thing about L.A. Works is that it provides opportunities, and helps relieve corporations of the stress of coordinating such events by doing all the work for them. These big companies give amazing amounts of donations back to the community in the form of employee volunteer hours.

Like clockwork, people started to show up in droves. Families, individuals and people of registrationall ethnic backgrounds lined up and patiently waited their turns to register. The beauty of volunteerism is that it knows no color lines. The people who show up just come with a heart of love and the willingness to donate their time to make someone else’s life easier.

I was assigned to be a line monitor and put in charge of making sure each individual had a liability form filled out. I believe that day over 500 volunteers showed up to help out. It took a good hour to get everyone checked in, and the only complication during that time was that we ran out of liability forms, but the school principal ran in and printed out a few more, and we were back in business. The coordination effort by L.A. Works and its partners to get everyone accounted for was seamless. I was really impressed.

While waiting for everyone to check in, people stood around and sipped hot coffee and ate fruit and bagels. When the line depleted, everyone gathered around the deejay for duty assignments and general announcements. When those were completed, the deejay fired up the music and everyone went to work.

What a sight it is to see a total transformation of an entire school grounds. Groups were landscaping, painting, sorting out old school books, and doing so many other things. Rarely did I see anyone standing around unless they were looking for something else to do or taking a break. The beautiful thing about the whole day was that it was about 80 degrees in the middle of January. It couldn’t have been a more amazing day. I am sure L.A. Works didn’t have anything to do with the weather, which is one of my favorite things about Los Angeles, but you never know.

IMG_8417For most of the day I worked hauling bark to provide as ground cover for the newly landscaped areas around campus. It was warm, and pushing a wheelbarrow up a hill and across the old campus was a chore, but as with any volunteer events, temporary hard labor is always worth the reward of seeing the finished product. I stayed with a group from a local dojo (Name here) until the very end. That is another awesome benefit of volunteer events: You meet so many like-minded, giving and passionate individuals.

The success of MLK Day convinced me to research L.A. Works a little more and find other, more long-term opportunities with them. I was sold on how smoothly this big event ran and wanted to look into how I could become a piece of the puzzle in the bigger picture that is L.A. Works. Over the last few months, I have joined the organization and I am currently in the process of helping them with marketing, social media, and finding donors for door prizes for the L.A. Works Service Crawl event on July 20th, 2013. I hope to someday start my own non-profit and if and when I do, I hope to model it after the blueprint that L.A. Works has set forth on how an organization like this can run efficiently, solely off the blood, sweat and tears of thousands of volunteers who show up every year to make Los Angeles a better place to live.

Thank you L.A. Works for all the time and effort you put into making Los Angeles one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Thank you also for the opportunity to fit into your little family and do the one thing that I love more than anything, volunteering.

This post was written by L.A. Works’ Volunteer Project Leader, Antonio Fernandez. Visit Antonio’s blog to read more about his take on volunteering, art, poetry and life in general! 

David Korszyk – MLK Day Volunteer Spotlight

David KorszykDavid Korszyk, along with a group of other Kaiser Permanente members, participated in this year’s beautification efforts because of his desire to emerge into the LA community. David has lived in places such as Argentina and New York but he has a deep and special appreciation for Los Angeles. He is engrossed by LA’s geography, cuisine and perfect weather. His genuine love for the city provokes him to engage in efforts that focus on creating a stronger community.

David was particularly drawn towards this service opportunity because he knew it would benefit the lives of many children. He focuses on making a difference in the lives of children because his nine-year-old daughter suffers from muscular dystrophy, a group of inherited disorders that involve loss of muscle tissue and muscle weakness. David’s positive outlook on life continues giving him the energy needed to achieve self-fulfillment and help others achieve greatness as well. “I always want to do more and the message behind MLK Day encouraged me to want to leave my imprint on this school.” David also teaches guitar lessons at his local church on the weekends and knows that this won’t be his last time volunteering with L.A. Works.

Henry Fernandez – MLK Day Volunteer Spotlight

Henry Fernandez attended MLK Day with more than 300 Target team members. He is Henry Fernandez_Finala native Angeleno and firmly believes in empowering his community by promoting activism. Deciding to get involved with in this event came naturally when he first learned about the opportunity. “I saw a volunteer sign-up sheet in the break room and instantly decided it would be a great way to give back and meet people.”

MLK Day presented Henry with the opportunity to meet fellow co-workers throughout the greater LA area. As an extrovert, Henry is driven by social connections and is constantly looking for ways to convene with other activists. “Events like this make it possible for me to learn more about others who want to make a difference too.”

Henry aspires to enter the nursing field and ultimately become a physician’s assistant in hopes of making a lasting impression in the lives of others. He believes that volunteering with L.A. Works will further enable him to connect and empathize with others, a quality that will prove useful in his profession.

Will Perez – MLK Day Volunteer Leader Spotlight

Will PerezWill Perez served as a volunteer leader for a fence-weaving project during this year’s MLK Day. His commitment to the national day of service was inspiring and heartfelt. “If education is liberation, being of service is empowering,” said Will when asked about his interest in volunteering. Will became a project leader because he felt it would be a great way to set precedent for fellow team members. His encouraging spirit made for a dedicated team that understood the importance of their individual efforts but more importantly the role they played within the community at large.

Will was proud to be part of such a monumental day. He believes the community’s revitalization efforts for the Title I school play a crucial role in the learning process and transcend the obvious benefits of visual appeal. “I walked away with a smile on my face, hoping that the young minds that play on these yards, that walk the hallways of this new magnet school will be inspired to continue building the ‘Beloved Community’ Dr. King envisioned.”

Will has a deep-rooted interest in education and looks forward to having a full time teaching position. In addition, he is currently working with a group of others to launch a creative design company. Although challenging, Will and his team are determined to bring their project to fruition and attract talented individuals who are interested in technology and design.

Summer Intern Spotlight

L.A. Works makes volunteering easy and accessible for all Angelenos to make a significant impact in their community!

Once again, this summer L.A. Works’ office is bustling with activity and energy as eight interns have joined our ranks. The following four interns are student from universities across the country who are spending a part of their summer vacation supporting our volunteer programming.

Caroline Bringenberg has a junior class standing at Occidental College, a small, private liberal arts and sciences college located just around the corner from L.A. Works’ headquarters. Her major is urban and environmental policy with emphasis on housing and community development. Getting involved with our non-profit organization was a natural step for Caroline, whose long-term career track is non-profit and leadership. She selected the opportunity with L.A. Works because she was looking for a volunteer opportunity that would provide an internship experience tailored to her interests.

Evelyn Ramirez is a sophomore at Harvard University, graduating class of 2015, and will prospectively pursue a concentration in psychology with a secondary concentration in global health and health policy. As an intern at L.A. Works, Evelyn is working on developing the leadership training for L.A. Works project leaders, providing them with appropriate resources, and re-designing the application process for individuals who desire to become leaders. Evelyn shared, “I’ve always had a passion for community service and have striven to do my share of work to make the world a better place. Since L.A. Works mobilizes volunteers and plans projects that enhance the city of Los Angeles and benefits its residents, I thought interning at L.A. works would be the perfect opportunity to do what I love while gaining valuable personal and professional experience for a future career in non-profit management or public health/ policy.”

Ailene Huang is a sophomore at USC, majoring in East Asian Language and Cultures with a focus in China. Ailene was born in Taiwan and came to US with her parents when she was 13. Her family is committed to non-profit causes, currently her brother works for a non-profit in Israel. Ailene joined L.A. Works to learn non-profit from a business angle and is excited about volunteer opportunities LA Works provides, “it’s a great hub for people to find community service and get involved.”

Valentina Mann is a rising junior majoring in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. She grew up in Florence, Italy and has been involved with volunteer projects ever since she was 13, so interning for LA Works just seemed to be a natural step. At L.A. Works Valentina is helping the organization increase its number of managed projects and researching and getting in touch with new volunteer organizations.
She shared, “I hope to understand how NGOs work and what kind of impact they can have in their communities.”

You too can join L.A. Works’ growing team. Check out our internship opportunities that are available all year-long!