Life doesn’t afford us many opportunities to do things that are great for our wellbeing and great for others at the same time. But volunteering offers us both. Helping others has been proven to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety. People who volunteer have lower mortality rates and are less likely to develop high blood pressure. Volunteering has even been proven to lessen chronic pain. By measuring brain activity, researchers have shown that volunteering floods our brains with feel-good hormones. We are simply hard-wired to help others, and the more we give, the better we feel!

So in honor of the recent International Volunteer Day (December 5th) let me invite you to join us at St. Joseph Center and do good, while doing yourself good!

Here at St. Joseph Center, we work to provide sustaining solutions to poverty, hunger and homelessness to more than 10,000 people across Los Angeles County each year. We have nine office and service locations throughout Los Angeles County, and are fortunate to have a dedicated corps of volunteers who help us in our programs, with administrative tasks, and fundraising throughout the year. We have many ways you can volunteer and help your neighbors who are struggling.

Come work at our Food Pantry, where volunteers assist shoppers, help guests check in at the front desk, carry groceries for our senior shoppers, or help stock the Pantry and keep it clean and organized. At our Bread and Roses Café in Venice, we provide up 150 hot meals daily for people experiencing homelessness. The Café is set up like an actual restaurant, and we rely on our tireless volunteers to set tables, act as waitstaff, greet guests and prepare for the next seating. If you want to help fight homelessness, join us at our Homeless Service Center, where volunteer opportunities abound. You can help organize mail for people without permanent addresses, make hygiene kits for our neighbors living on the streets, or be a friendly face to sign hungry people up for free, homemade meals.

At St. Joseph Center, we know one clear way to fight poverty is to give people the skills they need to lead happy and stable lives. If you work in tech, assist our Codetalk job training program where we teach unemployed and homeless women how to do front-end web development. If cooking is your passion, volunteer with our Culinary Training Program where you can help prepare lessons or teach time management, financial literacy, and job readiness skills to the low-income men and women who are training to enter the food service industry. If you’re in the mood for a healthy helping of adorable, volunteer at our Early Learning Center, where you can support teachers, read to students, help with art projects, or work with kids in the garden.

Volunteers are especially important at the Holidays. St. Joseph Center, along with the LA Clippers and the Ralphs/Food 4 Less Foundation, distributes more than 800 frozen turkeys and all the fixings to families in need. In conjunction with the Los Angeles Rams, volunteers throw a festive Christmas BBQ, where gifts and groceries are given to clients at our South LA service site. We hold two fundraising events where volunteers are critical: the Taste of St. Joseph Center food festival in February, and Voices of Hope gala dinner in April. We wouldn’t be able to do any of these amazing things without an army of selfless volunteers.

We all lead busy lives, and most of us want to do something meaningful. Still, it can be hard to carve out time to volunteer. One way is to include those closest to you in your volunteering. Volunteer as a family, and make it an event you do together. Volunteering instills empathy and agency in children, and volunteering as a couple strengthens your bond. Bring friends along and volunteer as a group. If you make the time, you’ll find the benefits are great. Plus, it’s fun!

As we’re poised to enter a new year, make volunteering one of your resolutions. Bring your spirit and enthusiasm to a school, library, non-profit, cultural institution, youth organization, or place of worship — there are so many places for you to lend your time and talents! Help yourself while helping make our world a better place.

For more information contact Shelly Aydin at: saydin@stjosephctr.org or call: (310) 396-6468

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