826 LA also runs a store, The Echo Park Time Travel Mart, located on Sunset Boulevard, where a variety of whimsical items are sold. All profits go back into the program.
Many kids end up in the program after they check out the Time Travel Mart and learn about the free tutoring sessions. Others are referred in by their teacher. 826LA helps with classroom projects, and there are daily afterschool tutoring sessions for students ages six to 18, with lessons ranging from early reading to writing a college application.
"We are primarily here to support the work being done in schools by helping them with homework," said Joel Arquillos, 826LA's executive director. "They can get that done, and they can then have some time to spend with their families and be prepared for the next day of school. Also, by focusing on writing, we give them a chance to really define their ideas."
Arquillos was with 826LA where it started in San Francisco. The name comes from the program's first address.
There are seven storefronts across the country. There are two in L.A. with one in Echo Park and the other in Venice, where nearly 3,500 students have been served by more than 1,000 volunteers in just three years.
"I like it, because you learn more about journalism and about how to write more," said sixth grader Alanis Gordillo.
They write books as well as articles for their newspaper, The Good Times. The articles are fueled by the purest imaginations.
Volunteers, like radio producer Eve Troeh, say that they get as much out of it as the kids do.
"It's a true collaboration," said Troeh. "We don't write anything for them. Every word in the paper is theirs, but they'll say these things that just blow your mind in the way that only kids can."
Nearly every student who has come to 826LA says their writing has improved through this program that celebrates words.