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Eye on L.A.: Paying it forward

August 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
This week's Eye on L.A. is all about paying it forward. Through the extraordinary stories of people in and around Los Angeles, we hope you'll be inspired to devote your time and your talents to make a difference in someone's life.

Founded in 1901, Children's Hospital Los Angeles is the first and largest pediatric hospital in Southern California. There are many volunteer opportunities available, with patient interaction and without. Some of the biggest needs for volunteers are in the Playroom, where you can interact with kids, and in Pet Therapy.

Jefferson Award nominee "Grandpa" Bob Bolling dedicates his time at Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach where they invite people of all ages from young adults to seniors and retirees to volunteer. Fellow Jefferson Award nominee Alma Martinez started the organization, Amigos Sin Barreras, or Friends Without Barriers, a non-profit community-based organization committed to serving persons living with HIV and AIDS.

Focusing on support for sick children and babies, Cool Kid Rachel Rosenblum created Rachel's Hug-a-Bears, a non-profit organization that provides new, cuddly "Rachel Bears" with personalized messages of encouragement to hospitalized children. Jefferson Award nominee Kathy Silverton founded Stitches From the Heart, a non-profit knitting, crocheting and quilting organization that sends handmade clothing and blankets to premature babies all across the nation. They also have a senior program that helps seniors help others by donating yarn and supplies [Watch video].

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles builds and renovates homes with a goal of eliminating substandard housing by making decent, affordable housing a matter of conscience and action in our communities. Volunteers can help at building sites five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday. No previous construction experience is required, just a willingness to learn and to work hard.

There have been some inspiring Cool Kids this past year that have not only helped in their communities, but also reached out to help those in need overseas. Jordan Elist founded the organization Save a Bottle, Save a Life, which takes the simple idea of collecting money from recyclables and turns it into a way to help others. And after finding out about the dire situation for orphans in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Karin Olivo started Operation DREAM (Dominican Republic Emergency Aid Mission) in an effort to collect money, food and supplies to help the needy children. Meanwhile, Mikey Vincenti volunteers to feed a growing number of people in his community at the La Palma food bank called HOPE (Help Other People Every Day).

At Somis Elementary School, Jefferson Award nominee Beth Yale and a childhood friend started the Somis Food Pantry to help feed needy families. Because of Yale, about 65 families under economic stress will take home five bags of food per month. And fellow Jefferson Awards nominee Jackie Knowles spearheaded The Women's Room at Friends in Deed, a daytime refuge for women who are alone and homeless or at-risk. This community of women concentrates on preserving and restoring dignity and self-respect.

Venice Family Clinic's mission is to provide free, quality health care to people in need. Founded in 1970 by Philip Rossman, MD, and co-founder Mayer B. Davidson, MD, it has grown from a small storefront operation into the largest free clinic in the country, with eight local sites. It serves more than 24,400 men, women, children, teens, and seniors annually, most of which are low-income and uninsured [Watch video].

Operation Gratitude seeks to lift morale and put smiles on faces by sending care packages to deployed soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, to their children left behind, and to wounded warriors recuperating in transition units. The packages contain food, hygiene products, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation, all wrapped with good wishes of love and support.

Edith Naranjo donates her time helping families with Autistic children. She donated her $1,000 award she won as an ABC7 Jefferson Award nominee to Open Doors Now, an organization that helps Asperger's and high-functioning autism students, their parents and educators address the social issues that isolate their children from their typical classmates [Watch video].

Whether you volunteer, mentor, tutor, donate or educate, at the Watts-Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club it makes a huge difference. There are many volunteer opportunities available, including Leadership Programs for volunteers 14 and older. Watts-Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club is in dire need of contributions and adult volunteers as they may care for as many as 400 children at a time, and need one adult per 20 children.

Two recent Cool Kids are helping fellow teens in very different ways. Lilly Horin volunteers her time talking with troubled teens at Teen Line, a confidential telephone helpline for teenaged callers. Max Levinson is a Cool Kid trying to help with literacy, one book and one kid at a time with CHS Cares, which collects used books for donation at Calabasas High School.

Jefferson Award nominee Kara Lubin started the 100 Mile Club, a physical fitness and life skills project for kids, based on the goal of running (or walking) 100 miles at school or work during a single school year. In addition to his Little Warriors Boot Camps, Jefferson Award nominee Michael Seril's biggest gift to the community may be his recently established Excellence Through Exercise Foundation, which targets children who aren't active enough at local elementary schools.

And Jefferson Award winner Wini Jackson has one philosophy: anything for kids. She buys books for afterschool programs, exposes kids to the arts, raises money to buy winter coats and hosts Christmas parties for underprivileged children in Los Angeles. [Watch video].

ABC7 is proud to celebrate those making a difference in communities throughout Los Angeles. Most of the individuals featured in this edition of Eye on L.A. have been honored as an ABC7 Cool Kid or Jefferson Award nominee. You can nominate a Cool Kid who is doing something outstanding in your community or nominate an adult for a Jefferson Award who's going above and beyond as a dedicated volunteer at www.abc7.com/community.


Get contact information and addresses of all the places and organizations featured on this week's episode.

[Original air date: August 13, 2011]

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