CALIFORNIA; Volunteers Pitch In For Big Sunday

Los Angeles Times
May 3, 2010

CALIFORNIA; Volunteers Pitch In For Big Sunday
Projects for two-day event include working in school garden and cleaning up a beach.

By Carla Rivera

It was a perfect Sunday for sunning at the beach or watching the Lakers begin their latest playoff series at Staples Center. But West Los Angeles resident Michael Mikael opted for something he found more invigorating: refurbishing a music room at a South Los Angeles youth center.

A few miles away at 24th Street Elementary School, Teri Young had driven from Thousand Oaks to help plant tomatoes, peppers and lettuce in the school garden so that residents of the urban neighborhood near the 10 Freeway could have a patch of green to enjoy.

Mikael and Young were among those who donated their time and energy to mark Big Sunday, which started in Los Angeles in 1999 as a one-day event.

It now covers two days, with more than 50,000 volunteers working on more than 500 projects from Santa Barbara to San Diego, organizers said.

In Dana Point, below the cliffs of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, volunteers cleaned trash from Salt Creek Beach. At Phoenix House Monrovia, a women’s sober living facility, volunteers painted the outside of the building and then joined the residents for a barbecue picnic.

Dozens of volunteers descended on the Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights to help clean, paint and create a mural for the historic synagogue.

Elsewhere, volunteers planted trees along Highland Avenue in Hollywood and cleaned up De Longpre Park; students from Campbell Hall, a private North Hollywood school, did yard work for seniors in the neighborhood and collected e-waste for recycling; and hundreds of volunteers around town manned lemonade stands, dog biscuit booths and nail polish kiosks, the proceeds going to charity.

“The great thing about Big Sunday is that everyone can find a way to give,” said David Levinson, founder of the event. “Sometimes people have more time than money and sometimes more money than time. And we have a community now that has been doing this for years. They know that this year they may be able to give $1,000 and next year old clothes from their closet.”

At A Place Called Home, a youth center on South Central Avenue, hundreds of volunteers painted and refurbished the entire 10,000-square-foot facility over the weekend — a project that would otherwise have taken weeks to complete and used funds that will instead provide young people with meals, dance and music programs and college scholarships.

“We’re very appreciative of Big Sunday,” said Executive Director Jonathan Zeichner, as paintbrushes swept the sides of buildings and hammering resounded in the background.

Mikael and five friends — all designers and artists at the Los Angeles firm Saunders Art + Design — worked in the music room, building and installing storage units for musical instruments.

“When I see this number of people get together, working for nothing, it makes me realize how much potential humanity has,” Mikael said. “To be able to provide something structurally sound for these kids provides great value in our lives.”

At the 24th Street School, more than 300 other volunteers joined Young in pruning, planting and watering a spring crop that included squash, corn, potatoes, eggplant and onions.

“It’s teaching children to watch things grow and get their minds off other things that maybe aren’t so great,” said Young, 66, who was joined by her brother Irwin Levine, 70, of Big Bear and niece Lisa Levine, 36, of North Hollywood.

Nearby, Paul Park was helping to prepare a plot of bare soil for planting.

“It’s great to be able to come out and help another group of kids,” said Paul, 12, who came with about 25 other young volunteers from the Church of Peace in Mid-City.

“It makes me feel really good, ’cause it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

(Copyright (c) 2010 Los Angeles Times)

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[Thanksgiving Stuffing Event] “Our Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without you guys. It warms my heart and replenishes my faith to witness such kindness in action.”

- -A.Z., Los Angeles