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How to Volunteer in L.A. This Holiday Season (and Beyond)

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Don't despair if this holiday season has you saying "Bah! Humbug!" Our great city provides plenty of chances to connect with others and make a difference, especially during a season that has been so difficult for many. These volunteer opportunities are sure keep you busy, warm your heart, and make the day of somebody who truly needs your help.

HELP FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Take advantage of your time off from work to help L.A.'s underprivileged population.

The Send Me A Penny Foundation will host Christmas in Venice on December 25. Angelenos will have the opportunity to cook a holiday dinner for area homeless. The event starts at 8 a.m. with an orientation meeting at 7 a.m. Kids are welcome!

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The Los Angeles Mission has a long and storied history of volunteerism here in LA. Every December, scores of families line up all along Skid Row outside downtown to be fed by the wonderful efforts carried out by the Mission's volunteers. You can get in touch with them here.

The Hollywood Food Pantry at Hollywood Lutheran Church (1733 N. New Hampshire Avenue) is open for donations from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday. The pantry is in need of nonperishable food, toiletries and even office supplies and gift cards.

One Voice might as well be considered a full-blown chorus of volunteer activity beginning this Thursday, December 20th. The organization provides holiday food baskets for 12,500 plus people every holiday season. Get acquainted with their holiday volunteer services here!

The Midnight Mission is collecting toys for destitute and homeless children, ages 1 month to 17 years, through December 22. The toys will be presented at the Mission's Santa's Village on Christmas days. If your office or organization is interested in participating, contact the Midnight Mission.

Union Station Homeless Services is no longer accepting volunteers for this year's holiday dinner; however, they are always in need of monetary donations to pay for food and supplies. You can make an easy, tax-deductible $10 donation here, or you can donate $5 via text.

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AID FOR VICTIMS OF RECENT TRAGEDIES

Our hearts are broken after the horrible events that have recently happened in Connecticut and New York, but we can still help from the opposite coast.

The Newtown Parent Connection and Newtown Youth and Family Services are collecting donations for Sandy Hook shooting victims' families. Visit the organizations' websites for information on how to donate.

Our colleagues at Gothamist provided this excellent post for information about donating to the victims of hurricane Sandy.

ONGOING OPPORTUNITIES

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Volunteering for the holidays is great, but ongoing service is better! Many L.A. charities are in constant need of volunteers. The following organizations are always looking for help:

The St. Joseph Center, who help the homeless population get back on their feet. Learn the steps to register as a volunteer here.

826LA, a literacy and writing program that has ongoing, periodic volunteer recruitment. Check the website's calendar for details. (Background check required.)

The Westside Food Bank, a non-profit dedicated to providing food to social service agencies for distribute L.A.'s underprivileged population. Contact them <="" a=""> for more information on volunteering.

<="" a=""><="" a="">Big Sunday, a huge community-service organization with programs for all ages. Check their calendar for a date when volunteers are needed.

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The Downtown Women's Center, dedicated to ending female homelessness. View their volunteer application process here.

Meals on Wheels, a group that allows volunteers act as drivers who provide meals to elderly and ill folks who can't leave their homes to buy groceries. (A background check, provided by Meals on Wheels, is required to volunteer.)

These groups are just a start: you can browse many more opportunities at L.A. Works or Volunteer Match.

Our list is far from comprehensive. If any philanthropic readers know of other opportunities this holiday season, please e-mail with info, or leave suggestions in the comments.

LAist's Sam Blum contributed to this post.