Sweet Charity: Blogging LA’s Guide to Giving – The Library Foundation of Los Angeles

“I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.
– Isaac Asimov, in his book, “I. Asimov: A Memoir”

Sometimes when I get really angry at people for being whatever negative adjective they are being at the time, generally, I remember the library.  The library, to me, is the epitome of human goodness – there’s just so much trust required in order to make the whole system work.  I check out a book, and you trust me to return it in a timely(ish) manner so that you can read it later, too.   I trust you to not tear out pages from old issues of Real Simple (because you can check out the back issues of magazines at the Los Angeles Public Library, something I just discovered, to my amazement) so that I too can learn all about repurposing dental floss into a cheese slicer.  You trust me not to spill (too much) oil or flour on Baking: From My Home to Yours, a gorgeous book by Dorie Greenspan (CIRC 641.71 G8147-1) while I decide whether I would reference this enough to justify its purchase.  I do appreciate your marginal notes, though.  I trust you to not mark up Louise Erdrich’s fantastic Shadow Tag (FIC ERD), because she writes, extremely well, about the critical importance of space and privacy even within the confines of an intimate relationship, thoughts that more than one person I know, myself included, wanted to highlight and send to our ex’es.

And then there is the trust we have in our local governments to use our tax dollars and funding to support this resource.  One of the funniest/saddest things that happened all year happened during the horrific heat wave that saw downtown roasting at somewhere between 105 and 115 degrees.  The city’s Emergency Management Department urged the public to seek out cooling centers to be safe.  The city also suggested that they seek refuge at one of the LA Public Library’s branches. It was a very good suggestion, except for one thing: on the day the suggestion was made – a Monday that saw downtown LA registering a record-shattering 113 degrees, the hottest day in September since 1877 – all of the city’s libraries were closed.  The Central Library and its 72 branches were closed pursuant to the City Council’s decision earlier in the year to close the library on Sundays and Mondays.  To save money.  Or something. Currently, the library’s homepage is very, very excited to announce that its branches, including the Central Library, will be open on two Mondays this month.  That is sad.

Cutting city investment in an institution that does all it can to invest, educate, and empower its citizens is one of the meanest and most counter-intuitive things you can do.  Take your we-are-in-a-recession argument and shove it back where it came from: the recession is exactly the reason why cities in general should commit tenaciously to their libraries, schools, and other sources of public education.  Tellingly, for all the cuts made this year with surgical imprecision, the police department’s budget was not similarly manhandled.  I suppose this makes sense: if people aren’t going to the library, surely they’re committing crimes on the streets.  On the bright side, we haven’t privatized our libraryyet.

’Tis the season, then, to give a little to our library system.  There are a few ways to give: there are, for example, a number of Friends of the Library groups that support specific branch libraries.  The Library Foundation of Los Angeles (LFLA) is the umbrella non-profit support organization for the LAPL.  Donations to LFLA benefit the Central Library and its 72 branches; they also support the library’s amazing ALOUD series – the same series that delivered Jonathan Gold to the foodies, John Waters to the quirkies, and Natalie Merchant to the children of the ’90s.  Your donations also fund amazing exhibits like “Forty Years of Sesame Street Illustration.”

So, this is me, trusting you, again.  Thanks for returning that book.   And thanks for investing in the library.

Beautiful photo of a wedding reception at the Central Library courtesy bhampton1963 via the Blogging LA Flickr pool.

This post is part of our Sweet Charity: Blogging LA’s Guide to Giving series, just in time for the holidays.

Sweet Charity: Blogging.LA’s Guide to Giving – the LA Conservancy

In 1978, downtown’s iconic Central Library was at risk of being demolished,which blows my mind a little bit: it’s hard to imagine downtown without it. In response to the library’s impending destruction, a group of citizens began public debate and negotiations with city council that eventually led to the library’s preservation and restoration, a project that took fifteen years, ending with the library’s grand re-opening in 1993. The group that made the restoration work possible was the LA Conservancy, who, since their founding in 1978, have continued to advocate and educate in order to keep LA’s history accessible.

Bob's Big Boy in Downey - winner of the LA Conservancy's 2010 President's Award for Preservation

The Conservancy does huge amounts of programming and advocacy in and around the city. They offer walking tours of downtown architechture; they run the ever-popular Last Remaining Seats film series, that brings audiences into rarely-open historic theatres; they work with specific neighborhoods to have areas designated local, state, and national historic districts; and actively work to save buildings of historical or cultural interest that are in danger of demolition. While the preservation buildings may not, at first glance, seem to a terribly pressing social concern, it’s important to remember that the spaces in which people live and work and play can be vital sites of community and cultural identity, and that with the loss of culturally, socially, and historically important spaces, we risk losing parts of the story of this remarkable city. It’s one thing to preserve history in photographs and books, but actually being able to visit the places where things happened can, I think, really keep it vital and alive.

So that’s why I think you should give to the LA Conservancy. They’re encouraging folks to make holiday donations to their Presevation Advocacy Fund. The money donated to this fund supports the Conservancy’s efforts to advocate for the preservation of historic buildings by taking on developers and governments, by working with local historical societies and neighborhood associations, and by providing educational initiatives that teach the public about LA history. You can also become a member of the Conservancy (or maybe buy a gift membership for that special someone!), giving you access to special events, or you can volunteer some time – the Conservancy needs help with everything from advocacy to photography.

This post is part of Sweet Charity:  Blogging.LA’s Guide to Giving

Bob’s Big Boy picture courtesy of Andy Perkins of Flickr.

San Gabriel River runs very full this week.

San Gabriel River looking south from Encanto Park bridge.

So much for JPL’s prediction earlier this fall for a La Nina winter punctuated with colder and dryer than usual conditions.  The rain that started on Friday has already dumped nearly 9 inches of rain on my corner of LA in the Foothills and looks to be worse. The Folks at the National Weather Service via the good folks at Accuweather has issued a flash flood watch until Thursday morning.  Its been reported there that we can expect more rain this week than we have received any other week in recent years.  How’s that for a La Nina?

In the brief lull from the rain this morning I took a walk along the San Gabriel River near Duarte.  The river is the highest its been in years and appears to be cutting a new channel not unlike what it did after the heavy rains in ’05.  The only critters out this morning were families of ducks in two large ponds that have formed in the river.

Where are your favorite places to enjoy the rain here in the LA area?  What’s your favorite rainy day song?  Enjoy my favorite after the last image.

Looking north from the bridge towards Azusa and Fish Canyons.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzFnYcIqj6I[/youtube]

Sweet Charity: The LA Gay & Lesbian Center

Dan Savage was right: It actually does get better.

This weekend, the Senate finally stopped screwing around for five minutes and repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that — until now — has made “LGBT” pretty much the only acronym the military couldn’t handle. It’s a civil rights landmark, and a pretty great Christmas present to boot.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done, which is why organizations like the LA Gay & Lesbian Center exist.

The Center (I’m going to go ahead and call it the LAGLC) provides a pretty extensive variety of services to the LGBT community across Los Angeles, including HIV/AIDS testing and patient care; care for homeless youth, because apparently it’s goddamn 2010 and parents are still kicking their own children out of the house just for being gay; diversity training and advocacy; social networking for the queer and ally community; and a heck of a lot more.

I’m not gay, so there’s really no way I can truly understand the struggles that gay folks deal with every day. But the fact is that this is our generation’s defining civil rights issue, and the LAGLC is right there on the front lines. Toss a bit of cash their way for the holidays.

Sweet Charity: Blogging L.A.’s Guide to Giving-Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Toy Donation

It was nearly a Christmas without toys for the kids at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Overall, toy donations to CHLA have been down 70 percent this year. Thanks to recent coverage in the media, it’s picking up.

Even though lots more toys are being dropped off, there is still a great need. Christmas is only one day out of an entire year of sick children getting toys to occupy and distract them while they are hospitalized. If you can’t donate right now, consider doing so at another time. Maybe your kids will receive a toy they don’t want or need that can be passed along to someone else!

Details on what types of toys can be accepted for the hospital can be found here. Most importantly, they must be new and in original packaging. Currently, the greatest need is for items for infants and teenagers. Please call Volunteer Services at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to make arrangements to drop off your donations at (323) 361-2371.

Silver Lake STROMWARTCH!!11!!

It’s not the easiest read, but as of a few minutes prior to posting this, the precipitation station I set up in front of the porch webcam has collected a representative sample of slightly more than three inches of rainfall since it was put in place Friday morning at roughly 9:45 a.m.

Even less visible are the black lines I inked every half-inch onto the container (augmented using my incredible fauxtoshawp skillz). With heavier rains expected today and more to come Monday, it looks like I shouldn’t have stopped marking at five inches.

Of course I’m timelapsing the accumulation at a frame a minute, so if all goes well, I should have a really crappy YouTube clip of the condensed version of the condensation collection once the clouds quit crying.

Sweet Charity: Blogging LA’s Guide To Giving-Help A Mother Out

When you think about “helping the poor and homeless” the concept can be so huge and in some ways abstract that it’s hard to know where to start. Food? Shelter? Clothing? Medical care? Education? Training programs? It’s overwhelming. For me, Help A Mother Out is so specific that it makes it so easy to make a difference.

The facts are these: Diapers and baby wipes are not covered under social safety net programs like WIC and food stamps. And diapers are expensive. And you need a lot of them every day. Poor and homeless families often have to decide between food, rent and diapers. Babies can go without a clean diaper for days, leading to health problems for the baby and more stress for the family.

Help A Mother Out is working to bridge the gap and provide diapers for those in need. While HAMO is based in San Francisco, they have an LA/SoCal branch run by the amazing and tireless Kim Tracy Prince. Along with being a working mom of two, Kim makes time to organize diaper drives and raise awareness of this growing problem.

Earlier this week I attended the final day of the Glendale diaper drive. (I had written about it in November.) A variety of groups, along with Help A Mother Out worked to raise 22,833 diapers in two weeks. Awesome! At the Glendale armory, over 16,000 diapers (I helped count) were there for an official photo and then to be distributed to specific organizations that would hand them out to families who needed them. The overall event was for homeless awareness in general and we handed out diapers to homeless moms with their kids right then and there.

I was particularly touched as I helped a woman who works for Door Of Hope in Glendale. Door of Hope is a transitional housing organization to help homeless families get back on their feet. This dedicated woman specifically works with battered and abused women and children who have left bad situations, sometimes with almost nothing but the clothes on their backs. She had a list of the 11 babies (newborn to toddlers) currently living there who needed diapers. One of the moms was going through chemo and had a one year old. The Door Of Hope woman asked me, “Do you think I could get two boxes of diapers for her?” It was all I could do to A) not burst into tears and B) not put all the diapers you see above in her car.

So this holiday season or even in the New Year — it doesn’t matter when, because there is always a need — please consider donating money or diapers to Help A Mother out. Go to their website and find the “Donate Now” button or if you have diapers you want to drop off in person, click here to find out how to do that. And you can donate diapers online. Click here to find out how.

Every baby deserves a clean diaper!

And if you are wondering about cloth diapers, here is the info about that from the HAMO website:

Our greatest need is for disposable diapers (traditional brand or eco-friendly). However, we gratefully accept NEW cloth pocket diaper kits, similiar to Econobum diaper kits, for distribution to a small percentage of the families we serve. Why? For the vast majority of our partner’s clients, cloth diapers are not a realistic option. We recommend reading the Diaper Divide as a primer on this debate. The Cloth Diaper Foundation is a nonprofit organization that primarily helps families in need get started with cloth diapering, and they accept donations of new and gently used cloth diapers.

Kim Tracy Prince (left) and over 16,000 diapers.

(And yes, I put my money where my blog post is. I have personally donated about 1000 diapers this year.)

Sweet Charity: Blogging.LA’s Guide To Giving – Kiva.org

I hope Oprah doesn’t have a problem with me riding her coattails on this, but since I’ve been a Kiva fan and lender since long before 2010, perhaps it’s Big O who is tagging along with me.

Kiva is one of my favorite organizations helping to alleviate poverty around the world. Kiva is not a typical charity, wherein you might make a donation which is then used to help those in need. Kiva is a micro-lending organization which facilitates the funding of small loans (average loan is $381) for impoverished entrepreneurs. Those small loans help people build their businesses, and work to lift themselves out of poverty. Like a standard loan, it is expected that the money will be paid back.

While the average loan is a few hundred dollars, that is distributed across many lenders. The typical lender contribution to any one loan is only $25. For only $25, you can help change a life. Continue reading below where I’ll tell you how you can help just as much for even less of your own cold, hard cash.

One of the things I like best about Kiva is the feeling of partnership. Unlike typical charities where you donate and the money gets distributed to…someone, with Kiva you get to decide exactly where your money goes. When you go to Kiva’s website, you can see all of the different loans that are funding now and learn about the entrepreneurs before you choose to lend to them. You’ll see pictures, learn about their business, read a bit of their personal story. You can choose what country, what type of business, and specifically which individual you want to lend to.

Since 2005, Kiva has loaned nearly $180 million through Kiva Field Partners (local microfinance partners) in 57 countries to over 470,000 entrepreneurs. Here’s the best part: all of those impoverished entrepreneurs  get the benefit of the loans, then pay the money back. Kiva’s current loan repayment rate is 98.91%. That means a default rate of less than 1.1%! That repaid money can then be loaned out again and again, and the same small amount of your money helps multiple entrepreneurs numerous times.

Right now Groupon is offering $25 Kiva loan credits for only $15. For less than the cost of a night at the movies (for one, no date,) you can help change a person’s life for the better. Here’s how:

  • First, if you’re not already a Groupon member, join here. Full disclosure: If you join through that referral link, Groupon will give me a kickback, which I will in turn use to make more Kiva loans. Everybody wins, particularly another poor cobbler in Uruguay.
  • Buy a $25 Kiva credit for only $15 through Groupon here. Don’t wait; this is a limited time/limited availability offer.
  • Register with Kiva here. Then choose the loan you want to fund here.
  • As the loan is repaid you’ll get regular updates as to its status. When the first $15 (your initial investment) is repaid, it’s yours. You can either withdraw or re-loan it, which is what I do. The $10 that Groupon kicks in will be donated to Kiva when the initial loan is repaid, helping to cover Kiva’s 501(c)(3) non-profit operating costs.

Easy. Only a couple of steps. It might take you 10 minutes and minimal financial investment, for which you will have direct positive impact on a specific individual’s life.

In this season of giving, here is a big opportunity for a small contribution that will continue to give throughout the year, again and again.

Hollywood Farmers Market Fate Remains a Question Mark

The fate of the Hollywood Farmers’ Market at Selma and Ivar is still one big question mark, as aptly symbolized by the market’s homepage.  As you recall, the market is in a turf war with the LA Film School: the school specifically wants the market off of the Ivar section between Selma and Sunset so it can access one of its three disconnected parking structures on Sundays; the market says doing so will unacceptably chop off one of its vital arms.  Until now, the market was operating on a week-to-week basis, but, after something akin to a summit between all interested parties on Thursday, the city “verbally committed” to giving SEE-LA (the non-profit arm that operates the market) a 90-day extension on its street closure permit.  Accordingly, the market can continue to operate as-is for the next three months.  During this reprieve, both sides will do their homework: SEE-LA will “work with the Department of Transportation to research alternative market layouts on adjacent streets, […] and could present the opportunity for the market to expand” while the film school “will consider construction options to connect its parking structures and provide access to their facilities 24/7.”

As it turns out, there are others outside the film school interested in seeing the market move from its current location at Selma and Ivar.  During a KCRW discussion on the dispute, Hollywood Property Owners Alliance president Kerry Morrison pointed out that the farmers’ market moved into Hollywood some 20 years ago when there was not a whole lot going on in the area.  Now, the “renaissance of Hollywood has breathed life into different pockets” of the area, including the market’s current location.  “How long can this market continue to survive in a economically vital area?”  she asked.  She then suggested that the market move to, uh, help? bring about a renaissance in other parts of Hollywood:  “[T]here are pockets of Hollywood that would benefit, and could really thrive, with the revitalization of having vendors and pedestrians and just life on a Sunday morning.”  This brings up the question of what, exactly, is the role of a farmers’ market in our community, and whether we all should invest in the idea of a nomadic market, one that moves every few years once its function as an ad hoc gentrifier is completed.

After talking about the market’s role in revitalizing the Hollywood area, she noted (as the film school has, in other outlets) that the school invested some $65 million in Hollywood.  This is something I suppose we to feel very grateful for, so let’s all thank the film school.  Now, if this post were a script, that statement would be followed by a bracketed direction right about here:

[A BEAT, THEN AN EYEROLL]

Other interesting tidbits from the discussion: the Jack-in-the Box at Ivar and Sunset also is against the market’s permit renewal.  Unless it really does work something reasonable out, then, the city is in a tricky position of restricting fast food restaurants in South LA with the intent to force feed residents market fresh food on one hand, and having to accomodate a fast food restaurant’s demands to shut down a source of market fresh food on the other.

After all this fear and protest about the market as we know it being shut down or truncated, wouldn’t it be a little ironic if this whole situation actually gave the market a chance to expand, with the inclusion of more vendors and the ability to accommodate more people, as Morrison suggested, and as SEE-LA referenced in its announcement?   Market supporters were close to throwing heirloom tomatoes at the film school for its terrible performance in handling this situation; nonetheless, if we do end up with a bigger, better market, well, it will be school that we’ll have to credit.  Better hold on to those tomatoes, for now.

GTD This Weekend: Last Minute Shopping, Neon Lights

I guess first thing on everyone’s GTD list is to finish holiday shopping, eh?

SATURDAY

  • The monthly flea market at Dodger Stadium is supposed to rival the one at the Pasadena Rose Bowl; from what I hear, it’s close enough for LA residents who don’t want to snake up the 110 to get to Pasadena on a balmy Saturday morning.  Like the USPS, the flea market is on rain or shine.  $5 (GA); $10 (Early Bird); $15 (VIP).  Early birds start arriving at 7am (ouch); normal birds who missed the worm but are ok with the leftovers arrive at 9am.  The market is open until 4pm at Dodger Stadium.
  • If you couldn’t find the antique you were looking for at the flea market, try the other end of the spectrum: the boutique shops on tony Montana Avenue in Santa Monica are having a street-wide shopping festival, with many stores offering extra special sales and discounts.  There also will be free cider.  Depending on where you are on the income bracket, you’ll be here for the great deals or for the free cider.  From 10am to 5pm.  See participating stores and specials here.
  • The present that keeps on giving (and pooping)?  A dog or cat.  Found Animals is sponsoring a Happy Pawlidays pet adoption event at a number of local shelters; swing by any of these and, for a discounted adoption fee, pick up your very own Santa’s Little Helper.  From 10am to 5pm at your local participating shelter.
  • I never, never understood the draw of the DWP Holiday Light Festival at Griffith Park.  People snarl traffic on the 5 to drive slowly through a fairly lame light show that doesn’t come close to the stuff you see in any neighborhood in the hills or in Beverly Hills?  The kid’s asleep before you even get to the entrance.  Thankfully for me and my ability to get around my local ‘hood, the light “show” was called off this year.  If you’re really missing a light show, try the Neon Museum Neon Cruise through town: you’ll see the city’s best lights on display in their natural habitats.  $65.  Meet at the Neon Museum at 136 W. 4th St. in Downtown at 7:30pm.
  • Last year’s Santa Monica Pub Crawl was such a hit, they’re doing it again this year.  You bring three non-perishable food items in exchange for a wristband; you flash said wristband at any of the participating pubs and get free drinks and/or drink and food specials.  They have this planned like a racing game: there are three suggested routes for you to follow.  With all that beer and food flowing, though, everyone wins. Sign up here, choose a route, and show up at the starting line with your non-perishable food items.  The crawl begins at 5pm.
  • The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles’s holiday show is a hit every year, and this year looks to be a showstopper.  Sunday’s performance already is sold out, so you better grab these Saturday tickets before they’re gone too.  Glee, eat your heart out.  $15-$55.  Performances at 3pm and 8pm at the Alex Theater in Glendale.

SUNDAY

  • If you missed shopping local at last week’s Unique LA and/or Renegade Craft Fair, here’s one last chance: Hand/Made 157’s Women’s Craft Event in Lincoln Heights.  There will be crafty vendors, as well as musical acts and a tarot card reader.  Don’t scoff at the latter – that shit works and, when it does, it’s scary.  $3.  From 10am to 6pm at HM157, 3110 N. Broadway Ave. in Lincoln Heights.
  • The LA Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence introduce themselves as such:We are an Order of 21st Century Nuns dedicated to the promulgation of universal joy and the expiation of stigmatic guilt. Our ministry is one of public manifestation and habitual perpetration.”  What more do you need to know?  Likely, you’ve seen these sisters around town, either at a Prop. 8 protest or at a church.  On Sunday, they will donate a bit of their history to the ONE Archives and talk about their work.  Stripping homophobia to its embarrassing, naked self, and supporting gay rights – pretty good habits to get used to, methinks.  Free.  2pm at the ONE Archives, 909 W. Adams Blvd, near USC.

Photo courtesy ~db~ via the Blogging LA Flickr pool.

Sweet Charity: Blogging.LA’s Guide To Giving-UCLA Blood and Platelets Center

There are many ways to give – donating money or time or expertise. Donating blood or platelets (or plasma or red blood cells) is an extra special way to give, to literally give of yourself. During the holidays maybe you might consider taking an hour from all the shopping and wrapping and sit quietly while you donate blood. Or better yet, take two to three hours, lay back, watch a movie in a comfy lounge chair and donate platelets. Or consider a new year’s resolution to donate. Your donation saves lives.

I’ve written about donating platelets before and often encourage people to give it a try. Donating blood and/or platelets is crucial for so many reasons. Here is info from the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center website:

A Cancer Patient can require up to 2 units of platelets per week. (And donated platelets only last about 4-5 days once donated, blood can be stored longer.)

An Automobile Accident Victim can use up to:

  • 50 units of red blood cells
  • 2 units of platelets
  • 10 units of plasma

A Liver Transplant Recipient uses on average:

  • 25 units of red blood cells
  • 5 units of platelets
  • 40 units of plasma

A Stem Cell Transplant Recipient can use up to:

  • 10 units of red blood cells
  • 10 units of platelets with ongoing outpatient transfusion needs

A Heart Surgery Patient uses on average:

  • 7 units of red blood cells
  • 2 units of platelets
  • 4 units of plasma
Gorgeous life saving platelets!

I hope none of you ever find yourself in any of those situations, but if you do, or it happens to a loved one, knowing there is enough life saving blood and blood products out there will give some relief.

Not everyone can donate (for various reasons) so please call and see if you are eligible, then make an appointment. There are many places to donate around Los Angeles, ULCA’s Center just happens to be nearest to me.

Oh and here’s the part where you get something out of it – other than the joy and satisfaction of contributing a part of yourself – at UCLA (and maybe at other places) they give you thank you gifts of movie tickets or gift cards (jamba juice, starbucks, etc). How nice is that? Plus the yummy juice and cookies waiting for you in the resting area when you are done donating.

Make 2011 a year in which you donate blood or other blood products!

UCLA Blood and Platelet Center
1045 Gayley Avenue
2nd Floor
Los Angeles, CA, 90024
(310) 825-0888

Sweet Charity: Blogging.LA’s Guide to Giving – Vineyard Christian Fellowship/Westside Thanksgiving

I’m not a fan of organized religion, except when organized religion organizes something as successful as the Westside Thanksgiving. This past Thanksgiving, I volunteered to help feed some 3,000 homeless and needy people at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, in the annual Westside Thanksgiving event put on by a large interfaith consortium led by the Vineyard Christian Fellowship.

As the photo above indicates, the Civic Auditorium was bedecked in festive balloons,  and long tables with tablecloths.  The volunteers were encouraged to take some time to sit down, share a meal and talk with the attendees, and partake in the whole experience. I did so and was both impressed and overwhelmed with all aspects of the event: the number of people served, the huge number of volunteers who showed up to help, the quality and quantity of the food (a large plate of turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie at a separate table), and the efficiency of service (when attendees sat down to eat, servers came over within seconds to bring food and drinks).  In addition to the food service, attendees were offered free haircuts and medical attention, and were given a bag of clothing and personal items upon leaving.  As far as I could tell, this large event was extremely well-organized, and went off without a hitch.

The link above specifies a number of companies and schools which donated or otherwise helped out with Westside Thanksgiving.  In addition, many unnamed individuals gave their time, money, food, and even their cooking skills, preparing many of the turkeys in their own ovens beforehand.

Based on this year’s tremendous volunteer turnout, I can’t say that they will need more on-site volunteers next year, but I’m sure they can use donations of cash or other items.  Here’s what was requested this year, along with relevant contact information.  Presumably, a similar list will be posted at the same site next year.

One way or another, I plan to help out with Westside Thanksgiving again.  And if you decide to join in, thanks in advance.

(This post is part of the “Sweet Charity: Blogging.LA’s Guide to Giving” series)

Sweet Charity: Blogging.LA’s Guide to Giving – Esperanza Community Housing

(This post is part of Sweet Charity:  Blogging.LA’s Guide to Giving, our guide to alternative places to spend your dollars and make a difference this holiday season!)

Esperanza Community Housing serves the families that live in and around the Figueroa corridor. The organization’s original focus was on housing, and they’ve built and maintained sustainable and affordable housing for folks with low incomes. But they’ve expanded their mandate to include all kinds of things that go beyond just housing and show a real dedication to developing a self-sustaining, vital community. They provide health-related education and services in English and Spanish, they run arts and science workshops for kids and families. They have an extensive education program, and train community leaders to become “health promoters,” giving them the knowledge and resources to work for health and social justice issues on a grassroots level.

Esperanza Community Housing also operates Mercado La Paloma, an amazing marketplace and community space located at 3655 South Grand Avenue. The Mercado is full of small, independently owned, community-based businesses, all of which were founded with the assistance of Esperanza Community Housing, who provided business training and startup resources, with the intent of creating jobs and business ownership opportunities in the community. The shops in the Mercado include small restaurants and shops, selling everything from arts and crafts to computer supplies. I found out about it when I met some friends for dinner at Mo-Chica, which is an amazing Peruvian restaurant located in the Mercado. (You should go, and try the AMAZING ceviche!!) Mercado La Paloma also houses art exhibits, hosts classes on topics ranging from health and nutrition to computer how-to, has a kids’ reading nook, and plays host to events like film screenings and festivals. All in all, it’s an amazing, welcoming gathering space that provides much-needed community resources.

Want to help Esperanza Community Housing continue to provide affordable housing and resources? They welcome tax-dedutible donations on their website. And you can also support the small businesses in the Mercado by doing some of your Christmas shopping there! A good time to visit might be tomorrow, December 17th, between 5:00 and 9:00pm, when the Mercado will be hosting a holiday celebration, with live music, dancing, and art workshops.

Esperanza Community Housing and Mercado La Paloma are located at 3655 South Grand Ave.  Directions are available here.

Photo of the Mercado La Paloma mural from lili.chen on flickr.

Locals’ Only Gift Guide, Courtesy Artisanal LA & Unique LA

Last weekend, Artisanal LA and Unique LA combined to give you the gift of convenient two-stop holiday shops:  fancy and/or homey food stuffs for the foodie in your life; home-spun arts and crafts for the not-foodie in your life.  Artisanal LA was a downgraded version of its fall version; Unique LA was a massive, overwhelming congregation of some 300 local vendors sprawled about the entire penthouse of the California Market Center.  Navigating through both was half the fun, once you got past the overwhelming nature of it all.  For those who didn’t make it out (womp womp), I had a few choice favorites – so long as you trust me, your shopping will be pretty much done by the time you reach the end of this post.  And, because all of these gifts are from local vendors, you probably can find them somewhere in town or you might even be able to work out an arrangement where you order online and pick it up offline.  Who needs the mall?

For the bacon lovers

I love bacon.  Having said that, I’m waiting for the put-bacon-on-everything trend to end, and the put-bacon-on-things-that-actually-taste-good-with-bacon one to begin.  Lucky for me, bacon belongs on bread pudding and in caramels.

Creme Caramel’s Bacon Bread Pudding

Oh. My. Wow.  Is the only thing I could say after tasting Creme Caramel‘s bacon bread pudding.  The bread pudding itself is custardy without drowning in it; it’s bready without the dryness.  Add the bacon, and you have an explosive smack of flavor and salt.  Just, wow.  I’m buying this right now.  This may or may not be present for myself.  Ok, it is.

Morning Glory Confections’ Bacon Fat Smoked Spanish Paprika and Fleur de Sel artisan caramel

I’m not a big fan of caramel generally, but these were delicious.  Morning Glory Confections’ already flavorful, smooth caramel gets a subtle undertone of bacon (it is just the fat, after all), and the paprika and fleur de sel hold their own to round it all out.  You think it’s too many mix-ins, but unlike my sister at YogurtLand, Morning Glory strikes a perfect balance between not enough and too much.

For the pie lovers:  Crust by Stephanie Jayne‘s Missouri Butter Pie

Pie is the so-old-it’s-new trend that supposedly is making a comeback (as if it ever went away).  My favorite pie at Artisanal LA: Crust by Stephanie Jayne‘s Missouri Butter Pie.  It’s a take on the St. Louis gooey butter cake: with a crackling top, it’s a little gooey, a little sugary, a lot delicious.  Stephanie also makes a variety of other pies inspired by Americana – your classic apple and pumpkin pies, for example – as well as distinct creations, like her campfire s’more pie and fleur de caramel tart.  And, in what possibly is the best idea ever, she also sells slices of pie, so you don’t have to go to a crappy diner to just get a forkful.

For the cupcake lover:  The Scootabaker’s Cupcakes

She delivers her baked goods via scooter, so she’s The Scootabaker, natch.  At Unique LA, she offered mocha latte, triple strawberry, and almond green tea mini-cupcakes, as well as full-size lemonade cupcakes.  Subtle flavors, moist cakes, balanced frosting – and people are stopping traffic outside Magnolia for what?

For the one who could use less Threadless: Urban Octopus’ t-shirts

Back in the old days and in the future, people put/will put messages, food, and other whatnots in canisters and sent/will send them to each other via pneumatic tubes.  Today: not so much.  Instead, the would-be tube traveling canisters house Urban Octopus‘ sweet graphic tees; as far as I know, hand or snail mail delivery are your only options.

For the biker:  Beatrice Holiday Wheel Cute Couture

If your favorite biker needs a new seat cover, or a fanny pack masquerading as a handlebar bag, then Beatrice Holiday‘s biker gear is for you.  Perfect for showing off at the next CicLAvia.

For those who would like to give a child an educational toy without resorting to American Girl:  Kauzbots

Each of these Kauzbots symbolize a cause, and ten percent of the retail price of each Kauzbot sold is donated to the bot’s particular charity.  Kalvin is the robot group’s leader, and he wants to teach kids about homelessness.  Sure, big K’s not quite a professor in urban politics and the criminalization of poverty, but for a little kid, it’s an interesting way to start the dialogue.

Happy hunting!