Monday, November 27, 2017

My Dad used to bestow what he called, “Tinkertown Grants.” These small infusions of cash -- a twenty or a fifty accompanied with a scrawled note, “A little help from yer old Pop”— bought practical things like college text books, groceries or a tank of gas, but also sometimes provided for a good bag of coffee beans or a coveted sweater. Tinkertown Grants weren’t reserved for family only. Dad sent cash to buy cement after Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village was nearly destroyed by the 1994 Northridge Quake. He bought a new tire for a friend or discreetly tucked a crumple of green in the hand of a bartender, a babysitter or a local kid who wanted to buy art supplies. Dad wasn’t a wealthy guy, but he had a generous soul. “That’s all we can do,” he said to me once, “just help each other out now and then.”

In the fifteen years since Dad’s death, I’ve tried to follow in his footsteps. I regularly donate to big organizations because I want to change policies and take on the big bad, but I am gratified when I can make an impact on a person to person level. A ball. A coat. A pie. These things make a difference, too.

Around this time of year, we are all looking for ways to “do some good.” Cash is good. Organizations know how to use the cash to get exactly what they need. I’ve been collecting a list of people and places that could use a little direct help. Some are Los Angeles based and others are helping across the country. Check out the list and, perhaps send a little grant of your own.

Help out the kids at Thomas Edison Middle School. Of 1200 student, 96% are on the free lunch program. Estephania Vazquez is the Community School Coordinator for the Los Angeles Education Partnership. Espephania is looking for folks to contribute to a College Career Club fund. Cash will go towards raffle prizes and other incentives to help kids get involved in talking about their futures. Estephania Vazquez at You can arrange to mail a check or send cash via PayPal.

Check out the Los Angeles Education Partnership if you’d like to hear about other volunteer opportunities. /

CollegePath LA is a community organization of volunteers who help public high school students explore careers, apply to college and thrive once they get there. The organization is currently developing a model project at John Marshall High School, an urban school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. I’ve volunteered in their college essay workshops for years and have seen first hand the good work of this organization.

Enrich LA has built over 115 edible gardens in Los Angeles schools in just a few years and their weekly Garden Ranger Program, provides students with interactive and interdisciplinary garden lessons.

One Voice provides food baskets, toys and books to 2500 families living in poverty (over 12,500 people.) They also help prepare low income students for college admissions by providing support and help with scholarship and enrollment applications. Their family assistance program provides immediate intervention and relief services to low income families in crisis situations and their Once Voice Summer Camp provides low income youth with a week away. You can watch their new video here and check out Onevoice for volunteer and giving opportunities. Right now they are looking for lots of FOOD for the big holiday party! Buy a case of pie or a box of yams! If you buy all the yams or all the pie, they’ll celebrate you with a banner! Check out the list here:

Doris Cares is a 501(c), volunteer-based organization, dedicated to feeding the hungry. Doris Presley and Jerry Chan can claim close to 40 years experience, between them, in feeding the hungry. What drives both of them is the inability to stand around doing nothing while good food’s being wasted. For inquiries regarding Food Pick-ups, Food Deliveries or Volunteer opportunities: Jerry Chan: (310) 351-4769 Doris Presley: (310) 672-9961 find out more information at

Friends in Deed is an interfaith Pasadena organization that provides supportive services to meet basic human needs, so our homeless and at-risk neighbors can rebuild their lives.

Aceess Books provides books to inner-city schools where at least 90 percent of students live at or below the poverty line. Most students at the schools served are children of color and children of immigrants. Since 1999, Access Books has donated more than a million books, and each year, approximately 18,000 pre-kindergarten through middle school-aged children participate in the program.

Donors Choose links you with teachers all over the country who have specific classroom needs. I like to go through and see who’s just about to reach their goal. Handing over that last ten or twenty bucks needed to “close the deal,” feels especially good.

Patreon helps fund artists and writers and creators of all kinds. I found the poet, Faith Shearin,  “church of art” The Secret City, “Wait But Why,” the blog of everything… So many ideas and bursts of enthusiasm!

Big Sunday is a great place to look if you’ve got a hand to lend, or a yen to donate to a good cause. This super cool organization posts over 2000 giving opportunities every year. You can sign up to do pro-bono work, give away your old refrigerator, work to clean up neighborhoods, feed the hungry, collect food or connect with your fellow do-gooders.

Shoes that Fit began in Claremont and has turned into a national organization. They work to provide children with new athletic shoes by partnering with schools across the country.