Abcarian: How a Nonprofit Organization Connects Volunteers to Projects

For years, longtime friends Rick Stoff and Richard Foos had whirled around an idea for a different way to approach the charity, one that might get their friends to do more than just write checks and wring their hands.

Both were permeated with the world of giving. Foos, co-founder of Rhino Records, is a philanthropist and trusted advocate of progressive cause. And Stoff, who retired three years ago, worked for 14 years as a salesman at Chrysalis Social Services, which helps people prepare, find and keep jobs. His job was to convince companies to hire the agency’s troubled clients. Stoff has sold a lot of things over the course of his career, but finding employers and young professionals is the only time he has really loved what he does.

Of course, there is no shortage of opportunities to participate in this city. There’s Big Sunday, which started out as an annual event that drew people out of their homes for a day of community service, but has now grown into year-round action. And LA Works, founded in 1991, offers myriad opportunities for distributing food, keeping a lonely senior company, teaching a child, writing a scholarship.

However, for some people, choosing on sites like these can be daunting. Stoff and Foos thought they could motivate people by suggesting a task that should be done by the end of the week.

You have a week to go to your closet and find two pairs of shoes to donate.

You have a week to write a letter to the Coastal Commission to support a low-income housing project in Venice.

Please make a commitment to ride one day for food on wheels.

Please come to Chrysalis for two hours to help job seekers prepare for interviews.

Two years ago, the two founded the Volunteer Collective to help people in need, instill a sense of purpose and achievement in their volunteers, and perhaps build a sense of community that sometimes seems like a nostalgic invention of the past.

“If the river rose and we lived in a small town, we would all go down to fill sandbags,” said Stoff. “We wouldn’t wait for [L.A. Councilman] Mike Bonin to do it. I’m only interested in the people on the sidelines, “who are at a loss.

So Stoff and Foos merged their sizable email lists and asked friends to contribute theirs.

“Our pitch was that if we put one thing at a time and bring people and ask for help, they have an easy way to do it,” said Stoff. “Then it’s like in physics – bodies in motion tend to keep moving. And people would think that they are part of the solution. “

Jennifer Caspar, who is on the board of directors of Volunteer Collective and owns Village Well Books & Coffee in Culver City, said what she loves about the job is that it involves people “who have thrown their hands and say these problems are persistent are and there is nothing we can do about it, and it is better to turn away. Richard and Rick are so passionate about getting people excited about small acts that can lead to medium acts. “

To date, Volunteer Collective has thousands of people on its mailing list; Foos and fabric hope for thousands more.

“I feel like I’m in a race against compassion fatigue,” said Stoff. “Even people I know from my Chrysalis days have already had it. Visually, the city is worse. In terms of security, they feel like things are worse. I hate to see people’s hearts get so hard. “

The current project of the Volunteer Collective, Layer Up, is looking for new and little-used sweaters, jackets, pants, hats, boots and other winter clothing for children in the Boyle Heights Community of Schools, a constellation of 25 campuses with more than 10,000 students in one of the economically difficult parts of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

In keeping with the philosophy of making small inquiries with short deadlines, the group has set up donation containers in 16 locations in Los Angeles County. Most will be open until Sunday evening; some stay open until Tuesday evening. Check out the Volunteer Collective Facebook page for places and other ways to get involved.

When they first decided to contact Boyle Heights schools, Stoff and Foos were interested in offering tutoring and mentoring, but after speaking with Daniel Gettinger, the school community’s administrator, they were shocked to find out that warm clothing was needed even more urgently.

“Even in Los Angeles, temperatures are dropping,” said Gettinger. “This week the lows are in the 40s, and one day they are expected to drop to 38 or 39 degrees. We appreciate everything we can do to support our families. “

I know from experience that being cold is no joke – even in balmy Los Angeles.

Decades ago when I was a kindergarten kid at Northridge Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley, I had a traumatic experience on a cold winter morning. I remember standing in the yard, trembling and trembling, waiting for Teacher to open the door.

When I finally walked into the warm cloakroom, I passed out and my head hit a toy dump truck. Some of you may disagree, but there has been no permanent harm.

I thought of that scary childhood moment last week when I tossed some kids’ items into a trash can owned by the volunteer collective behind Men’s Wearhouse on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica.

It was certainly a small gesture, but if I can help a shivering child stay warm, I’ll be in it.


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