As many have seen from my last post, I spent this summer in Los Angeles providing service to the Los Angeles community.
I had the pleasure of working for a non-profit Christian organization called D.O.O.R., which stands for Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection. The objective of DOOR is to provide experiences for development while in an urban statement. There are five cities in which D.O.O.R. hosts program opportunities: Chicago, Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Throughout the summer we had 256 people spend the summer with us. The groups consisted of middle school- high school students and their chaperones that were usually connected to the youth ministry at their churches. The groups came from all over the United States. Our goal with these students was to open their hearts and minds to things that they may not have experienced elsewhere.
D.O.O.R. provides service opportunities which foster learning and leadership development within an urban environment. There are three programs, which use this objective to reflect and better understand one’s own faith. Programs run from weeklong activities to yearlong programs in multiple cities.
D.O.O.R. Los Angeles focuses on breaking down the stigmas, stereotypes, and belittling of certain characters in society. Basing the program in Hollywood, D.O.O.R. works closely with the homeless and minorities. Participants hear stories of those who have been directly affected by prejudice and discrimination. While working to illuminate these injustices, participants are able to make direct change not only in the city, but also within them, and their communities back home.
There are three programs:
A week long program for middle school and high school students offering service experience throughout the LA area as well as personal faith growth, restoration, and strength.
A summer long program for ages 16-24 in which staff help in assisting to run the Discover program. Staff act as a resource to the discover groups as well as facilitate reflection and discussion amongst the students.
A year long placement program for ages 19-30 in which participants live in an intentional community for an entire year. They are given certain responsibilities depending on the city in which they are placed.
D.O.O.R. partners with a number of agencies in order to offer assistance and service to these agencies through the summer Discover and Discernment program. The Discernment staff takes Discover students to different agencies throughout the city where the participants volunteer their service. In LA, we partnered with eight different agencies.
Alexandria House was founded in 1996 by Judy Vaughan to provide a supportive and safe transitional residence to women and children in the process of finding permanent housing. The house offers a variety of services to its families such as but not limited to: on-site childcare activities, housing and employment assistance, workshops, food, and tutoring. This summer our Discover groups aided assistance in staffing a day camp for community children.
Atwater Village Habitat For Humanity ReStore
Atwater Village accepts and sells gently used or donated appliances, furniture, and hardware. Their items are priced at least 30 percent below retail prices and the income helps aid Habitat for Humanity’s mission of eliminating poverty housing. Discover groups would assist workers in pricing and restocking items.
LA Food Bank
The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is an organization that distributes donated food and products to individuals in the community. Their vision is to provide food so that no one goes hungry in Los Angeles. Since 1973 LA Food bank has distributed over 1 billion pounds of food. Volunteers, including our Discover Participants, help workers sort and package healthy food to be distributed. LA Food Bank makes sure that no soiled food is distributed out into the community. Their motto is “If you wouldn’t feed it to your best friend or yourself, we won’t feed it to the community”. This summer, we sorted and packaged enough food to serve over 4 thousand families in the LA area.
The Center at Blessed Sacrament (The Center)
The Center is a community day center for people experiencing homelessness. They strive to end isolation, chronic homelessness, build community, and secure housing through offering fellowship and workshops. Through the 12 workshops and other services offered, homeless individuals are able to develop a sense of belonging and acceptance. Many individuals continue to visit The Center even after they are able to secure housing and a substantial income. Volunteers helped with morning coffee hour preparation and were able to directly interact with the individuals who visited the center.
MEND- Meeting Each Other with Dignity
MEND began as a service to the San Fernando Valley residents out of Ed and Carolyn Rose’s garage. The organization quickly began to to grow and within five years became an official organization. MEND aims to show respect and dignity by breaking the bonds of poverty. Various clinics, programs, and services are offered at MEND in order to help individuals at or below the poverty line receive the help they need. Volunteers were able to aid in packaging, sorting, and distributing food and clothes to individuals who visited the organization.
Union Rescue Mission (URM)
URM began as a mission to convert alcoholics to Christianity in 1891. They are committed to aid program participants in transformational ministry through four core values: Respect, relate, redeem, and restore. URM offers a variety of resources such as meals, shelter, spiritual encouragement, training and classes, counseling,and health care clinics. Our discover participants were either placed to volunteer in the dayroom or kitchen. These placements allowed them to directly work with those experiencing homelessness. We produced activities to engage with individuals in each dayroom which were divided into a women’s and men’s side. The dayroom experience was a perfect opportunity for our Discover groups to hear stories and experiences of real people who have experience living on the streets.
In the kitchen, responsibilities included preparing and serving food for the community and individuals living at the shelter. Our participants would work alongside individuals who were a part of the URM’s work program. Each individual placed in the kitchen earned their position by striving in their assigned program.Their stories were also very inspiring to the students who volunteered alongside them. URM became a favorite among the DOOR staff and groups that we worked with. This is not a surprise since many of the individuals that are helped at URM have nothing but positive appreciation for the organization.
Project Angel Food
Project Angel Food began in 1989 when a small church in West Hollywood came together to provide meals to their neighbors who were starving and fighting life-threatening illnesses. At Project Angel Food, volunteers helped to add staff cook and deliver nutritious free meals to homes of individuals throughout Los Angeles County battling critical illness. Project Angel Food delivers over 500,000 meals each year in hopes of preventing malnutrition and restoring clients to health.
Homeboy Industries provides hope, training, and support to former gang members and incarcerated individuals by giving resources and encouragement to redirect their lives. Each year, over 10,000 former gang members turn to Homeboy Industries in an effort to begin positive change in their lives. Homeboy offers a variety of services and classes to individuals in the community. Full-time employment is also offered through an 18-month program to more than 200 men and women. Homeboy Industries has become a popular attraction to those in the LA area due to its business, Homegirl cafe. Homegirl cafe serves delicious healthy dishes to those who visit the restaurant. Each trainee and staff member is employed through the 18-month employment program. D.O.O.R. participants were able to take a tour of the establishment and learn more about the stories of individuals in the program. This organization was another favorite amongst our participants and provided a lot of inspiration to the D.O.O.R. community.
Each organization was truly rewarding to work with and extremely vital to successfully impact students lives who came to learn from us. I am extremely thankful for my own personal experience at each agency as it helped me receive an idea of how to shape my future with the type of work I want to do.
The summer was filled with a lot more excitement than just service! Be sure to look for my next posts about Los Angeles, Homelessness, Stereotypes, Gentrification and more!