Teen-Agers Grow Through Volunteer Jobs

Melinkoff is a free-lance writer.

This summer's long hours away from schoolwork can be put to good use in hundreds of volunteer situations that are available to Southern California teen-agers. Their services are helpful to the agencies, and often young people benefit by their experiences in a work environment.

Agencies want volunteers who will make a serious commitment for most of the summer but are usually quite flexible about hours and minimum time requirements. They would rather have volunteers show up every week for two hours than to burn themselves out in a week or two by overcommitting.

Interaction Is Good

To help volunteers keep their commitment, agencies like volunteers to work with people rather than work alone. "Working with someone is better than filing papers alone in a cubbyhole," Priscilla Wilson, placement coordinator at the Volunteer Center of San Gabriel Valley, said. "Interaction with people usually keeps people in a volunteer commitment."

Local volunteer centers keep track of dozens of agencies that specifically request teen-age helpers. Following are some of the opportunities mentioned by representatives at seven of the centers. If one of the volunteer jobs sounds appealing but is outside of the teen-ager's residential area, it is suggested that the nearest center be contacted to see if a similar--or the same--opportunity is available in his or her own area.

This is just a sampling. Contact the centers for details on these and other service possibilities for volunteers.

Volunteer Center of Los Angeles, City Hall Program, Room 100 L, City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, (213) 485-6984.

This center focuses on placing volunteers in 39 city-government offices. Most of the offices ask for a commitment of at least two hours at a time, at least 16 hours a month. Teen-agers who are interested in seeing how city government works or who would like to work in a specific department (such as police, fire, cultural affairs, recreation and parks, libraries) are interviewed by this agency first and then a match-up is suggested. Placements are available all over the city. The age minimum varies with the departments. Contact placement officer Dawn Alexander.

Volunteer Center of Los Angeles, 621 S. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 385-4244.

This summer the agency is looking especially hard for teens to volunteer in central-city youth centers, where children with time on their hands and no parental supervision pass away the summer. Teens are needed at the Pico Union Teen Post, Salvation Army Youth Center, Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of Echo Park and El Centro del Pueblo. Volunteers will supervise recreation and arts-and-crafts activities. The age minimum at most of these sites is 15.

Camp Ronald McDonald, which provides a summer camping experience to children with life-threatening illnesses, needs older teen-agers as camp counselors. The age minimum is 18, and volunteers must make a 10-day, live-in commitment. There will be training sessions before the camp sessions begin.

Volunteer Center for South Bay, Harbor and Long Beach, 1230 Cravens Ave., Torrance, (213) 212-5009.

Most of the volunteer opportunities at this office require a minimum age of 16.

The Carson Animal Shelter needs volunteers seven days a week, 24 hours a day to help with the care of animals. Assistance is needed working in the kennels and walking the dogs. They ask for a commitment of at least four hours a week.

At Meals On Wheels, teens are needed to help pack food that is delivered to shut-ins and to assist in the organization's kitchen. A minimum of two hours a week, during late morning hours, is requested.

The Department of Public Social Services is looking for teen-agers to read to blind people in their homes. The time commitment is flexible and volunteers will be assigned to a specific person to read to on a regular basis.

Volunteer Center of San Fernando Valley, Suite 309, 6931 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 908-5066.

This agency serves San Fernando, Simi and Santa Clarita valleys, plus Glendale and Burbank. Most volunteer posts require a minimum time commitment of four hours per week, but there are some positions available requiring fewer hours and others requiring more.

Ahead With Horses, in Sun Valley, is a program dedicated to giving disabled children a chance to ride horses. Teen-agers are needed to help in the stables and walking the horses as well as assisting the children as they ride. No special experience with horses is necessary. The minimum age is 14.

The office of the Los Angeles Public Guardian is looking for teen-agers to help brighten the lives of elderly and disabled people who are without families. Volunteers are needed to visit them, take them for walks, read and write letters. Teens will be assigned close to their home. Minimum age is 14.

Rancho del Valle, in Woodland Hills, is a year-round day-care facility for handicapped children and young adults. Operated by the Crippled Children's Society, volunteers are needed to work with the children, most of whom are multiple-handicapped. Work would involve reading, helping with recreation activities and assisting in crafts projects. Minimum age is 15.

The Los Angeles Public Library has a service to shut-ins that needs volunteers to help the library take books to people who can't get out of their homes. Volunteers work out of their neighborhood branches, choosing and taking books to shut-ins. They are interviewed and matched with specific people so they can get to know what that person likes to read. This is not a reading program. Minimum age is 14.

Tierra Del Sol, in Sunland, and Tierra Del Sol West, in Van Nuys, needs teen-agers to help in their day programs for developmentally disabled adults. Assistance is needed as pool aides, classroom assistants and in recreation and arts-and-crafts activities.

At TreePeople, headquartered in Coldwater Canyon Park, teen-agers who enjoy gardening and plants can help in the organization's gardens doing general garden work. They can also join in the planting projects, when brigades of volunteers plant a site, often after a fire.

The center publishes "Project LUV" (Let Us Volunteer), a yearly directory that lists San Fernando Valley placement agencies and the variety of positions they have available for 12- to 18-year-old volunteers. The directory is sent free to junior and senior high schools in the valley.

Volunteer Center of San Gabriel Valley, 3301 Thorndale Road, Pasadena, (818) 792-6118.

Many agencies specify age 15 and above and request volunteers to commit themselves to one time a week or more.

An emergency-food station in Pasadena needs teen-agers to help in the preparation of food that they serve to the homeless, who drop in for meals. Hours needed are lunchtime and Wednesday evenings.

The Red Cross is beginning a new program that will involve teen-agers who will be trained to make first aid presentations to grade-school children. Training will begin this summer and presentation will be at summer camps and other youth groups. A second project, also in the beginning stages, is the Safe at Home program for latchkey children. Both programs are looking for teen-agers who would enjoy making presentations to groups of elementary school children.

Volunteer Center of Long Beach, Room 212, 1150 East 4th St., Long Beach, (213) 590-8844.

The Veterans Administration Medical Center in Long Beach needs teen-agers for its patient-escort program. Minimum age is 15, and volunteers are needed 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Although teens may work as little as an hour at a time, those who put in four hours a day will receive a free meal.

Several convalescent hospitals in Long Beach are looking for teens to join their Friendly Visitor Program. Commitment of as little as 30 minutes is accepted. Teens are asked to visit and cheer up patients, help with their arts-and-crafts activities. Minimum age is 13 and volunteers are welcome seven days a week.

The Stroke Activity Center needs volunteers, age 12 and up, to help stroke victims during their recovery process. Teen-agers are needed weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to help with crafts, bingo games and serving refreshments.

Rio Hondo Area Volunteer Center, 7702 S. Washington Ave., Whittier, (213) 693-4023.

The Whittier branch of Meals On Wheels needs teen-agers to assist in delivering meals to shut-ins. The young volunteers ride along with drivers and take in the food. Minimum age is 14. Most deliveries are done at midday.

At American Heritage Park, in South El Monte, volunteers are needed to help with the gardening and general maintenance. Minimum age is 16, and at least two hours a week are requested.

Catholic Charities, Pico Rivera, would like teen-agers to help senior citizens on Saturday mornings. Jobs include helping seniors shop for food and doing yardwork, for which the teen volunteers are rewarded with a beach party. Minimum age is 14.

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