Ellen Newth may not look like jolly old St. Nick, but for the American Red Cross she brings a priceless gift--her time.
"After things settled down and the initial emer gency of the earthquake was over, I knew that's when I could really help," said Newth, a North Hollywood apartment manager who grew up in Swampcott, Mass.
"When life calms down, people sort of fade back into the woodwork. It's easy to forget," said Newth, 41. "I've always been a high-energy person. I like to get involved."
Newth began volunteering in April for the Red Cross Service Center in Van Nuys. She routinely works 15 to 20 hours a week.
"As a young girl, my mother and I were active in Girl Scouts and our church. Those are the places where I learned to roll up my sleeves and help others," she said.
About 80% of American Red Cross services are performed by volunteers, Newth said. "And like most volunteer organizations, if you've got the time, we've got the job."
Besides staffing and training for emergencies, the Red Cross uses drivers, organizes fund-raisers, participates in health fairs and provides immunizations. Its Youth Services Department recently started an Earthquake Safety Puppet Show, which goes to schools, fairs and churches.
Call the American Red Cross at (818) 376-1700.
The Student Naturalist Program in Newhall was the brainchild of Gini Shadwick in 1990. As the volunteer coordinator for Placerita Canyon State and County Park, Shadwick always needed people to answer phones, pass out park information, provide animal care and patrol the park's 350 acres. So she began the Student Naturalist for children from 8 to 12 to "get kids hooked on helping," Shadwick said.
"After the earthquake, we've lost a few families who had to move out of the area," she said. "But things are slowly picking up again." Her young volunteers come from the San Fernando Valley as well as Santa Clarita.
Besides learning about the indigenous habitat and wildlife, students hike, work on craft projects and park displays and organize their own fund-raisers, bake sales and pet shows.
"And parents are always welcome to stay," Shadwick said. "I believe that children should see lots of parent involvement."
The group meets the second and fourth Saturday of the month.
Call the Student Naturalist Program at (805) 259-7721.
Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND) once helped Maria Franco. Now, like many volunteers, she works to give back to the group that helped her out five years ago when her family needed food and clothing.
Several nuns started the Pacoima-based agency 25 years ago in an abandoned garage. Today, it is one of the largest service organizations for low-income families in the northeast Valley, serving Arleta, Lakeview Terrace, Mission Hills, Pacoima, San Fernando, Sylmar and North Hills.
For the Christmas holiday, MEND provides about 1,200 food baskets to the needy. The organization also provides toys, furniture, clothes, medical and dental care, educational opportunities and employment support. Families also can be "adopted." Call (818) 897-2443 or (818) 896-0246.
Haven Hills has offered battered women and their children shelter from domestic violence since 1977. Volunteers are trained to meet the special problems that often accompany these situations. A 24-hour hot line provides immediate and long-range assistance. The Valley-based organization offers an outreach counseling program and provides temporary housing. After training, a commitment of four hours a week is asked. A Christmas party also is planned. Call (818) 887-7481.
The Burbank Temporary Aid Center has helped area low-income families and individuals for 20 years. Each Christmas the agency needs people to help put together about 300 food and clothing baskets. Food is needed for the baskets as are new clothing and new, unwrapped toys. Throughout the year, help is needed to maintain the food pantry. Training is provided and hours are flexible. Call (818) 846-2330.
The Pacoima Community Youth Culture Center has been in operation for 17 years, trying to help children from 7 to 16. This Christmas, the center will provide about 200 food baskets to low-income and single-family homes. Donations are needed for the baskets as well as volunteers to arrange and distribute them. A Christmas party also is planned. Extensive services are offered for children--karate and piano classes, flag football, basketball, baseball and tutorial and job assistance programs. Call (818) 896-8878.
Loaves and Fishes in Van Nuys is a food pantry and clothing distribution center that operates under the umbrella of Catholic Charities. The organization has been serving those on limited incomes and the homeless for about six years. About 3,000 people each month receive groceries, and during the holidays the production line and distribution is even greater. Volunteers are needed to interview applicants, fill food orders, sort and organize the pantry and clothing and help with office work. The pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Call (818) 997-0943.
Meals to the Homebound offers just that--a hot meal and beverage to elderly people confined to their homes. Volunteers must be 18 and hold a current California driver's license and insurance. Drivers are reimbursed for mileage. The office is open from 8 a.m. to noon Mondays through Fridays. Areas that provide this service include Van Nuys, (818) 988-7188; North Hollywood, (818) 761-6224; Sunland, (818) 353-1413; and San Fernando, (818) 361-8089.
Lutheran Social Services, an emergency center in Van Nuys, has been in operation since 1946. About 300 volunteers help thousands of the needy and provide job assistance. Around the holidays, volunteers are needed for interviewing applicants, case management, staffing the job desk, running the thrift shop and food distribution. Call (818) 785-2114.
The Valley Interfaith Council, based in Chatsworth, provides nine food pantries for the needy. The organization is a network of temples and churches throughout the Valley that serves millions of meals each year. Volunteers do everything from prepare and serve food to cleaning and setting tables. Call (818) 718-6460.
The Volunteer League of the San Fernando Valley, a Van Nuys-based membership organization, has been around for more than 40 years. Its primary function is to help needy children. Projects include a clothes corner that supplies more than 2,500 schoolchildren with new clothing; a puppet show that deals with such issues as gangs and drugs; a movable museum that brings aspects of the Los Angeles Natural History Museum into the classroom; and a choral music troupe that visits area nursing homes in December and January. Call (818) 785-4134.
Children of the Night in Van Nuys is an outreach organization, providing shelter for youths involved with prostitution and/or pornography. Volunteers are needed to work in a new thrift shop that opened this month. The organization offers services to troubled youths, including rescue shelters, medical care, graduate equivalency diploma assistance, court appearance supervision, independent living programs and drug rehabilitation. Help also is needed with office duties and fund-raising. Call (818) 908-4474.
Jewish Big Brothers, which has been around for almost 80 years, is designed to provide children who don't have a father--or have little contact with one--a positive and nurturing experience. Children, both boys and girls, range from 6 to 18. Volunteers must be at least 23 and willing to give four to six hours a week for a year. An intense screening and training process is required. Valley locations are in Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks, (818) 988-1636 or West Hills (818) 587-3260.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, based in North Hollywood, needs help with its January fund-raiser. Throughout the year volunteers also pass out literature at health fairs and speak at local high schools and other organizations about the program. Call (818) 982-0015.
The Los Angeles Zoo's docent program has about 500 volunteers who develop workshops, special events, provide tours and visit local schools and hospitals. Volunteers must attend a 22-session training program and commit to two years' service. Volunteers can apply beginning in April for the 1995 session. There is also a student volunteer program, with a 14-session training requirement, for grades 9 to 12. Call (213) 666-4650.
Heads Up, Therapy on Horseback was formed in 1986 to give disabled children and teen-agers the opportunity for therapy in a non-clinical environment. The Saugus ranch has about 30 people in the program, with three volunteers required per horse and rider. Equestrian experience is not necessary. Call (805) 297-7433.
TreePeople has been helping make Los Angeles a little greener for more than 10 years. The TreePeople Park and nursery, off Mulholland Drive in Studio City, uses volunteers to help maintain the grounds. Volunteers also are used throughout the city to plant trees and help with projects in the Sepulveda Basin. Call (818) 753-4600.
AIDS Project Los Angeles is a countywide agency that needs buddies to offer comfort and companionship during the holidays and assist with small errands and other household chores. Volunteers also are used for the hot line, clerical duties and fund-raising campaigns. Training is provided, and buddies are matched by location. Call (213) 962-1600, Ext. 109.
Ombudsmen, Long-Term Care is a Los Angeles-based agency that recruits volunteers to help senior citizens with legal questions about convalescent or nursing home care. Training is required. Days and hours are flexible. Call (818) 881-6460 or (310) 393-3618.
The Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Van Nuys helps senior citizens with personal needs, from taxes to Medicare advice. The program places older adults as volunteers in community projects. Call (818) 908-5070 or (818) 953-9503.
The Dedicated Older Volunteers in Educational Services, connected with the Los Angeles Unified School District, uses senior citizens to help in the classroom and with administration and office duties. Volunteers with a variety of skills are needed. In junior and senior high schools, volunteers with science and math backgrounds are especially needed. Call (213) 997-2300, Ext. 6080.
Los Angeles Community Action Network, which began in 1983, assists other organizations with fund-raising events, from cooking hot dogs or painting children's faces at a school carnival to calling bingo numbers at a veterans' hospital or feeding the homeless at a community shelter. Members receive a bimonthly newsletter with about 80 to 100 volunteer listings to choose from. Call (310) 998-4670.
Nursery Nature Walks, based in Pacific Palisades, offers walks for young children and their parents at parks and trails throughout the San Fernando Valley and surrounding areas. Volunteers receive training. Call (310) 998-1151.
Senior citizen centers throughout the county use volunteers during the holidays to produce special programs and bring warmth and cheer to the elderly. Throughout the year, volunteers continue projects that range from games and hot meal programs to giving hair styling and beauty tips. Here are some locations:
* Agoura Hills Senior Center, (818) 597-7361.
* Antelope Valley Senior Citizens Center, Lancaster, (805) 948-1688.
* Bernardi Multipurpose Senior Center, Van Nuys, (818) 781-1101.
* Canoga Park Senior Center, (818) 340-2633 or (818) 992-8094.
* East Valley Multipurpose Senior Center, North Hollywood, (818) 763-5361.
* Glendale Senior Center, (818) 241-4136.
* Joslyn Senior Center, Burbank, (818) 953-9594.
* Korean Senior Citizens Center, Van Nuys, (818) 781-4600
* Robert M. Wilkinson Center, Northridge, (818) 701-1001.
* Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, Telephone Reassurance Program, (805) 259-9444.
* Valley Senior Service and Resource Center, Reseda, (818) 705-2345.
* Valley Storefront Multipurpose Center of Seniors, North Hollywood, (818) 984-1380.
Museums and natural preserves use volunteers to maintain the surrounding grounds, catalogue and file historical artifacts, provide public information and assist with publicity and fund-raising efforts. Some places to call:
* Andres Pico Adobe, Mission Hills, (818) 365-7810.
* Antelope Valley Indian Museum, Lancaster, (805) 942-0662.
* Bolton Hall, Tujunga, (818) 352-3420.
* Brand Library and Art Center, Glendale, (818) 548-2051.
* Casa Adobe de San Rafael, Glendale, (818) 548-2147.
* City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery, (805) 723-6250.
* Descanso Gardens, La Canada-Flintridge, (818) 952-4400.
* Exotic Feline Breeding Compound, Rosamond, (805) 256-3332.
* Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, Griffith Park, (213) 667-2000.
* Gordon S. Howard Museum, Burbank, (818) 841-6333.
* The Japanese Garden, Van Nuys, (818) 989-8166.
* La Casa de Geronimo Lopez, San Fernando, (818) 361-5050 or (818) 365-9990.
* Leonis Adobe/Plummer House, Calabasas, (818) 712-0734.
* Los Encinos State Historic Park, Encino, (818) 784-4849.
* Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana, San Fernando, (818) 361-0186.
* Orcutt Ranch and Horticultural Center, West Hills (818) 883-6641.
* Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley, (818) 768-1802.
* Travel Town Railroad and Museum, Griffith Park, (213) 662-5874.
* The Western Hotel Museum, Lancaster, (805) 723-6260.
* Wildlife Waystation, Angeles National Forest, (818) 899-5201.
* William S. Hart County Park and Museum, Newhall, (805) 254-4584 or (805) 259-0855.
Libraries always are looking for volunteers to sort, stack, clean and catalogue books. Other programs include used-book sales, toddler storytelling hours and "Grandparents and Books." For details, contact the specific library:
* Agoura Hills, (818) 889-2278.
* Burbank, Main, (818) 953-9725.
* Burbank, Buena Vista, (818) 953-9747.
* Burbank, Northwest, (818) 953-9750.
* Canyon Country, (805) 251-2720.
* Chatsworth, (818) 341-4275.
* Encino-Tarzana, (818) 343-1983.
* Glendale, Main, (818) 548-2035.
* Glendale, Chevy Chase, (818) 548-2046.
* Glendale, Grandview, (818) 548-2049.
* Lancaster, (805) 948-5029.
* Little Rock, (805) 944-4138.
* Newhall, (805) 259-0750.
* Pacoima, (818) 899-5203.
* Palmdale, (805) 273-2820.
* Panorama City, (818) 894-4071.
* Quartz Hill, (805) 943-2454.
* San Fernando, (818) 365-6928.
* Sherman Oaks, (818) 981-7850.
* Studio City, (818) 769-5212.
* Sun Valley, (818) 764-7907.
* Sylmar, (818) 367-6102.
* Tujunga, (818) 352-4481.
* Valencia, (805) 259-8942.
* Valley Plaza, (818) 765-0805.
* Van Nuys, (818) 989-8453.
* West Valley, (818) 345-4393.
* Woodland Hills, (818) 887-0160.
Hospitals use volunteers in many ways; a variety of hours and days are available. Most positions require some training. Call:
* Antelope Valley Hospital Medical Center, Lancaster, (805) 949-5105.
* Encino Hospital, (818) 995-5036.
* Glendale Adventist Medical Center, (818) 409-8280 or (818) 409-8000.
* Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Valencia, (805) 253-8000.
* Holy Cross Medical Center, Mission Hills, (818) 365-8051 or (818) 898-4613.
* Kaiser Permanente, Panorama City, (818) 375-2400.
* Kaiser Permanente, Woodland Hills, (818) 719-4060.
* Medical Center of North Hollywood, (818) 984-3258.
* Northridge Hospital Medical Center, (818) 885-5404.
* Palmdale Hospital Medical Center, (805) 273-2211, Ext. 3151.
* St. Joseph Medical Center, Burbank, (818) 843-5111.
* Tarzana Regional Medical Center, (818) 881-0800 or (818) 708-5134.
* Valley Hospital Medical Center, Van Nuys, (818) 908-8660.
* Valley Presbyterian Hospital, Van Nuys, (818) 782-6600.
* West Hills Regional Medical Center, (818) 712-4169.