Residents of the Louis Valley Shelter in North Hollywood watched with curious amusement the group of high school students busy working on the grounds of the homeless facility Friday morning.
Some of the students took brush and roller in hand to paint fences and an apartment, while others toiled in the kitchen preparing lunch.
Several students helped social workers by performing clerical duties, while others cleaned the walls and counters.
The 38 freshmen from L.A. Lutheran High School in Sylmar visited the facility as part of the school's annual community service project--required of all upper-grade classes, in addition to 10 hours of individual service.
At the same time, the school's sophomore class worked at the San Fernando Valley Homeless Service Center in Pacoima, and the junior class worked at Oasis, a homeless service center in Hollywood.
The senior class helped out with the Meet Each Need with Dignity program in Pacoima.
"Teenagers are so often wrapped up in unimportant things, their world needs expanding," said Al Ludtke, a teacher at Lutheran. "This way we tell them, 'Hey, there are people who need your help.' "
While most students may not learn that lesson immediately, he said, they will reflect on their experiences years later and know that they made a difference.
But some students said they were very aware of what they were doing and why.
"It's gratifying to see that somebody else is going to benefit from what we've done," said Denny Keloy, 15, who along with three friends cleaned out a storage facility and sorted clothes donated to the shelter.
Shelter staffers said that while volunteers are in plentiful supply during the winter holidays, the number of groups helping out sharply declines after the new year.
"It gets difficult to scrounge up people to come in," said Tracy Wallace, director of development for the Louis Valley Shelter.
"We're thrilled when we get offers like this."