Volunteer Journal #93 - Shoes For The Homeless

Shoes for the Homeless! This one was super easy!

Mission - Help get 1000 pairs of shoes to LA's homeless population.

Time commitment - 1 hour on Saturday.

Using my new LAWorks membership and their awesome events calendar (which I highly recommend every charity adopt) I found Shoes for the Homeless, Inc. in my area.  They needed volunteers to sort new or gently used shoes for the homeless on a Saturday.

Shoes for the Homeless was founded by Ira Goldbery, a Los Angeles podiatrist who has been in practice for 30 years. Ira works with the homeless regularly, and has seen many injuries caused by the lack of proper footwear.

My Shoes!

Ira is extremely organized. I got two emails confirming my involvement with the shoe sorting. When I showed up to sort shoes he gave me a quick 1 minute briefing.  That was it.  Then the 15 other volunteers, and I matched shoes, rubber banded matching pairs, and then sorted them by type.

In truth a bit of a ruckus did break out over whether certain types of ladies shoes were work appropriate or more suited to evening wear. I tried to stay out of it because I'm known to be inappropriate often.

It was over in a flash, and the shoes ready to be distributed to the estimated 58,000 homeless in LA via shelters like the Midnight Mission.

Side note - The number of homeless Veterans in LA surged by 23% last year.  I need to work with a homeless veterans group.  If anyone knows one please send suggestions through my Facebook page.

Doing Polar Plunge 4 Special Olympics! Need Help!

Answers to all your questions about why you should go to this link and donate to the Special Olympics to make me jump into ice water.

Who?

Me! TheGoodMuse. On a mission to complete my 85th volunteer activity - a Polar Plunge benefitting the Special Olympics.

Special Olympics Northern California provides year-round sports training & competition opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities FOR FREE.  We need to raise money to help them do this it's awesome!

What? !!!!!!

I know, free training and competition opportunities for those with disabilities!  Why wouldn’t you help?

As for me it’s been on my bucket list forever, and I’m using this as an excuse to get back into “Body Double Shape” (pictured) after I was struck waiting for a red light in March (which left my neck screwed up).

Yes, I really was a body double when I first got to LA.  It’s how I survived.  No nudity.  I was just in really good shape.  I worked out A LOT.

I figure if the kids and adults of the Special Olympics are going to show an incredible amount of bravery and persistence at the gym so can I.

Where?

San Francisco “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” – Mark Twain

And I’m jumping into the Bay in the winter.

When?

February 23,  2013

Why?

Because over 15,700 Special Olympics athletes participate in The Special Olympics.

Because you are encouraging me to get back the stomach pictured.  Serious motivation if everyone is going to see a picture of you jumping into freezing water in a white bikini.

Because this is on my bucket list.

Because no amount is too small and whatever you can give is appreciated.  I set the goal at $250 total, because that’s double the minimum, but I think we can do better.

Why does your hair look like dry twisted straw in that old picture?

I have no idea.  People make mistakes.  Please forgive.

More?

For more information on Special Olympics Northern California, go to www.sonc.org or join the chatter on Facebook.com/SONorCal and Twitter.com/SONorcal

For more pictures of my adventure and adventures check out Facebook/TheGoodMuse

If this goes well maybe I’ll post up some more pics from body doubling days and tell some stories ‘bout it on TheGoodMuse.com

Volunteer Journal #82 - Cleaning up Ballona Creek

January 19th, 2013

Yay!  National Day of Service!

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

LA organized a citywide cleanup. I picked an event hosted by Friends of Ballona Wetlands. I helped clean up my local bike path, which runs next to Ballona Creek.

A little editorialized history for those not local - Ballona Creek use to be part of the Los Angeles River's drainage area.  Then someone got the bright idea to wrap it in concrete. To "prevent flooding" and create a massive eye sore - something like that. Today it is a pathetic little stream of water that runs through barren concrete on it’s way to Marina del Rey.  I privately cheer everytime I see a little bush or tree that has pushed up through the concrete.

I showed up at 10am and had to leave at 12pm.  The Friends of Ballona Creek provided me with gloves and trash bags.  Beyond that these BEFORE and AFTER pictures speak for themselves:

[slideshow id=5]

Trash picked up...

Cigarette Butts. Stop smoking! It's so nasty! Throw your cigarette butts in the trash - it's not hard.

Plastic Bags (grocery, newspaper, dog poop bags)

Styrofoam – why is this stuff still around?

Take out containers, coffee stirrers, Starbucks containers - just... stop... buying stuff.

Volunteer Journal #75 (UK Edition) – Thames21

Sometimes the greatest thing about volunteering is the people you meet.

I worked with Thames21 in London, an organization dedicated to cleaning up the waterways in and around the British capital.  Specifically, I got to use a log carnival-like hook to pick plastic pieces out of Regent’s Canal (which is celebrating its 200th birthday!).

During the muddy fun I met Ben Fenton, Thames21’s Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 Coordinator. Because of his service to the country, Ben was also one of 8000 people picked from 64 million British citizens to carry the Olympic torch. A cool personal fact like that, combined with his high spirits in the muck while dragging up plastic bags, coke cans, toys, etc. meant that I had to interview him.

How did you get involved with Thames21?

5 years ago I gave up my job as a photographer and moved to London, I wanted to do something worthwhile and work outdoors. After several unsuccessful interviews at Thames21 they realized they couldn’t get rid of me and created a job for me.

I’m still here, and still enjoying it, I have coordinated a wide range of projects for Thames21 including creating a community garden with volunteers with mental health problems, developing an online map of waterway ‘treasures’, researching inclusive volunteering, engaging 16-25 years old volunteers and running the East London project.

You studied Environmental Science at university - Why get involved with the waterways rather than other environmental groups?

I have always been interested in water, I find it fascinating and relaxing. London lacks wild places, but I think the waterways are veins of wilderness and hugely important for Londoners. Many people don’t know they exist and I love taking them to these places for the first time. Additionally, we do a range of work, so I don’t get bored; one day I’m canoeing, and the next planting reed beds!

 

What's the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of the job is definitely the people. Every event brings new faces, as well as the regulars who are a great bunch.

What's the strangest thing you've ever pulled out of the river?

We’ve pulled out all sorts: wedding rings, guns, messages in bottles, and thousands of mobile phones. I’m not sure of the strangest but my favorite find was an Anglo Saxon Spearhead from the 9th Century!

What's it like to be chosen to carry the Olympic torch?

 

What an honor! It was an amazing experience, and one I will never forget. I am very very honored to be nominated amongst such an amazing group of people.

Many congrats to Ben! Go to the Thames21 Facebook page to see the Olympic torch action.

Thames21 has regularly scheduled cleanups, so if you live in the London area I highly recommend spending a morning cleaning up with the crew.  I’ve volunteered with 75 different projects and this was the first time pedestrians stopped to say thank you to the volunteers as we cleaned.

America's Fat Threatens The World

Yet another report confirms what most of the world suspected – Americans’ fat bottoms will be the eventual downfall of humanity. More precisely, if the rest of the world follows the American trend towards fatter bottoms then environmental degradation due to food production threatens the sustainability of our planet. The study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that ... Read Full Story

Why Can't Everyday be Carmaggedon?

On July 16th and 17th, Los Angeles, CA, a city built for the automobile, braced for a predicted disaster known worldwide as Carmaggedon. A ten-mile stretch of the infamous 405 Freeway would be closed for 53 hours due to construction. The shut down section, between the 10 Freeway and 101 Freeway interchanges, normally sees almost 500,000 cars on a summer weekend. When Angelenos (myself included) found out about the impending closure during tourist season we panicked like Godzilla had just walked onshore. The month preceding the closure saw 4 million car dependant residents go into full on orange terror alert mode – buying emergency groceries, flights from Long Beach to Burbank Airports (40 miles apart), and preparing to hole up in their homes for the entire weekend, maybe with boarded up windows, just in case looters showed up.

Meanwhile, city officials... Read Full Article on Celsias

Toxic in America

American children are “guinea pigs in an uncontrolled experiment,” according to Senator Frank Lautenberg D-New Jersey who spoke to the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health on October 26th. Among the many shocking facts shared at the hearing was that only 1 percent of the 84,000 chemicals commonly used in the US today have been studied for safety.  Lautenberg sited lax EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] standards, and the ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which has only banned five chemicals in its 34-year history.

The Senate hearing was called to address an increasing number of studies, which have found hundreds of toxic chemicals in the bodies of...Read Full Article

Vegan Wednesdays-Like Meatless Mondays, Only Better

Meatless Mondays, otherwise known as the one day a week omnivores pat themselves on the back and say, “look how eco-friendly I am,” has always made me jealous.  It’s like a special occasion or holiday.  Omnivores get to call work and say “I’m sorry I can’t write that report today, it’s Meatless Monday, my parents are coming from out of town to help us make the lentil roast.” I want a weekly holiday too! Vegetarians I propose once a week we have Vegan Day – we can even call it Vegan Wednesdays, and if you have a German or Russian accent it will sound like Vegan Vednesday which will make it totally perfect.

On Vegan Day (not to be confused with...Read Full Article on Celsias

Volunteer Journal #56 – 5k Run 4 the Amazon Foundation

amazonI went to a costume party the night before my first 5k run ever. Not the smartest move. I know. As a nondrinker/smoker/recreational drug user I figured I’d be fine. I don’t want to tell you this next piece because I’m sure I will get emails about being insensitive, trashy, heartless etc. but here ya go… I decided to go as a crack head like my roommate (it was a theme group). Insensitive - yes. Easy to do – you bet ya.

We sprinkled our black clothes with powdered sugar, put on makeup a la Amy Winehouse, dreaded our hair and using various Hollywood makeup tricks picked up on sets made it look like we were… well you get the idea.

I was secretly hoping that someone would say, “nice costume.” To which I was going to reply “What costume? This is a costume party?” That was going to be the highlight of my boring day. Unfortunately, I have quick actor friends who upon seeing me enter the party said, “Hey you were suppose to wear a costume!” Damn.

Anyway, long story abbreviated I got 3 hours of sleep and was cursing myself when I had to wake up for Run for the Trees at 6am the next morning. Mornings are the devils playground. Why is the world such a hostile place? Mornings.

Arriving at the race base camp at Dockweiler Beach I tucked last nights dreaded hair into a baseball cap, stuck my Ipod firmly in my ears, dragged my feet over to the registration table, got my number, and then had to pick up a t-shirt. I hate event t-shirts as noted in this blog numerous times before. Surprise, the smallest size they had was women’s mediums. Note to non-profit coordinators for the 100th time – we hate the t-shirts! They are wasteful, bad for the environment, and ugly as hell, but if you are obsessively compelled to make them (and apparently you are) and find sick pleasure in forcing us to wear them order more smalls and extra smalls especially at a 5k, 10k, marathon races.

Run for the Trees’ purpose was to raise funds for the Amazon Foundation, which was founded in 2009 to acquire and preserve large tracts of the Amazon Rainforest. Fine and good, however, as I waited for the race to begin I noticed something quite disturbing. Between the flyers being handed out, drinks in disposable plastic, and new t-shirts it’s arguable that more waste was produced by this event than trees saved.

Back to the race – I stood there, in the large starting pack, hopping from one foot to the other trying to warm up and calm down at the same time. Two nights before I had run 4.25 miles to test that I could do the distance. I felt great after that run, but I had completed it in an hour. Everyone around me looked like they were serious about racing. Like stretching/warming up serious. They were actually going to run fast! For real. Did they know it was not even 8 am yet on Sunday? I hate being at the back. Okay, I’m a bit OCD about being first. Not good.

The race started and I immediately began to hyperventilate. I had to be first! Had too! Okay that’s not going to happen. It took half a mile to get my breathing under control. I was running too fast. At one mile my stomach cramped and my mouth dried up. I kept thinking, “What the hell is happening? I’m freaking athletic. My stomach hurts too badly. I’m going to have to stop.” Then a few ten year olds passed me. Embarrassing. Then a guy pushing a baby stroller tried to pass me. No sir. No sir. I draw the line at being beat by a human pushing another human.

Finally, I fixed my gaze on the muscular back of the ripped guy in front of me. “He’s going to finish with a good time. And he’s not bad to look at. Stay 10 feet behind him till the end.” And that’s what I did. Pulling up only at the very end to protect my knee from a steep downhill finish I crossed the line in 27:12. Not bad for a first timer. However, because it’s in my DNA to never be satisfied, I’m now pissed I couldn’t finish under 27. Although I consider waking up early and then racing akin to being burned with a hot poker I might have to do that again just to shoot for 26.

P.S. Those stomach cramps turned out to be a stomach virus so I spent the rest of the day curled up on the bathroom floor pressing my head against cold tiles thinking about how I could have gone just a bit faster. Too competitive not to race - not competitive enough to train. It’s a curse.