The non-profit organization The Giving Spirit embarked to areas like Skid Row, Venice, Santa Monica, Riverside, Inland Empire and Huntington Valley last weekend to distribute more than 2,500 survival kits to people living on the streets this holiday season.
On a damp Friday night inside the Brentwood Presbyterian Church gymnasium, more than 1,000 volunteers from across Los Angeles County assembled kits inside duffle bags filled with food, personal items, emergency blankets and a host of other items necessary for surviving on the streets of Los Angeles. On Saturday and Sunday members of the non-profit hit the streets to distribute in effort to connect with those less fortunate.
The Giving Spirit has been a continuously growing volunteer effort in L.A. since it started in 1999 by founder and President Tom Bagamane. With Friday's horrific school shooting in Connecticut on everyone's mind, Bagamane made a heartfelt speech to the volunteers at the end of Friday night, especially to the children who helped.
"Despite today's events, to come and see these kids here," he said, keeping his composure. "These kids are here for one reason. You guys took that to the next level, for tomorrow. This time Sunday 2,520 people will be taken care of because of what you've done today."
Bagamane said there's more homeless in L.A. than ever, possibly since the Great Depression.
"L.A. is home to 20,000 homeless veterans annually," he told the crowd.
Dave Ganong, of Huntington Beach, has made the hour long trip north to Brentwood for the last five years to help assemble the homeless survival kits. He first heard about The Giving Spirit on KFWB while driving.
"My wife and I used to talk about buying socks and bringing them to Skid Row," he said. "I saw this [group's] website, came up on that Saturday and had a tremendous experience.
Ganong brought blankets for Friday's effort that he receives through a homeless shelter partnership.
"This is the opportunity to make a difference," said Marc Armstrong, of Redondo Beach, who is chairman of The Giving Spirit's finance committee and his third year participating. "You see first hand what your work does for good."
Parvinder Dosanjh, of Santa Monica and in her second year helping The Giving Spirit, stood in a fast moving assembly line of volunteers at a long table in the gym assembling the final survival kits Friday. She researched many homeless volunteer efforts last year and before calling Bagamane.
"It's a gem in disguise," she said about The Giving Spirit. "People don't know what it's about putting this together."
District 11 City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl arrived at the church gym early Friday evening, meeting with local girl scouts who helped assemble the kits.
For more information, visit The Giving Spirit's website. More than 95 percent of every donation received directly supports our homeless outreach effort. The Giving Spirit also does a second distribution in June, focusing on teens and women.