By Kiera Reilly, C’93 @KieraReilly
Penn Serves LA, the community service initiative launched in 2012 by Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16, Leanne Pyott Huebner, W’90 and Denise Winner, W’83, continues to offer events to bring Penn Alumni in Los Angeles together to serve.
On August 24th, a group of Penn Alumni and their children gathered for a day of environmental cleanup and nature restoration at the Canyon at Chadwick School on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The group learned about the local habitat, wildlife, conservation and environmental challenges impacting the community from the leading Southern California bird expert and past President of the Southern California Audubon Society.
We started our efforts by bringing cleared brush up the canyon to a holding area at the top of a steep hill. It was steep and sometimes difficult to grab the prickly branches, but we developed an assembly line and quickly moved a huge pile to the top of the hill. Then, we hiked into the canyon for shade, a water and watermelon break (thank you Denise!) while we learned about efforts to bring back the natural habitat of the canyon and rid it of invasive vegetation. After our break, we set out with shears, clippers and other gardening tools to clear back plants, bushes and trees from the trail. I tasted some of the wild lemonade berries – tart and sweet. The sun was hot, but many hands made quick work.
You can see more photos of our work that day here.
Next up, Penn Serves helped at the L.A. Leadership Academy in the Lincoln Heights area of Los Angeles on September 28th. Our mission was to help move classroom supplies into the new school building and interact with some of the college bound students and their families. The school is a charter school that is devoted almost solely to serving children in poverty, 95% of its student body is on free and reduced lunch.
Although we initially thought we’d be painting, it turned out that the school scheduled our Saturday to be a move day, and we would be helping the students, their families and school staff move fifteen classrooms worth of furniture and supplies from the front building into the new middle school in the back. The Penn group, which included many former Penn Serves participants, quickly got to work moving desks, chairs, books and science supplies. Down a long hall, then a flight of stairs and through the old school, into the courtyard and into the new building – things that seemed light when we started became heavy pretty quickly. But everyone was in good spirits. We stopped for a lunch break, and the school principal gave a special shout out to our group as other than the families that were there, we were the only ones helping. In the course of moving things up and down the stairs, we learned that the school’s founder, Roger Lowenstein, was the college roommate (at the University of Michigan) of Wharton Professor Michael Useem! What a small world. After lunch, we got to work setting up the science classroom (and reminiscing about our own science classes as we unpacked lots of glass beakers).
If you live in Los Angeles, I encourage you to join us at an upcoming Penn Serves LA event – the service activities planned benefit a variety of non-profits in the area, and each service project is in a different part of the city. This provides an opportunity for alumni to join in a project that is of particular interest, or in a more convenient location, and also offers the opportunity to learn about the many organizations serving the Los Angeles community.
The next event is planned for Sunday, November 17. We’ll be writing letters to American troops at the Red Cross. For more information and to RSVP, visit the PennClubLA website.
About Penn Serves LA – Started in 2012, Penn Serves offers a way for direct community service for local Penn alumni and their children to serve Los Angeles’ most needy populations. We partner with established nonprofits and grassroots organizations for one-time volunteer opportunities. So far, we’ve served meals to the homeless, delivered food to low income families, planned activities with immigrant children, and so much more. Please contact us if you’d like to help at a future event: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read about our past events:
May, 2013 – One on One Outreach
March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity
January, 2013 – Inner City Arts
September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission
June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter