By Irene Park, C’05
Tucked away in the warm and welcoming home of alumna, Christine Belgrad, Penn alumni from a cross-section of backgrounds, interests, professions, schools, and years gathered to celebrate the work of, and welcome interested new members to the Penn Serves LA New Year Social in late January.
Guests chatted easily over wine, beers, and light refreshment provided by Penn Serves LA board members, which lent to an elegant yet homey feel. The highlight, of course, being alumna Kiera Reilly’s “P” for Penn shaped sugar cookies! Herein lies the very nature and appeal that is so unique to Penn Serves LA: Started by a small group of alumni who have always been philanthropically inclined whose passion was to serve their community while connecting with other alumni made this organization a true grassroots effort. It was a void that they met outside of the mandate of other existing alumni groups and the University; one that the LA alumni community and its community partners had no idea was missing until the need was met.
Once a majority of the guests arrived, everyone gathered in the living room and shared their experience at Penn and what brought them to the Penn Serves Social that evening. Over the sounds of a roaring fireplace, the room was brimming with a fellowship between friends and strangers alike with one shared history and love, Penn. All jokes about the oldest alumnus in the room and on-campus curfews aside, the genuine excitement over projects they’ve participated in with Penn Serves LA since its inception in 2012 (in a ‘meet cute’ facilitated by Kiera who brought together alumni superstars, Jane Gutman, Leanne Huebner, Aileen Level, and Denise Winner) was palpable.
Much of what has captivated the alumni community is Penn Serves LA’s disregard for the geographical boundaries generally defined by popularity and traffic. Additionally, instead of marrying itself to one particular organization, cause, or issue, Penn Serves LA addresses a broad-spectrum of needs throughout the community. Penn Serves LA has fed the homeless, built homes, refurbished schools, knitted blankets for babies and new mothers in need, and gardened for Vets just to name few of their projects. This inclusive approach not only means alumni have the opportunity to deepen or discover new organizations, causes, or skills, but it also means more organizations are getting the help they need. Some Penn Serves LA members have gone from a single day volunteer to a regular volunteer to become an organization’s Board member.
From the South Bay to Downtown LA, from the west side to East LA, our alumni are happily committing their weekends to regroup from the buzzy focus of their careers and daily responsibilities to meet new alumni, strengthen existing relationships, connect with people and places they may never have organically met, while serving the community. Though many of the organizations and communities served by Penn Serves LA are ones that its committee is already familiar, they also welcome and have partnered with organizations suggested by alumni volunteers.
The moment that solidified the evening for me, and the reason I’ve committed to the organization since its inception was when an alumnus that I had met, perhaps once at another volunteer event, gave me a familial hug after his eyes lit up at the idea of being able to bring his professional resources to Penn Serves LA. Though we all had our own private pursuits, professionally and personally, we felt as though we were unified for the common purpose of doing good. Truly the Quaker way.
About Penn Serves LA
Penn Serves LA impacts the Los Angeles community by engaging University of Pennsylvania alumni, parents and families in meaningful community service activities.
We have done everything from serving meals to the homeless to restoring the environment to fixing homes. Six times annually, we find another great opportunity to learn about interesting nonprofits, lend a hand and enjoy fun experience with fellow alumni.
We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, and help fellow Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!
If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.
- March, 2017 – Food Forward Harvesting – Date and Location TBA
- April, 29, 2017 – Habitat for Humanity
Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Penn Serves LA Team
Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Michal Clements, W’84 | Justin Gordon, W’05 | Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Jamie Kendall, W’04 | Irene Park, C’05 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Jeff Weston, C’05 | Denise Winner, W’83
Read about our previous events:
- January, 2017 – Blankets of Love
- November, 2016 – L.A. Kitchen
- October, 2016 – Got Books? Penn Serves LA Staff’s ICEF First Literacy Festival
- March, 2016 – Rescue Rabbits
- October, 2015 – Penn Serves Picks Packs of Peppers at Westside Food Bank
- September, 2015 – Penn Serves LA Reads to Kids
- July, 2015 – Penn Serves LA: Harvesting a Garden for Veterans
- June, 2015 – Penn Serves LA Spruces up a New Charter School
- June, 2015 – Penn Serves LA Has the Giving Spirit
- August, 2014 – Penn Serves LA Strikes Again: This Time with Paint!
- December, 2013 – Holidays are a Time for Giving
- November, 2013 – Sending Holiday Warmth to our Troops
- August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy
- 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