Category Archives: Penn Serves LA

Penn Serves LA Builds a Home with Habitat LA

By Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16

It was already warm at 8:00 am when our twenty Penn Serves LA volunteers showed up at the work site in Downey for our second Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles project. Shelter is such a basic need that most days we fortunate Penn alumni take for granted. Habitat LA, we learned, has constructed and rehabilitated almost 800 homes across the city since 1990. In Los Angeles, well known for soaring housing costs, Habitat serves people earning 30-80% of the median family income, who work alongside volunteers on the building process.

Penn Serves LA Habitat for Humanity Irene Park on scaffolding

Irene Park, C’05, on the scaffolding at Penn Serves LA’s Habitat LA event

It quickly became clear that we were expected to have a fun day, but also to make significant progress in completing the back of “our” house. Several people spent much of the day on rickety scaffolding, bent in half caulking windows and eaves. Others were busy with power tools; cutting boards, drilling holes, using nail-guns. The dedicated and gifted Habitat staff taught us a host of new and useful skills, and the Penn crowd dove in, like good Ivy League competitors, intent on getting the job done.

Penn Serves LA Habitat for Humanity build in Los Angeles with Penn Alumni and Habitat LA

It was a very social day, with people chatting while building a window frame or sharing photos while affixing siding to exterior walls. Over lunch the group shared their Penn stories: where they were raised, what they had studied at Penn, how they had landed in LA. Typical of Penn, it was a diverse group, with a broad spread of graduation years, and alumni working in law, medicine, education, social science, business, architecture and more. Our volunteers hailed from all parts of the country, and had traveled from San Diego, the Valley and the Westside Saturday morning to participate in our Habitat build day.

Penn Serves LA Habitat for Humanity helping Habitat LA build a home in Los Angeles with Penn Alumni

As the afternoon concluded, everyone was smiling and not a single band-aid had been issued – a fantastic success! After a long, dusty day of working with our hands in the hot sun, we felt really good: holes were filled, corners were smooth, siding was level, and the site was clean for the next crew. It was especially meaningful to have Christina working with us all day, as she will be living in the house we worked on. The Penn crowd looks forward to returning to our Downey site for the ribbon cutting on Christina’s completed home.

Penn Serves LA helps Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles - volunteering Penn Alumni with Habitat LA

The Penn Serves LA group – proudly wearing the Red and the Blue – after helping Habitat LA

About Penn Serves LA

Penn Serves LA logo volunteering with Penn Alumni in Los Angeles

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.

Join Us

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.

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

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:

 

 

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Filed under Los Angeles, Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

Penn Serves LA Toasts the New Year

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.

sugar cookies baked by Kiera Reilly, C'93 for Penn Serves LA New Year Social

Home baked sugar cookies from Kiera Reilly, C’93 – Red and Blue P’s for Penn of course

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.

Penn LA alumni introduce themselves at the Penn Serves LA New Year Social

Penn LA alumni introduce themselves at the Penn Serves LA New Year Social

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.

Learning about Penn Serves LA

Learning more about Penn Serves LA

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.

A great crowd of alumni of all ages and backgrounds coming to learn about Penn Serves LA

A great crowd of alumni of all ages and backgrounds coming to learn about Penn Serves LA

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.

It wouldn't be a Penn LA without a great spread of food and wine!

It wouldn’t be a Penn LA without a great spread of food and wine!

About Penn Serves LA

pennservesla_logo_final-1

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.

Join Us

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.

Upcoming Events

  • March, 2017 – Food Forward Harvesting – Date and Location TBA
  • April, 29, 2017 – Habitat for Humanity

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

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:

 

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Filed under Guest blogger, Los Angeles, Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

Blankets of Love

By Denise Winner, W’83

Penn Serves launched the New Year intertwining crocheting, wine and cheese, and Quaker spirit to support Blankets of Love. Over 25 alumni and friends (women and a couple of men too) joined together for a late afternoon training session to learn to crochet in Manhattan Beach. We began with a crochet hook, learned a split knot, made a bunch of loops, practiced on the first row, ripped it out, crocheted a second row (or in some cases ripped it out again) and eventually crocheted the beginnings of a wool scarf.

Blankets of Love was founded less than a year ago from love and hope for every newborn. The organization is in memory of the founders’ beautiful son, Justin Strand, who died way too early due to drug abuse and bad luck. “Babies are on loan from God – love them, raise them and release them”, shares Cyndi Strand, one of the founders. Whether circumstances are bleak or bright, the Strands look forward to creating handmade Blankets of Love to bring some sense of security and joy to babies leaving MLK and other hospitals with mothers and families who have little or no means, or who are living on the street.

 

The January Penn Serves event was the first organized training and crocheting session for this non-profit. Hopefully those who participated will embrace this new hobby, finish their scarves and move on to a 36 by 36 inch Blanket of Love.

For those interested in donating, blankets must be knit from acrylic or other washable yarns. Learn more about Blankets of Love: http://blanketsoflovesouthbay.com/.

About Penn Serves LA

pennservesla_logo_final-1

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.

Join Us

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.

Upcoming Events

  • January 26, 2017 – Penn Serves Social
  • March, 2017 – Food Forward Harvesting
  • April, 29, 2017 – Habitat for Humanity

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

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:

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Filed under Los Angeles, Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA, Uncategorized, Volunteering

Got books? Penn Serves LA Staffs ICEF’s First Literacy Festival

By Leanne Huebner, W’90

Almost 100 students and family members joined the First Annual ICEF Literacy Festival, staffed by Penn Serves LA volunteers. The event was held at the newly-built View Park Preparatory Accelerated Charter Elementary School, one of the schools of ICEF Public Schools located on Crenshaw Boulevard in Inglewood.  

ICEF Public Schools

Led by CEO and Wharton graduate Parker Hudnut,  ICEF Public Schools is a Los Angeles based charter operator that operates nine inner-city charter schools serving over 3,500 K-12 students. ICEF’s goal is to prepare all students to attend and compete at the nation’s top 100 colleges and universities by focusing on the 3 As – Academics, Arts and Athletics.

Creating the Literacy Day with Penn Serves LA

When approached by Penn Serves co-founder Denise Winner, W’83, with how Penn Serves might assist ICEF, Parker jumped at the opportunity and worked with Denise to develop the concept of hosting a day around books and literacy. “We host an Arts Day and Sports Day, so a Literacy Festival was the perfect catalyst to connect Penn Serves and our mission,” shared Hudnut.

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These two students stopped by after their soccer games and checked in at the ICEF Literacy Festival

“At Penn Serves, we love to offer high impact volunteer days and jump on opportunities where we can impact an underserved, underresourced area,” shared Denise. “In the past, we have helped a Lincoln Heights charter school move to a new building, painted the classrooms of new charter school in South Gate, and hosted the first graduation celebration for Richstone. This year we were thrilled to work directly with students and focus on literacy.”

Students had access to a camping-themed reading room with tents and flashlights, a free book exchange, classrooms set for reading out loud, and book-themed arts and crafts tents.  Three local children book authors were on hand for impromptu readings and conversations on why they wrote their books.  Penn Alumni were encouraged to bring their own children to both celebrate literacy and provide a working hand.   Throughout the day, Penn alumni were offering their reading help to younger students and creating crafty projects with young students, while older elementary students demonstrated their reading skills by reading out loud.

“It was a great day for all – and fun to share our love of reading with the students,” shared Kiera Reilly, C’93, one of the Penn Serves board members.

ICEF team members hope to make the event an annual fall event and hope Penn Serves will continue to be part of its success going forward.

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Penn Serves LA volunteers, ICEF staff and students are excited about reading!

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ICEF Public Schools CEO Parker Hudnut (in purple shirt) poses with Penn Serves LA, students and one of the children’s book authors at the ICEF Literacy Festival

You can see more photos from the ICEF Public Schools Literacy day here.

About Penn Serves LA

pennservesla_logo_final-1

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.

Join Us

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.

Upcoming Events

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

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:

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Kiera R., Los Angeles, Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

Penn Serves LA Helps L.A. Kitchen Feed the Hungry and Reduce Food Waste

By Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16

In Los Angeles, 18 million pounds of food are disposed of every day, most of which goes into incinerators or landfill. L.A. Kitchen wants to empower, nourish and engage our community. They achieve this by reclaiming and repurposing healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded, converting bruised fruits and vegetables into healthy meals for seniors and the disadvantaged. On Saturday, November 12th, 35 Penn alumni and friends washed, chopped and prepped hundreds and hundreds of pounds of vegetables, while our kid volunteers created 200 gorgeous salads in cups. We worked alongside L.A. Kitchen’s fabulous staff and trainees, the formerly unemployed who are receiving superb training for jobs in the food industry.

We learned about the work and values of L.A. Kitchen, before our training in the proper use of lethal knives. The elderly need healthy meals, imperfect looking food can feed the multitudes, employees deserve a living wage…hunger is not about a lack of food!

Penn Serves LA instruction by LA Kitchen for knife use

Penn Serves LA volunteers watch as an L.A. Kitchen team member teaches the proper way to slice a potato with a sharp knife

Penn Serves LA volunteers with green beans at L.A. Kitchen

Penn Serves LA volunteers excited about opening these bags of green beans to prep them for salads at L.A. Kitchen

The Penn volunteers cried through onion chopping, carefully seasoned raw chicken, and transformed bushels of hideous potatoes into gorgeous tasty, diced bits. Everyone stayed and worked for hours, finally disinfecting all surfaces, washing all of our dishes, mopping the floors and readying L.A. Kitchen for the next shift. All of the Penn Serves LA volunteers left in awe of the dedicated crew at L.A. Kitchen and their noble mission to insure that neither food nor people should go to waste.

 

Salads prepared by Penn Serves LA volunteers at L.A. Kitchen

Fresh salads prepared by Penn Serves LA volunteers at L.A. Kitchen are ready to go

 

pennservesla_logo_final-1

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.

Penn Serves LA volunteers with L.A. Kitchen after food prep

Penn Serves LA volunteers pose with members of L.A. Kitchen after a morning spent chopping, slicing and dicing food.

Join Us

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.

Upcoming Events

  • January 7, 2017 – Blankets of Love (Manhattan Beach)
  • January 26, 2017 – Penn Serves Social
  • March, 2017 – Food Forward Harvesting
  • April, 29, 2017 – Habitat for Humanity

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

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:

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Filed under Los Angeles, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

Penn Serves LA Helps Rescued Rabbits

Penn Serves LA assisted at a bunny rescue adoption event on March 12, 2016. Here is the report of their day by Denise Winner, W’83

Rabbit 4 the bunny

Did you know there are more than 5,000 bunnies seeking homes in the Los Angeles? And, did you know that rabbits can be house trained and make wonderful pets? Penn Serves spent an afternoon nuzzling, cuddling, playing and socializing with the abandoned bunnies. Alumni nestled in the crates with one to three bunnies, each bunny having its unique personality – bashful, adorable, playful, and super huggable!

The Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation battles the escalating over population of bunnies. Its mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and place abandoned rabbits. Weekly, the Foundation hosts rescue events at Centinela Feed in Los Angeles. The rescue is always looking for volunteers. And, for those of you interested in trying out a bunny, consider fostering a rabbit. For more information, contact losangelesrabbits@earthlink.net.

Penn Serves LA has many terrific projects for all ages on the calendar for the coming months.

Upcoming Penn Serves LA events:

About Penn Serves LA

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.

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Denise Winner, W’83 | Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00 | Irene Park, C’05 | Jeff Weston, C’05

Read about our previous events:

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Filed under Alumni Programming, Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

PennServes Picks Packs of Peppers at Westside Food Bank

Penn Serves LA visited the Westside Food Bank in Santa Monica on October 24 to lend a hand. Here is the report of their day by Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16.
18,000 pounds of fresh pears, apples and peppers arrived yesterday, to everyone’s surprise, at the Westside Food Bank.  In a few days it would rot… Quakers to the rescue!
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Feeling pumped following last night’s under-the-lights football win over Yale, over twenty-five members of the Penn family met at the Westside Food Bank to pitch in for another worthy and enjoyable Penn Serves LA project.  The food bank distributes 4.5 million pounds of food each year to 70 local social service agencies.  Half of this food is donated through collection drives by churches, synagogues, schools, the mail carriers, etc., and in addition, the Westside Food Bank purchases an average of $16,500 worth of nutritious food each week.  We were shown a moving video about the work of the Food Bank, the grateful recipients, and the importance of distributing healthy foods:  more produce and protein, less sugar and fat.
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We were shocked to learn that the beautiful food we gleaned and packed today would have been thrown out by farmers were it not for the Food Bank’s efforts to collect healthy produce to assist our food insecure friends in LA.  They pay a small amount to have this food trucked in, and whenever it arrives they need to quickly sort it and box it so that people can “shop” at local agencies for wonderful farm fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Quakers built and filled boxes and worked in the hot sun to get the job done.  As usual, we had all ages and all schools represented.  The time flew by and the last box of peppers found its way into the cooler – we took care of 18,000 pounds of produce and felt good knowing a few thousand people would enjoy healthy snacks this week because of our efforts.

About Penn Serves LA

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!

Upcoming Penn Serves LA events:

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.

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Denise Winner, W’83 | Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Aileen Level, C’99, GED’00 | Irene Park, C’05 | Jeff Weston, C’05

Penn Serves LA has many terrific projects for all ages on the calendar for the coming months.

Read about our previous events:

See the video about the WestSide Food Bank:

 

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Filed under Kiera R., Los Angeles, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering