LOS ANGELES – Mr. Douglas Emhoff, the Second Gentleman of the United States, met with local volunteers in Van Nuys, Calif., to help pack groceries for underserved community members and learn more about volunteering in the local community. 

Mr. Emhoff joined a dozen AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP volunteers and AmeriCorps VISTA members as they prepared groceries for older adults, including unhoused and low-income families at Jewish Family Service LA’s SOVA Food Pantry, Van Nuys location, which is a station of the AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP project sponsor L.A. Works.

The Second Gentleman returned to Los Angeles with Vice President Harris, who was in San Bernardino to announce $600 million in federal dollars to restore damage from wildfires that have burned millions of acres in California since 2020. Emhoff spent his afternoon learning from volunteers why they commit their time to serve others. 

AmeriCorps annually invests millions of federal dollars in local nonprofit, community, tribal, and state organizations like L.A. Works. In LA County, that equates to nearly $21.5 million in federal funding to support organizations serving in nearly 600 sites.

“L.A. Works depends on partnerships with organizations like AmeriCorps and the Biden-Harris Administration to help us meet critical community needs,” said Deborah Brutchey, executive director, L.A. Works. “It makes a difference to have the Second Gentleman promote the importance of volunteerism and share our message that service is an important element in creating more equitable communities.”

Through its programs, L.A. Works mobilizes more than 800 AmeriCorps members and tens of thousands of corporate and community volunteers each year. For the last two years, L.A. Works prioritized opportunities that focused on hunger relief, brought on by the economic and logistical hardships of COVID; the growing educational learning gap; and COVID testing and vaccine support, which was a new need unseen before. L.A. Works has continued to coordinate these and other opportunities for Angelenos to serve across all issue areas, in all neighborhoods of Los Angeles, throughout the year.

“The pandemic has made life harder for our clients and has made our services more necessary than ever for so many people in Los Angeles who are feeling the economic and mental health consequences,” said Eli Veitzer, president & CEO, Jewish Family Service LA. “Through it all, many volunteers have found ways to continue their good work and have helped connect people to a community of support and hope when they need it most. The success of our vital work depends on the heartfelt commitments of our family of volunteers, and we are truly grateful for them."

For more than 40 years, Jewish Family Service LA’s SOVA Community Food & Resource Program has been a critical resource for people in Los Angeles who are hungry. SOVA provides free and nutritious groceries, counseling and case management, and connection to community resources. Throughout the pandemic, SOVA rapidly transitioned and expanded its services, providing food to more than 5,800 people each month, bringing groceries to the doors over 1,300 home-bound older and disabled adults each month, and delivering phone and video access to multilingual social workers for benefit enrollment and other critical needs.

Additionally, AmeriCorps research demonstrates that more often than those who don’t volunteer, volunteers talk to neighbors more often, participate in civic organizations, address community issues, attend public meetings, discuss local issues with family and friends, do favors for neighbors, and vote in local elections. 

Since the start of the pandemic, AmeriCorps members have assisted more than 12.3 million Americans, including providing support for testing and vaccination efforts, assisting food banks, and helping students stay on track in school.

Images available for use