Volunteers join in historic day of service 

Serve LA hosted more than 4,000 volunteers Saturday who worked on projects to serve community members of all ages — and rescue dogs. (Anthony Le | Daily Trojan)

This past Saturday, the USC and UCLA communities came together to collaborate in service to the Los Angeles community in a citywide service day: Serve LA 2022. USC and UCLA Volunteer Centers organized the event in collaboration with over 40 community partners across L.A.  Volunteers engaged in a variety of projects ranging from beautification to education.

One partnering organization was USC Madhatter Knits, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to knitting hats for babies who were born prematurely. 

“These hats are essential for stabilizing [the babies’] body temperature and allowing them to leave the NICU a little bit sooner,” said Kathryn Huang, president and founder of Madhatter Knits and a senior majoring in civil engineering (building science).

By taking part in the Serve LA event, Madhatter Knits hoped to expose their mission of advocating for preemies to a broader community. 

“We do center around donating our hats to low-income areas, especially those who don’t have the financial means to support so many things,” Huang said. “So using these hats, we kind of serve as more of an emotional support as well as a sign that the community is thinking of them.” 

Over 20 volunteers arrived Saturday to knit Halloween-themed pumpkin and candy corn hats. The volunteers sat together, filling the room with conversation and laughter as their fingers and hooks weaved through the circle loom — creating the stitches of a hat. 

Los Angeles Libros Festival, the largest bilingual book festival in Los Angeles, was the first large event the L.A. Public Library hosted since it reopened to the public in the summer of 2021. (Anthony Le | Daily Trojan)

“This is my first volunteering event with the volunteer center, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Malaika Jamal, a junior majoring in cognitive science. “But I was pleasantly surprised. I thought this club was really cool, really easy, great instructions and I actually made really nice friends right off the bat.”

Volunteers, such as Jamal and Bryneé Evans, a junior majoring in psychology, said they intend to keep volunteering with Madhatter Knits in the future. 

“I like how hands-on it is because people have to do work to get it done,” said Evans.  “I also like the message of Madhatter Knits because I think it’s really important and it’s nice that we get to help babies and make hats for them.”

In addition to serving community members of all ages, volunteers also worked with four-legged friends. One animal-focused organization that volunteers collaborated with was Wags and Walks, a 501(c)(3) all-breed dog rescue based in L.A. 

In addition to saving dogs, Chloe Esperiquette, Wags and Walks’ development and marketing manager, said that the organization aims to educate the community about “how amazing rescue dogs can be.” 

On Saturday, around 15 volunteers walked and played with the dogs to keep them happy, healthy and comfortable outside their kennels as the dogs waited to meet their “forever families.” 

“[Our founder] moved out here to L.A. and started volunteering with organizations and realized just how many dogs were being put down in shelters really for no good reason,” Esperiquette said. 

Wags and Walks offers opportunities to walk the rescue dogs from the shelter, handle the dogs at various events and advocate for the dogs. Volunteers can also do “freedom runs” from the shelter to the adoption center, and help transport the dogs to veterinary appointments from the shelter. Those interested in spending more time with the dogs can also look into fostering the rescue pets anywhere from a week to months, a service which saves lives.

Daniel Hong, a sophomore majoring in accounting, cleaned headstones at the Los Angeles National Cemetery as part of Serve LA 2022. (Christina Chkarboul | Daily Trojan)

Volunteers also served the community outside of USC’s campus and into the downtown Los Angeles area. The Los Angeles Public Library collaborated with LA librería and REFORMA Los Angeles to host the Los Angeles Libros Festival, a free bilingual book festival for children, teens and their families. 

Tatiana Ortiz Cordonero, the community outreach librarian at the L.A. Public Library, explained the happy coincidence of the second day of the festival falling on the same day as Serve LA, and her excitement in inviting college students to join the event. 

LA Libros Festival, the largest bilingual book festival in L.A., was the first large event that the library hosted since reopening to the public. Throughout the event on Saturday, attendees enjoyed entertainment including Spanish-language and bilingual storytelling, performances, workshops and award-winning authors. Volunteers welcomed attendees, brought out photo booths, helped with arts and crafts and overall provided support in bringing the event together. 

On Friday, the library also hosted a virtual version of the event in partnership with 21 schools across the city. Through streamed sessions in classrooms, students connected with authors and music and interacted with arts and crafts sent to the schools the week prior.

Isabella Ramirez, L.A. Public Library’s volunteer engagement librarian, said “college students are 10 times one of the hardest demographics to get to the library.” 

“People think libraries are just buildings with books, but there’s so much more to it, and this is such a great opportunity to get a younger generation to see exactly what we do,” Ramirez said.