Volunteers are the Backbone of CII

April 19, 2021
Rebecca Hutchinson

CII relies on our amazing network of volunteers year round but Volunteer Appreciation Week gives us a special opportunity to formally thank and recognize the dedicated individuals and corporations who support CII’s work and mission. Last fiscal year (ending July 30, 2020), almost 10,000 volunteers contributed more than an astonishing 100,000 hours of service plus resources to support the children and families in our programs. Over the last 12 months of the pandemic, the needs of our families have changed and intensified significantly, and even though we had to pause our in-person volunteering efforts, CII’s team of volunteers have shown up like never before:

Volunteer Groups

As our classrooms and after-school programs pivoted to distance learning overnight last March, our volunteer groups didn’t skip a beat. The Junior League of Los Angeles made their seasonal activities Zoom-friendly and guided children and their families through fun activities from the comfort and safety of their homes. Together, they baked pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving, made gooey Christmas slime, decorated cookies for Valentine’s Day, and read together during the Thrive Through Literacy event. Each virtual gathering featured a fun, educational element like playing a game or reading a story aloud. UCLA School of Dentistry’s American Student Dental Association: Pediatric and Teenage Outreach Committee gave a series of remote oral health presentations to our families in both English and Spanish. L.A. Works’ R.S.V.P volunteers made Cesar Chavez’s legacy come to life for CII children by creating coloring booklets to document history through art and crafts. And, as part of our collaboration with Downey Federal Credit Union, their staff hosted 11 virtual workshops on financial literacy for families and also donated food to families in crisis.


As nimble as we were in transitioning to virtual services, hundreds of our individual volunteers also flexed their time and resources. Thanks to a generous grant from The Carl & Roberta Deutsch Foundation, we were thrilled to honor one of our extraordinary parent volunteers, Maria Orellana, with the HALO Award. See the video here.

Through our partnership with the 2020 Census campaign, twenty-three community volunteers including stand-outs Sherika Simms and Blanca Gonzales donated more than 7,600 hours to engage and educate community members on the importance of completing the Census. They led efforts around phone banking, door-to-door canvassing and virtual workshops, participated in community events, and were instrumental in strengthening our ties in the community. The wonderful DiNapoli family provided reading segments on YouTube for our virtual Winter Festival, and also donated $1,500 in toys and books to the event. Shangrila Rendon completed a jaw-dropping 23 Ironman-distance triathlons in 34 days and set a new World Record while raising funds for CII and donating running shoes to kids in our programs. There were several other examples of generosity at the holidays with our staff rallying their networks to donate their stimulus checks, as well as more toys and books for Winter Festival. Singer/songwriter Billie Eilish donated generously to Winter Festival as well.

Support and Fundraising Groups

We are always profoundly grateful to the volunteers in CII’s three fundraising support groups and this year was no exception. The Colleagues donated funds to purchase toys and games given out to families at Winter Festival. They are also sponsoring 90 dorm kits for our Individualized Transition Skills Program (ITSP) high school graduates to take to college; these will be handed out at their Dream BIG Graduation on June 10. C.H.I.P.S (Colleagues Helpers in Philanthropic Service) are providing 500 care packages to CII CalWORKs, ITSP, Innovations, Head Start and Project Fatherhood participants at our CII WORKS event in May. And Les Amies adopted our Incredible Years Parent Group, an interactive, virtual group focused on parenting skills and parent-child relationships that meets over 20 weeks. They create toy care packages to distribute to the children enrolled.

The UCLA Latino Alumni Association and a collaborative of Filmcraft L.A., Film Tools, Filmcraft Studio Gear, Production Gear Rentals, Quixote Studios, Illuminar, and Women In Media held toy drives bringing $1,000 and $3,700 worth of toys respectively to CII children and broad smiles to their faces. Loyola Marymount University donated $2,000 in in-kind goods such as diapers, strollers, newborn hygiene kits, toys and other essential items to help a baby thrive. The Onward Scholars Program of St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy’s middle schoolers raised funds to assemble 20 care boxes for our families. Each box included a blanket, socks, headsets, a reading book, a coloring book and box of colored pencils, and face masks.

Board of Trustees

CII’s 25-member volunteer Board of Trustees is our guiding and governing body. The time they volunteer to provide oversight of our mission and work is invaluable and we owe each of them an enormous debt of gratitude for their varied and selfless contributions. This year, we especially recognize two members – Bridget Gless Keller and Lisa Baker Morgan. Bridget chairs our Watts Building Committee, which oversees every aspect of our new Building on Success campus, slated to open this fall. Lisa Baker Morgan, a Cordon-Bleu trained chef and author, is hosting a series of virtual cooking classes to raise funds for CII. Back for an encore after her successful October debut, Dinner in Paris showcases seasonal recipes and welcomes attendees into Lisa’s beautiful home kitchen as she guides them in making a delicious meal with her trademark humor and fun. To date, the classes have raised over $40,000.

Chef Lisa cooking in her kitchen

On behalf of the CII staff and all our children and families, thank you so much to our amazing volunteers! We couldn’t do it without you.