As the holiday season picks up steam, we’re excited to spread a little extra cheer through organizations that are doing incredible work in our local communities. Outreach and community engagement are amongst our founding principles at Touchstone, whether it’s raising money for the Access Fund or giving our neighbors an opportunity to try out climbing for the first time. This year, LA Boulders, Cliffs of Id, and Hollywood Boulders are doing it especially right with Giving Trees for My Friend’s Place.
My Friend’s Place is an independent nonprofit organization that “assists and inspires homeless youth to build self-sufficient lives.” Today, through their professionally-staffed Resource Center and comprehensive community programs, My Friend’s Place provides vital resources to roughly half of Los Angeles’ youth experiencing homelessness.
LA Boulders first got on board with the Giving Trees in 2015 when Remi Moehring managed the gym. “I heard of My Friend’s Place during an NPR segment featuring their facility that was on during my commute to LA.B,” Remi explained. “They serve nearly half the homeless youth in LA by providing them with shelter, clothing, and other resources such as creative arts workshops, employment readiness support, computer training, voter registration, and much more. They even boast a circus arts program, created by Cirque du Soleil and Jeunesse du Monde, which combines circus techniques with educational social intervention to foster self-confidence, trust, and teamwork.
I spoke to Director of Development Susan Dutra shortly after the segment aired and asked her if there was any way that Touchstone could get involved. Hearing how the holidays were a more difficult time for the youth they support made me so emotional that I was willing to do basically whatever they asked, so of course I said yes to the Giving Tree!”
The Giving Trees are trees (or decorative posts, as the case may be) covered in ornaments labeled with gift requests—typically things like socks, underwear, and drug store gift cards. Members and guests pick ornaments off the trees and return with the labeled item. The gym later collects all the donations and drops them off at My Friend’s Place. As an added bonus, the gyms give the givers a free day or guest pass for their generosity.
The trees have been hugely successful in the past: “Last year, our members were so responsive in donating gifts that we had to ask Susan for another gift list,” Remi remembers. “It was overwhelming and the climbing community really came through, as I knew they would.”
Since then, the Touchstone South family has grown considerably, as has our support of My Friend’s Place. Remi has brought the Giving Trees to Cliffs of Id, while LA Boulders’ manager Holly Rock continues the tradition and Nash Anderson joins the fun at Hollywood Boulders.
“We at LA.B are happy to be a part of helping out the community at My Friends Place,” Holly enthused. “We are always looking for opportunities to get involved with the surrounding community and give back, whether by offering outreach events for underserved groups or by involving our members in providing resources for those who are experiencing homelessness. It warms our hearts to help out and serve the community!”
Nash Anderson agrees. “We have been working with My Friends Place for a few years now and are honored to continue to support them for the holidays. The Giving Tree was successful last year, and the whole community enjoys getting involved; from our staff to our members.”
This year’s trees will be up until December 12, so be sure to pay them a visit and make a difference during your next gym session!