This post is part of KPCC's "Season's Givings" series, chronicling volunteer experiences and opportunities during the holiday season. View a full listing of charitable organizations seeking help this season and let us know your holiday volunteer story!
"A lot of kids from the foster program didn't grow up with any type of guidance other than what they saw on TV," says Joseph Ruiz.
Ruiz is currently enrolled in a nursing program at West Coast University in Los Angeles. He discovered For Women Only by happenstance: by searching online for a local organization dedicated to young adults.
Open since 1995, For Women Only works with young adults from the ages of 18 to 22 who are coming out of the foster care and/or probation system. They aim to provide them the skills and knowledge to pursue a higher education. The organization was initially focused only on women who were recovering from substance abuse issues or domestic violence. More recently, it has shifted to assisting both men and women.
Ruiz said teens turn to For Women Only."when they want to go to school and they want to do something better with themselves, but they don't really have or know where to go to get the resources to help..." The organization provides young adults with the resources to go to college, get specialized training, or take prepatory courses.
Ruiz said that what the kids want is a shot at "what everybody else wants, to have a better life for themselves."
Jimmy Lucas wears multiple hats for the organization; she is president, executive director, and acting board secretary. For the past several weeks, she has also been manning a table daily at a Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica, raising donations in exchange for gift-wrapping. Five other employees work alongside Lucas.
Ruiz said that the team isn't permitted to directly ask people for donations in exchange for the service, but the bookstore's patrons have thus far been generous enough to aid in fundraising for the Walk-In Center. All proceeds from their wrapping go to the organization.
For Women Only has been trying to open a Walk-In Center for many months, but has come up short on funds. The center would work to provide assistance for young women between the ages of 18 through 24 through peer-to-peer mentoring, job training, resume postings, and providing internet and other services.
"If you can better your neighbor, your neighbor is going to better you, in my opinion," said Ruiz.
For Women Only is currently seeking volunteers to help Jimmy Lucas man the gift-wrapping table at the Barnes and Noble's Santa Monica branch, if you are interested please email her or call (323) 250-3537.