April 18, 2010
At 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Westwood was crowded with hundreds of students dressed in blue volunteer shirts, looking to improve UCLA’s local neighborhood.
The Westwood Organized MEGA Project, a collaboration between the UCLA Volunteer Center and the Westwood Community Council, called on UCLA students and local merchants Saturday to improve and beautify Westwood Village.
Volunteers worked in groups to repaint lampposts and garbage cans, sweep trash off of sidewalks and remove graffiti and stickers from public property.
Students also used ladders and wire-cutters to remove light strands from the trees lining Gayley Avenue.
The lights had been there for so long that the trees had started to grow around them.
“I can’t remember a time when these lights were ever in use,” said Ashley Canfield, a third-year international development studies student and volunteer.
Along with beautification and improvement, the project involved outreach and medical care for the homeless population of Westwood.
Support for the homeless was provided by the UCLA School of Nursing and the Student Run Homeless Clinic at UCLA.
The volunteer center will be holding a follow-up volunteer day on May 1 to complete some of the improvements that were left unfinished, mainly the repainting of lampposts on Broxton Avenue.
The project featured free giveaways, live DJ music and food for the volunteers, all donated by local merchants and businesses.
Westwood merchants also covered the costs of materials such as paint, brushes and cleaning equipment.
The volunteer center expected about 250 students for the project but received a turnout of more than 300, said Antoinette Mongelli, executive director of the UCLA Volunteer Center.
“The spirit of generosity of the merchants, neighbors and students was overwhelming,” said Steve Sann, chair of the Westwood Community Council.
The council includes representatives from local homeowners, merchants and commercial property owners who are looking to restore and improve Westwood.
This was the first time a UCLA-sponsored event has targeted the beautification and improvement of Westwood Village, Mongelli said.
Before the founding of the volunteer center in September 2009, it was difficult to find the resources at UCLA to set up a project of this scope, Sann said.
Now, the volunteer center has provided a point of contact between Westwood community members and UCLA students who are interested in volunteering, he said.
While UCLA is engaged in community service throughout all of Los Angeles, the Westwood project emphasized the importance of giving back to UCLA’s local neighborhood, Mongelli said.
“The point is you don’t have to go far away to contribute. We want people to pay attention to the world that they live in, however they define that world,” Mongelli said.