April 13, 2010
From the number of empty and dilapidated storefronts, Westwood seems to have lost a lot of its luster. The village’s main drag exhibits telltale signs of blight, graffiti and regular habitation by the homeless.
But the spirit to reclaim Westwood is strong. To bring back some of Westwood’s shine, the UCLA Volunteer Center and the Westwood Community Council are teaming up to launch the first-ever Westwood Organized Mega Project (WOMP!) on Saturday, April 17, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
And UCLA staff, faculty and students, together with Westwood employees and residents, can lend a hand to work with local businesses on a series of projects intended to refurbish and beautify the village.
“We want to jumpstart relationships with the Westwood community,” said David Bloome, campaign director with the Volunteer Center. “The main thrust of this is working together to restore the majesty of Westwood.”
Bloome and the Volunteer Center originally were approached about a possible project by alumnus Steven Sann, partner in NINETHIRTY restaurant at the W Los Angeles Hotel, and chair of the Westwood Community Council. “I count my volunteer experiences at UCLA side by side with other aspects of my education; it’s as important in shaping who I am and what I’m about, and one of the things I hold very dear,” said Sann.
Last September on Volunteer Day, student volunteers went to work beautifying a local school. Volunteers for WOMP! will be planting trees, painting and shining up street lamps and benches in Westwood.
Sann said he was thrilled “and proud to be a Bruin” when he heard about the creation of the UCLA Volunteer Center and what was accomplished with the first Volunteer Day in September. “The scope and breadth told me that this was something that was deeply rooted in the core values of UCLA and this administration,” he said. “I saw all these amazing projects going on throughout the city, and I said, ‘Wow, we need to be a part of this here in the village.’”
The Westwood Community Council and the Volunteer Center are getting geared up for the first of what they hope will become an annual event. Volunteers will meet at Yamato restaurant at the corner of Broxton and Kinross, where they will be treated to a continental breakfast hosted by NINETHIRTY. After a brief pep rally, volunteers will be assigned to various restoration projects.
Volunteers will be painting, planting trees and restoring street lamps, benches and village directories. “We sat down with [the Westwood community], and we got a wish list of the different kinds of projects they wished would be done,” Bloome said. While these projects are being completed, staff and students from the UCLA School of Nursing will provide outreach to homeless individuals.
At noon the volunteers will gather for a special lunch hosted by Napa Valley Grille, with entertainment provided by a live DJ. Participants will also leave WOMP! with t-shirts from Urban Outfitters, baseball caps from the UCLA Volunteer Center, knapsacks from Sarah Leonard Fine Jewelers, bottled water from Ace Beverage Co. and fresh fruit snacks (sponsored by Westwood Village Farmers’ Market). Additionally, the Village and Bruin Theatres have donated movie tickets as a special bonus for student volunteers.
Ultimately, aside from the swag and a day of giving back, organizers at the Volunteer Center and the Community Council said they hope that WOMP! will unite the efforts of all of Westwood’s denizens and help people rediscover their hometown.
“As a business owner and someone involved with our community council, I would like to rekindle that feeling and that spark — a sense of pride and ownership of the village not just among students, but for all members of the UCLA community.”