Charity & Grassroots in California

Select Local Merchants

If you've ever stood on the second floor of the Los Angeles Central Public Library and marveled at the explosion of color within the rotunda or the 12 adjacent murals depicting California history, then you have the Los Angeles Conservancy to thank. When the library was scheduled for demolition in the mid-1970s, concerned citizens formed the Conservancy to save the rotunda, the exterior limestone sculptures, and the library's many other architectural treasures. The group finally convinced the City Council to preserve the library in 1983, after years of public discussion, debate, and book-sniffing sit-ins. Ever since, it has advocated for greater Los Angeles's historic sites and educated people about the city's architectural heritage. The Conservancy is responsible for saving and revitalizing landmarks such as the former Cathedral of St. Vibiana, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, and the world’s oldest remaining McDonald’s restaurant.

To accomplish its mission, the membership-based nonprofit offers a number of ways people can experience these beautiful and storied places. The Last Remaining Seats series earned a Reader Recommendation for Best Film Series and Best Downtown Event in the Los Angeles Downtown News' 2012 poll, in which the conservancy’s walking tours also earned the title of Best Downtown Tour. But the organization does more than save grandiose public buildings: increasingly, it also focuses on smaller community projects such as garden apartments and sites that reflect the area's rich Latino culture.

Executive director and 20-year Conservancy veteran Linda Dishman explained to Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times, "People are becoming more vocal. …That's one of the great secrets about Los Angeles: People really identify with their neighborhoods." The Conservancy also presents annual preservation awards to honor the efforts of individuals who fight to save places such as Pann’s Coffee Shop and Griffith Observatory.

523 West 6th Street
Los Angeles,
CA
US

At each of several one-day festivals held throughout the country, thousands of revelers unite in an epic clash of pulp, beer, and live music. Armed with a cache of 300,000 tomatoes, participants don protective bathing suits and goggles and hurl the fruit at one another during a two-hour battle. Throughout the afternoon, live music and costume contests offer an entertaining respite from the front lines, as bartenders dispense drafts of beer to attendees older than 21, refueling soldiers' morale before they resign to writing goodbye letters to their produce vendors back home. All tomatoes used during the event are past ripe and already fated for disposal, making the battle an efficient means of tossing them before their cursed transformation into singing Muppets.

404 Euclid Ave
San Diego,
CA
US

• For $36, you get a seat in section 201–203 or 213–230 (a $54.20 value before fees, or up to a $71.50 value online, including all ticketing fees). • For $56, you get a seat in section 113–120 (a $94.20 value before fees, or up to a $112.90 value online, including all ticketing fees).

525 W Santa Clara St
San Jose,
CA
US

While students at Temple of Poi, , a school of movement and flow arts, perfect their fire-wielding skills, they also focus on channeling balance and harmony within themselves. Classes are designed to not only to help students develop techniques, but to also help them rejuvenate through performance and meditation and improve mind awareness, discipline, and self-empowerment. To keep these experiences safe, the staff stresses fire safety, and only encourages those who feel ready to dance with flames to do so. And those who are not yet ready can join the skilled dancers and perform at festivals and special events.

With students ranging in age from 9 to 82, crackling hot flames whizz by as dancers twirl their ropes of fire in mesmerizing circles. For these dancers, fire is a form of self-expression. They set hula-hoops and staffs afire, and perform duets with the fans of flames. Though they make it look effortless, these masters of the art were once novices, who learned their techniques at Temple of Poi.

Temple of Poi’s instructors teach fire-dancing classes with several props. In beginner and intermediate poi classes, students set fire to balls suspended from a handle, which create brilliant circles of flames when swung. Hula-hoop and staff classes also allow students to create a dazzling show with props doused in seemingly everlasting flames.

26 7th St
San Francisco,
CA
US

Public land is a vital part of any community. It provides a space for people to explore nature and engage in physical activity. It also protects local wildlife in a habitat that cannot be breached. The San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust fills all of these needs along a stretch of the gentle San Joaquin River. At this park, locals can hike along a nature trail and spot native birds or canoe downstream and learn about the issues affecting the water. Summer camps give kids an opportunity to be expressive and inquisitive outside with hands-on activities, crafts, and canoeing. Sycamore Island, similarly, recreates that camp experience for adults with wildlife trails, fishing excursions, and picnicking under the Sycamore and Oak trees that aren't already claimed by mischievous fairy-folk.

11605 Old Friant Rd
Fresno,
CA
US

The growl of lions and tigers will be replaced by the growls of guitars as the Sactopalooza Spring Party lights up the Sacramento Zoo with music from tribute bands and DJ Rigatony. No Duh blasts a high-energy pop set based on the music of No Doubt with a number of visuals, costumes, and props from the band’s music videos. Nominated for Best Tribute Band at the 2010 San Diego Music Awards, the Red Not Chili Peppers fill the air with classic funk-rock melodies and the four-chord password that grants entry to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to the concerts, attendees can partake in hands-on activities such as mechanical bull riding and gladiator jousting with foam poles.

The Sactopalooza Spring Party is the largest annual fundraising event for the Active 20-30 Club of Sacramento. This group of 20- to 30-year-old volunteers works year-round to improve the lives of local children with special needs. In addition to raising funds for children, the group organizes hands-on events to interact with children at an annual picnic, winter clothing drives, and a holiday party at the UC Davis cancer center. Proceeds from the party helps support these events and the organization’s work with children throughout the region.

3901 Land Park Drive
Sacramento,
CA
US