Since 1973 Project Shepherd has made holiday wishes come true for thousands of Lakewood residents in need. The neighbor-to-neighbor assistance program has collected canned goods, dry staples, toys and simple gifts in an effort to spread holiday cheer to struggling single moms, out-of-work parents, youngsters and lonely seniors who may otherwise face a bleak Christmas.
Project Shepherd operates via the work of volunteers from the Rotary Club of Lakewood, Lakewood schools, and many Lakewood organizations and individuals. They help collect food items, sort and package the gift bundles, and assist with their distribution to the needy. The Lakewood city family -- through the city’s Recreation and Community Services Department -- helps Project Shepherd with warehouse space and the review of recipient applications. Click to volunteer.
Over 40 years define a caring community – A closer look
Led by Jackie Rynerson and staff from the City of Lakewood Recreation and Community Services Department, community volunteers formed the Lakewood Coordinating Council in 1973. It was through this community coalition that the Project Shepherd program originated.
As the program became a fixture in the community, more community involvement occurred. In 1979, the Lakewood Rotary Club took over the role that the Lakewood Coordinating Council had held.They created a Project Shepherd Committee composed of Rotarians, community members, and city staff members. Initially created as a Holiday Assistance Program, Lakewood Rotary realized there was a need to continue the community service support for those in need year round. Known as the Project Shepherd Extension Program, this program was initiated in 1982 to provide emergency assistance for Lakewood residents who found themselves in need of emergency food, transportation, and payment of utility bills.
In 1995, the Project Shepherd Teddy Bear Tree was conceived to help bolster the increased need for toys and gifts for children. This program allows the public to purchase specifically requested gift items for individual children registered through the Project Shepherd Program. Teddy Bear Trees are displayed at every City of Lakewood facility, the Lakewood Center mall and local businesses.
The grassroots idea of making the holidays brighter for Lakewood’s needy has now grown into a mountain of generosity.Since the first canned ham was donated in 1973, the program has assisted well over 10,000 Lakewood Residents.
Teddy Bear Tree program
Reaching out to Lakewood’s young people with a special gift is yet another way Project Shepherd makes the holidays brighter. The Project Shepherd Teddy Bear Tree program (at many locations, including inside the Lakewood Center mall) encourages needy kids to hang their holiday gift wish on a Teddy Bear Tree in the hope of having it filled by an anonymous “Santa.”
Each teddy bear ornament has the name of a child and his or her wish for the one gift that will make this holiday a happy one. In seasons past, the Teddy Bear Tree program has filled more than twenty trees with personal requests for a special toy or gift.
A little food goes a long way
Each year registration for the holiday assistance program kicks off in November at both the Burns Community Center and Palms Park community center.
The big canned food collection gets underway with the Boy Scouts’ annual “Scouting for Food” drive. Last year, more than 200 scouts canvassed Lakewood neighborhoods and collected 100 boxes of canned and dry food items. Local businesses, churches and residents also contribute to Project Shepherd and 20 Lakewood elementary, middle, and high schools also hold enormously successful canned food drives.
The donated goods are delivered to a Warehouse where the sorting begins. More than 85,000 canned goods are put into gift boxes by hundreds of volunteers – many of them high school students.The donated gift boxes include all the fixings for a delicious holiday dinner.
One week before Christmas, recipients are invited to pick up their items or have them home delivered.
Project Shepherd needs your help
Project Shepherd collects cash donations and gifts of staple food items to help hundreds of Lakewood families in need. Donations are made primarily during the winter holidays, but are welcomed throughout the year.
If you would like to assist people in need in Lakewood, your donation can be sent to:
Lakewood Project Shepherd
c/o Rotary Club of Lakewood
5050 Clark Avenue
Lakewood, California 90712
Cash contributions are fully deductible on both state and federal income tax returns. (Project Shepherd’s federal tax identification number is 91-2044777. The program’s state tax identification number is 22570575.)
During the Christmas holiday season donations of food items, cash, and gifts may be made through the Burns Community Center at 562-925-7512.
Project Shepherd FAQs
Q. What does Project Shepherd need?
A. Project Shepherd needs dry, non-perishable food items (sugar, flour, rice, and beans) and canned goods sufficient to make family meals for four or five days.
Project Shepherd also needs new gifts appropriate for all ages -- toys for youngsters, CD's for teenagers, and practical items (umbrellas, clothing, and grooming items) for seniors. And, Project Shepherd needs your volunteer time. Volunteers pick up donations, sort and pack gift boxes, and deliver gifts to those who cannot come to the warehouse.
Q. How much should a cash donation be?
A. The cash equivalent for the groceries for a traditional holiday dinner for four is a good amount. Checks must be made out to “Lakewood Project Shepherd.”
Everything donated to Project Shepherd goes to those who need it most.
Project Shepherd: A year-round effort
Q. How are recipients evaluated?
A. Requests for assistance are reviewed to determine if the applicant meets Project Shepherd’s criteria. Applicants must be Lakewood residents (determined by a current Lakewood mailing address and utility billing) and meet income restrictions.
As the December holiday season comes around, we are reminded of those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Over 2,000 individuals living in Lakewood, many of them children and seniors will not be able to enjoy the holidays without the food, gifts and toys that many of us take for granted. Click for CityTV video.
Project Shepherd makes the December holidays a bit more comfortable for those who are low income or unemployed. A Project Shepherd box of staple food items and the makings for a traditional holiday dinner come with simple gifts--a toy for a toddler, a warm sweater for a senior, or a CD for a teenager facing a bleak Christmas. Donations of food and toys are needed and can be dropped off at Lakewood City Hall and most parks and community centers.
If you would like to make a financial contribution, please send your donation to: Lakewood Project Shepherd, c/o The Rotary Club of Lakewood, 5050 Clark Avenue, Lakewood, CA 90712. For more information or to find out about volunteer opportunities, please contact the Burns Community Center at 562-925-7512.
Donations can be dropped off at the Burns Community Center, 5510 Clark Avenue, Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Closed Sunday.
Donations can be dropped off at the Palms Park Community Center, 12350 E. 207th Street, Monday through Friday, 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Donations can also be brought to the Lakewood Youth Center at 4658 Woodruff Avenue in Lakewood.