Voices
Open image in lightbox
In a photo from 2012, Assistance League volunteer Pacita Tan, a former doctor, assists regular customer Ronald Hale. (photo: John Mattera Photography)

It may not be the North Pole, but this building on 8th Street at Weymouth Corners is buzzing with activity. 

The Assistance League of San Pedro-South Bay, a non-profit agency, operates the only fully functioning all volunteer-run stand-alone post office in the United States. It has a small-town Mayberry feel where customers are warmly welcomed, and if you don’t meet a new friend, you will more than likely run into somebody you know. 

There are more than 350 volunteers who come from every walk of life at the Assistance League, including retired engineers and teachers. On the day I was there, a retired doctor from Kaiser was volunteering at the postal window. All volunteers must become members of the Assistance League, and if they want to volunteer in the post office, they receive specialized training. The Assistance League also has a gift and consignment shop that sells See’s Candy, amongst other gift items. All the money generated goes back into the community through their charitable work. 

During the holidays, Christmas music plays in their holiday boutique, as volunteers keep busy in all areas of this large building. Since 1936, the Assistance League has devoted its efforts to the needs of families and to the blind in the community. Their philanthropic programs are supported by their gift and consignment shop, a U.S. Postal Service Contract Station, and fundraising efforts. 

Ad for Grand Annex in San Pedro California

One of their charitable programs is Operation School Bell. Children and their parents who are experiencing poverty meet Assistance League volunteers at Target and are given a $100 gift card that can be used for school clothing and shoes. Volunteers are on hand to help the children learn how to shop and provide support. Shopping events are held throughout the school year. Last year, they supported 1,624 children. By providing the families with gift cards, the children are treated with dignity and able to select new items of their choice. One child had been wearing a pair of shoes that had no soles, as they were handed down so many times. She was so happy to have new shoes that she started to cry, prompting the volunteer who was helping her to shed a few tears herself. She no longer had to wear shoes that were falling apart thanks to Operation School Bell. Each child is also given school supplies and hygiene products. 

The Assistance League also operates a dental center for low-income children, which is open three days a week and serves 400 patients. An accredited dental team provides low-cost dental and orthodontic care to children ages six months to 21-years-old. Dr. Momand, the dentist who runs the center, not only provides dental care, but also coaches her high school patients on their future, and discusses options like college, trade schools, and the military. Her whole child approach focuses on the well-being of every child she treats, and she addresses topics with her patients on vaping and eating too much sugar if she sees evidence of either while treating them. Clients pay through Denti-Cal benefits or a $10 fee. 

Weavers is another program run by the Assistance League and is for visually challenged adults. The Weavers attend a luncheon put on by the League every month, which includes musical entertainment and transportation to and from the event. Other philanthropic programs include Operation Hug, which provides new teddy bears to children in hospitals. In addition, youth in 7th grade and up can become volunteers in the Assisteens program. 

Known as the best-kept secret in town, Assistance League volunteers are known to be very giving. “They are beyond generous. They give time and money, as they have to pay to be a member to volunteer,” states Michele Kielbasa, an Assistance League member. “The volunteers bring so much joy to the kids, the blind, and to the lower-income families who cannot afford certain things that we maybe take for granted,” she adds. spt 

Assistance League San Pedro-South Bay is located at 1441 W. 8th Street in San Pedro and can be reached at (310) 832-8355. For more info, visit sanpedrosouthbay.assistanceleague.org. 

photo of san pedro today author Jennifer Marquez

Jennifer Marquez

Jennifer Marquez can be reached at  jennifertmarquez@yahoo.com  and @jenntmqz on Twitter and Instagram.

Comments

Ad for Grand Annex in San Pedro California