By JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
Marquez Knolls resident Michelle Margiotta is reaching out to the community to join her for an opportunity to volunteer—while still adhering to social distancing.
Margiotta, 16, is making grab and go snack packs for families who are staying at the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House while their children are being cared for at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and hopes Palisadians will join her.
The LARMH helps families dealing with medical issues such as cancer, premature babies and other serious conditions. Typically, there is a stream of volunteers to help at the facility, but now with the Stay at Home order in place, there is a shortage of people to help make snack bags, which help families not have to worry about their next meal.
“We are so fortunate here in the Palisades,” Margiotta said to the Palisadian-Post, addressing the fact that not everyone has the ability to stock up on necessities.
This is an amazing volunteer opportunity that is perfect for families and individuals spending more time at home, Margiotta explained.
Currently a junior at Palisades Charter High School, Margiotta has lived in the Palisades since she was a young baby. She previously attended Marquez Charter Elementary and then St. Matthew’s Parish schools.
Margiotta has been a volunteer for the LARMH for most of the past four years, so she knows first hand that the snack packs have been a staple for families to bring to the hospital.
“It’s super fun to make,” Margiotta said.
Margiotta has created detailed instructions on how to assemble fairly inexpensive snack bags. Each bag includes a drink (water, juice, etc.) and four or five individually packed snacks, such as peanuts, pretzels, Goldfish crackers, cheese or Oreos.
“As long as there is a variety,” Margiotta said, “anything is appreciated.”
Margiotta touched on the fact that a lot of her friends don’t feel comfortable going to the grocery store, but all of the supplies can be ordered on Amazon.
“I have even created an Amazon list with ideas on what to purchase,” Margiotta explained.
Margiotta would like the bags to include a handmade note.
“I will personally pick up each snack bag that is made and deliver them to the facility in Hollywood,” she said.
She encouraged people to contact her if they have any questions. Community service hours will be provided for anyone interested.
“I will pick up, sign and re-deliver these forms as well,” she added.
Several of her friends in the Palisades are already helping, including Margot Barrett, Hasti Bazaei, Heather Marschall and Arielle Stalbow—all students at Pali High.
Margiotta is also collecting donations for those who want to participate but do not have the extra funds to purchase items on their own.
Margiotta is part the National Charity League, Inc., Westside Chapter, which is designed to encourage community service and volunteering opportunities for mothers and daughters in seventh to 12th grade. Each year they require a certain number of volunteer hours to be part of the organization.
“It’s an opportunity to gain leadership experience,” Margiotta said. “This year, since I was president, I got really motivated to do more philanthropy.”
She’s currently the president of the class of 2021 in the Westside Chapter of NCL, Inc., which partners with Ronald McDonald House Charities.
RMHC is an American independent nonprofit organization. Its mission is to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children.
“I felt really motivated to inspire others to do more than the minimum amount of hours they were supposed to do, so I just kept going,” Margiotta shared.
In only six months—from last August to March 2020—Margiotta clocked 110 volunteer hours, mostly at the LARMH.
Margiotta shared that most of the families she meets at LARMH are from rural America and that she has met families from other countries.
“I’ve also seen a mom and son from Nigeria, which was really cool,” Margiotta said.
She explained families come from around the world and throughout the country to receive treatment specifically at CHLA.
Before the Stay at Home order went into effect, Margiotta would go to LARMH on a Friday or Saturday afternoon at around 4 p.m. to make dinner for families, as well as things like lunches or snacks, so families would have something to eat when they returned from visiting the hospital.
“It’s hard for them to take a certain amount of time out of their day to cook food or even to get food,” Margiotta said. “Plus, it’s really expensive for them.”
RMHC has the core belief that these families, who have so much on their plate, should not have to worry about where their next meal will come from or where they will be able to sleep at night.
“Since we are no longer allowed in the facility physically, there’s a huge shortage of food because there’s nobody to basically provide it for them anymore, which is making it really hard for them,” Margiotta said.
Margiotta shared that she often makes friends with those who stay at the house for a longer period of time.
“There is one 8-year-old German boy, and we have a conversation on Google Translate and I teach him how to cook and it’s really fun,” she shared.
Margiotta also uses social media to follow a few people she has met, who she reported are doing well back at their homes.
Even with studying for the five AP classes she’s currently taking (Calculus, Environmental Science, Spanish, English and U.S. History), Margiotta finds time to keep volunteering.
Margiotta learned how to make paracord bracelets—known as survival bracelets—with NCL, Inc., and Operation Gratitude, which distributes them.
“I’ve been doing volunteer stuff like this and making paracord bracelets for people in the Army,” Margiotta said. The bracelets are another opportunity for students to log volunteer hours during the Stay at Home order.
The bracelets can be lifesaving for the military, who can wear them and in times of danger, open them up very quickly and use the cord for all sorts of situations.
Margiotta credited her experiences as a camp counselor and making friendship bracelets as the reasons why she was able to learn how to make the bracelets easily compared to some of her peers. Last week, Margiotta made 30 bracelets and mailed them in.
Margiotta also fits in several extracurricular activities. She’s on the swim team at Pali High and Westside Aquatics, as well as Club Water Polo and dancing.
“I dance at Fancy Feet,” she shared. “I’m on the highest level called Senior Company, so we do competitions and we perform at Palisades community events.”
In order to still see friends during the pandemic, Margiotta FaceTimes and texts her friends, and her family is trying to make the best of it.
“We have had a lot of movie and poker nights, and we go on walks a lot at the top of Lachman with our dogs,” Margiotta shared.
Her summer plans are up in the air while she waits to see if the Stay at Home order is lifted, but she had a 10-day internship planned at Cornell called Economics for Leaders.
Margiotta exemplifies how it’s still possible to make a difference from home.
To purchase something off of the Amazon wish list, visit amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/R8B23XCMO9CF?ref_=wl_share. To contact Margiotta about making snack bags, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story used an incorrect acronym for the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House. It has been updated with the correct acronym: LARMH.
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