In the summer of 2018, Ethan Kim, Mason Pirkey, and Edwin Tieu founded The La Cañada Charity, a student-led organization dedicated to promoting charity in various communities.
In the August heat, the three rising high school sophomores set up a small lawn table, several donation stations, and a mini workplace to collect clothes, canned foods, and toys. In two hours, donors donated discarded items, trinkets handed down through several generations, and newly bought necessities.
When the sun began to set, the 2018 charity event ended, and the three weary photography club members began counting the 150 donations, charting plans for distribution and transportation. The event was, to the three founders, a one-time event, a simple project initially created to incentive greater participation in charity.
Yet, it continued.
“Inspired by their peers, a group of local students is hosting a donation drive they’re calling La Cañada Charity on Saturday, Aug. 4, at Memorial Park.”
– Outlook News
In 2019, the three founders wondered if setting up a second charity event was a good idea. While the first event was a success, they all agreed that if they do a second event, it should be considerably larger for a greater amount of donations and community participation. Therefore, with the help of social media and local newspapers, they more than tripled their number of volunteers to get more work done.
Through constant social media promotions and coordination with the local City Hall for a Solicitor’s ID, the charity was able to have an even larger second event. On the same August heat, the eleven volunteers held a two-hour charity event under a large tent, surrounded by garbage bags filled with toys, canned food, and clothes.
In the end, they transported the 1200 donations to a local church, all organized in specific categories for the convivence of local church programs. When finished, The La Cañada Charity was certain of a third event. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Valley Sun, Ethan Kim, the president of the charity, said, “And the fourth annual, the year after that. It will go on.”
In a separate interview, Kim said, “The purpose was to promote the idea of charity. It was a success. We quadrupled the submissions from last year. We will definitely do it again next year. Hopefully, it will be a bigger event.”
“La Cañada Charity, a group comprised of La Cañada High School students who hope to help individuals and families in need, held its second annual donation drive Sunday afternoon in Memorial Park.”
-Los Angeles Times Valley Sun
While the charity was ready to make its third annual charity event their largest project ever, COVID-19 unexpectedly hit and prevented large social gatherings. Although the charity would wait until a few weeks before their usual August date, they began a mini project in April of 2020.
In association with the charity, the organization’s treasurer, Edwin Tieu, began a project that aimed at creating and donating homemade face shields to hospitals. Tieu donated and manufactured around 50 face shields to Keck Medicine at USC and 150 to the City of Hope Hospital in South Pasadena. The shields were composed of durable rubber foam, double-sided tape, velcro, plastic sheets, and staples.
This project eventually would become apart of Project Virtus.
In May 2020, the charity made a defining decision. In an Outspoken Oppa article, the charity’s president said, “The La Cañada Charity, Return Love Organization, and VHH Volunteering club is entering in a partnership to donate face masks and shields to Verdugo Hills Hospitals. I will be representing the LC Charity, Bo Yang will represent Return Love Organization, and Arthur Khayat will represent the VHH Volunteering club.”
The partnership was named “Project Virtus” because “Virtus” in Latin means “Virtue.”
On May 12th, the three organizations manufactured hundreds of masks and delivered them to hospital representatives. The project was conducted mainly to manufacture homemade face shields in a cooperative venture and to encourage others to also donate face shields.
Eventually, in August 2020, The La Cañada Charity officially canceled its previously scheduled 2020 charity, citing concerns of public health and the inability to obtain a Solicitor’s ID due to the LA Public Health Office’s prohibitions.
Later, in September 2020, The Outspoken Oppa, The La Cañada Charity, Return Love Organization, and the LCHS Medical Club became official partners after a joint consensus of each organization’s respective leaders.
Finally, since every single staff member of The La Cañada Charity will be graduating high school soon, it is only appropriate for the president to appoint his successor. In April 2021, Ethan is expected to announce the charity’s next president.
“I remember sitting in Mason’s house in June 2018 and talking about our family members growing up in poverty. It was a casual conversation until I suggested we should do a charity event over the summer. Mason thought it was a good idea, and, after Edwin agreed, The La Cañada Charity began. Fast forward nearly three years, the charity expanded and received thousands of donations, something all three of us are proud of. While the charity is a student-led organization numerous people worked hard on, the driving virtue behind its initial conception should ring true in every community. Any donation, no matter how minuscule or monumental, can greatly impact the lives of the seemingly less fortunate.”
-Ethan Kim, president of The La Cañada Charity