An L.A. native’s calling: helping others find their path to service

By Pete Levine ·

As the senior director of volunteerism and advocacy for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Melissa York, a member of AFSCME Local 800 (Council 36) and our latest Never Quit Service Award winner, connects the federation’s constituents with meaningful ways to give back to their community.

It is part of the Jewish law known as tikkun olam, or ‘repairing the world.’

That can take many forms. Whether it’s a beach clean-up, supporting L.A.’s unhoused community, or, in a more recent example, partnering with an organization called Miry’s List, which helps refugee families as they arrive in the United States, York tries to inspire her volunteers with the same sense of service that she was steeped in growing up.

“I remember learning from my grandmother and mother – you always step up and volunteer. You listen to people who are struggling around you,” said York. “I’m passionate about looking outside myself, finding ways to help the world around me.”

Just as York is a conduit for members of L.A.’s Jewish community who are looking to give back through social action, she experiences empowerment from serving that role.

“I feel like I can really make a difference,” said York. “I can be a part of a solution.”

Born at Cedars-Sinai and raised in Culver City, York graduated from UC-Santa Barbara and remains driven to give back to and improve the city that she calls home.

AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award seeks to recognize public service workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to make their communities better. Marlee Goldshine, who nominated York for the award, praises both her tirelessness and her flexibility.

“She has held multiple roles, making her portfolio very challenging,” said Goldshine in her nomination of York.

Of the service opportunities that York provides, Goldshine said, “She makes the little moments important, and the big moments meaningful. She is often unrecognized for her hard work and deserves the accolades.”

But while Goldshine and others see the power in the experiences York provides, York says she’s the one who benefits.

“It’s good for my own soul,” she says.

In the video below, watch York tell her story in her own words.