Get a jumpstart on resolutions by giving at the holidays

In this season of giving thanks, the COURIER would like to shine a light on a group of do-gooders that year in and year out have brought smiles and comfort to man and beast alike.

These organizations are no doubt worthy, but to focus on just four nonprofits in Claremont is like saluting one soldier at Arlington: there are just so many deserving candidates.

Still, here are some of our best and brightest bringers of goodness. Please enjoy, and better yet, lend your support to these admirable altruists.

Back when the first cars were rumbling west on the new Route 66 interstate highway toward California, Claremont’s AbilityFirst was beginning to provide programs designed to assist people with disabilities transition from childhood to adult life.

“In 1926, a group of businessmen from the Los Angeles Rotary Club reached out to help children affected by the pre-vaccine polio epidemic,” according to AbilityFirst’s website. “These visionary men, looking beyond crippling physical disabilities, saw children and capabilities first and sought ways to help these children flourish and thrive. Out of this seed of compassion and concern, AbilityFirst—with all the promise of its cornerstone belief in capability—was born.”

Originally named the Crippled Children’s Society of Southern California, the nonprofit rebranded to AbilityFirst in 2000 “to better reflect our mission, vision, and commitment to celebrating the unique abilities of every individual.”

AbilityFirst pioneered some of the first community services in California for children with disabilities, including the design and construction of one of the first fully accessible camps in the nation, opening one of the first vocational training programs in the country for adults with disabilities, and being a forerunner in supported employment helping adults with developmental disabilities succeed in community jobs.

AbilityFirst also sponsored and helped to secure passage of state Senate Bill 309, so young adults with developmental disabilities could attend after school programs throughout high school.

They also have an aquatics program that offers warm water exercise classes, ideal for promoting joint flexibility, range of motion, muscle tone, group and private swim lessons, as well as open swim times for the entire community.

AbilityFirst is located at 480 S. Indian Hill Blvd. in Claremont. To get involved, donate or learn more, go to or call (909) 621-4727.


Helping the economy

Though smaller in size, The Economy Shop, at 325 W. First St., Claremont, is just as ambitious in scope, and almost as longstanding.

The Economy Shop is just about the most quaint little thrift store in existence, but that unassuming appearance belies its reach as a longtime generous donor to several local nonprofits.

The tiny shop, which began operation in 1933 at another location in town, is open seasonally in the fall. It stocks a small selection of well curated donations of clean, quality merchandise, neatly displayed.

It got its start as an affordable place for local citrus industry field workers to purchase clothing and household goods during the Depression. In 1948, the volunteer organization acquired the old telephone switching station at 325 W. First St., and in January of 1949, officially opened as The Economy Shop. The building is easily recognizable today by its bright blue awning and modest window displays that are charmingly juxtaposed against the increasingly upscale shopping destinations of its Village neighbors.

The nonprofit is staffed entirely by volunteers, with 100 percent of its annual proceeds given to local charities. These include Inland Valley Hope Partners, the Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program (CHAP), Claremont Senior Services, the Claremont After School Program (CLASP), Crossroads, Dignity Caps at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, Project Sister, Shoes That Fit and Uncommon Good.

The Economy Shop is always grateful for community volunteers and donations of clean clothing, small household goods, jewelry and books. All donations are tax deductible. Operating hours are limited to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

More information, including how to donate or volunteer, is available by calling (909) 626-7334.


Our music treasure

Another local treasure of a nonprofit that has been around for a good long time is the Claremont Community School of Music.

The school arose from humble beginnings. In 1970, four music teachers—noting the void created by cuts in public school music programs—conceived the idea for the creation of a community school of music and began giving lessons in a church basement.

Now located at 951 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont, CCSM’s faculty provides musical instruction to students from diverse backgrounds at all levels of musical development in piano, voice, guitar, ukulele, violin, viola, cello, bass, brass, woodwinds, drums, percussion, harp, organ, bagpipes, as well as music theory and early childhood music.

Claremont Community School of Music is a member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts, the National Federation of Music Clubs, and boasts several faculty holding membership in the Music Teachers of California professional society.

The school has received the support of the city of Claremont, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the Weingart Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Ahmanson Foundation, the Union Pacific Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, McMaster Carr Corporation, and the Claremont Community Foundation, among others, for what will soon be 50 years of work in music education.

The Claremont Community School of Music’s mission is to enrich the lives of individuals and the community through music; to provide outstanding instruction for amateur and aspiring professional musicians of all ages; to reach out to the community through diverse programs and public performances; to promote and nurture a lifelong passion for music; and to make music education available to all.

For information on classes, lessons and how to give, go to or call (909) 624-3012.


Pets give each and every day

Finally, Priceless Pets, founded in 2007, has made a lasting impact on the community in its 12 years of operation. The nonprofit is a no-kill pet rescue operating at “The Orphanage,” 665 E. Foothill Blvd., Unit E, Claremont.

All of the animals at Priceless Pets are rescued from surrounding high-kill, high-access shelters, from owner surrenders on a case-by-case basis, and from other various circumstances.

A word of caution to the soft-hearted, or those with a need or want for a new pet: one visit will likely end your pet-less existence. The mostly dogs and cats are near irresistible, and adoption is available onsite. It’s a process, to be sure, and the nonprofit is understandably stringent in its requirements for adoptees. But those “puppy dog eyes” are everywhere…it’s downright tantalizing.

“Adopting from a no-kill shelter is the best way to help end pet homelessness,” according to the nonprofit’s website. “Opening your home and heart to shelter animals will change your and their lives forever. You are giving these animals a well-deserved second chance.”

Those wishing to support the nonprofit in another way can stop by from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 7 at the Claremont location, 665 E. Foothill Blvd., Unit E, to get a photo of their pet (or people) with Santa. The cost is $15 for a few digital copies of the photo by professional photographer, tireless pet rescuer, Claremont resident and Priceless Pets volunteer Lara Jenkins.

“People can also bring cats, bunnies, turtles, hamsters, guinea pigs, kids,  grandparents,” Ms. Jenkins said. “You bring it, I will photograph it with Santa.”

Priceless Pets is open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m.; Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The nonprofit has additional locations in Chino Hills and Costa Mesa.

For more information, including how to get involved, donate, adopt or surrender an animal, go to or call (909) 203-3695.

—Mick Rhodes


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