The mother was frantic. She pulled the car door, then tried another one, but all of them were locked. Her baby was inside the car, but so were her keys. She couldn’t open the car from the outside. How would she get her baby out? Fortunately, her friend called Chaverim of Los Angeles. The Chaverim members “literally came flying in,” says the mother.
“[C]ompetent and efficient – wasting no time opening my car door.”
The grateful mother wrote a letter thanking Chaverim. “Please don’t ever think that what you do is ‘simple’ or merely ‘helpful,’” she wrote. “In this case, you really spared a potentially disastrous situation.”
Chaverim of Los Angeles has helped many local parents in similar emergencies. “It happens to the best of us,” explained Ari Friedman, one of the founders. It’s easy for a toddler playing with the buttons on the car keys to lock himself inside. Cars heat up very quickly, especially here in Los Angeles, and such a lock out is a true emergency. Fortunately for our community, Chaverim members are available to help immediately.
Since September 2011, Chaverim has been serving the Hancock Park, Pico, and Valley Village neighborhoods. Chaverim also accepts non-emergency requests for assistance with lock outs, as well as car trouble, such as jump starts, flat tires, and running out of gas. About 95% of the calls are car-related, says Friedman. But some calls are unusual, such as a squirrel stuck inside a house or a remote control helicopter stuck in a tree. Once, Chaverim members used magnets to help somebody find jewelry that fell into a drain. Another time, they helped a family install an electric generator in their house, as a back-up power source for a family member who was on a ventilator.
Another area of Chaverim activities is helping with missing person searches. In this event Chaverim teams up with Hatzolah of Los Angeles. Hatzolah coordinates the search, and Chaverim provides additional resources. They dispatch volunteers who join the search, either by car or by foot. In addition to its own members, Chaverim also maintains a database of community members who are able to assist in a missing person search. Sometimes the situation is categorized as critical, for instance, when the person is elderly or ill and disoriented. In such cases, additional volunteers are crucial.
Chaverim of Los Angeles is modeled after similar organizations in other cities, but it is an independent organization. It was founded in response to a need within the local community. “We as individuals had received many phone calls about lockouts,” says Friedman. When asked why people called them personally, Friedman responds, “Our guys are just those people that would be there whenever there was a need for a lot of things.”
Eventually, the number of requests for help exceeded their time constraints, and so Friedman teamed up with Chaim Adelman to form Chaverim. They reached out to Chaverim chapters of Baltimore and Lakewood, which were very helpful with establishing procedures. Currently, Chaverim of Los Angeles responds to approximately four or five calls daily.
A registered non-profit organization, Chaverim is funded by donations. Their services are free of charge. Volunteers are provided with all the necessary equipment.
Chaverim of Los Angeles is looking to expand its reach. Currently, the organization has fourteen active members, but with an ever-increasing call volume, it’s not enough, explained Friedman. What does it take to become a volunteer? You need to be somewhat handy and to pass a criminal background check. The applications to become a Chaverim volunteer or to join Chaverim search database can be found on their website: chaverimla.org