LOS ANGELES -- Decked out in a Dodgers apron and blue Santa's hat, Andre Ethier paid another visit to the downtown Union Rescue Mission last week to serve food to the hungry.
Ethier has been donating his time to the facility for six years, and it's more than just a photo op. He has seen so many of the needy on repeat visits that he has a better appreciation for society's unfortunate than most.
But Ethier doesn't turn and run from Los Angeles' neediest. Instead, he shows up and helps. In addition to the food giveaways that he and partner Farmer John have delivered, Ethier and his wife, Maggie, donated $75,000 to fund a makeover to the Mission's learning center and created a scholarship program.
His contribution helped secure two instructors for the learning center and set in motion improvements to the center such as new paint, furniture and supplies. Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising students prepared design plans for the enhancements of the learning center, which were unveiled to Ethier.
"This is a lot bigger than I intended," a surprised Ethier said after viewing the renderings. "I didn't know it would be to this level. I can see a lot of people put a lot of effort into this to help get people back on their feet.
"This is part of being with the Dodgers. To make sure I stay involved in the community. I knew I would make a donation this year and I came to them and asked how they would like to use it and they came back to me with the idea of a learning center."
The Dodgers outfielder has also served food to the homeless at the Weingart Center and has been active in the local community since joining the club in 2006. In addition to the visits to the Union Rescue Mission, Ethier has participated in several Make-A-Wish Foundation projects.
In fact, an hour before his trip to the Union Rescue Mission last week, he was at Dodger Stadium and was introduced to 10-year-old cancer patient Emily Lomeli. Ethier gave Emily and her family a complete behind-the-scenes tour of the ballpark and the renovated clubhouse.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.