San Francisco

Here's How to Volunteer in San Francisco This Holiday Season

'Tis the season for giving back.

St. Anthony Foundation
St. Anthony Foundation
St. Anthony Foundation

It’s no secret that though it’s one of the best places to live on earth, San Francisco has its issues. And this year, we can all agree that a lot of those issues have been brought to life in a way that has shown how much work still needs to be done. Luckily, if there’s one thing many of us have right now, it’s more time than usual, which means more opportunities to volunteer. Whether you want to help the homeless, walk a homebound senior’s dog, or help fight for social justice, there are plenty of ways to give back to this community that will make others feel good (and might make you feel better, too).

San Francisco-Marin Food Bank
San Francisco-Marin Food Bank
San Francisco-Marin Food Bank

For those who want to help our unhoused and food-insecure neighbors

San Francisco’s homeless crisis is one of the worst in the country and it is only being made worse by COVID. Not only do we have the third largest population of homeless people in the United States, the percentage of those without shelter (somewhere around 67%) is abominable. Additionally, about 870,000 people in the Bay Area are food-insecure and hunger is more persuasive than ever. Needless to say, anything you can to do help out will be appreciated by those who have to go with a lot less.

GLIDE has been helping all kinds of San Franciscans for over 50 years and is on the forefront of addressing some of our biggest issues, including poverty, housing and homelessness, and racial and social justice. GLIDE has lots of volunteer opportunities, including serving meals, fundraising, and collecting items for care packages. Because of COVID, holiday volunteerism is a little different this year. If you’re interested, contact [email protected] or call 415-674-8081. 

The SF-Marin Food Bank works to make sure people get the food they need. They are in “dire need” of volunteers right now to staff their pop-up food pantries and to deliver meals to homes.

CityTeam helps to restore lives and communities and offers programs dedicated to helping the homeless, providing economic empowerment, and helping people “restore their lives from the grips of homelessness and addiction.” Their goal is to address immediate needs, but also enable lasting solutions. Learn more about how you can help by volunteering.

Bay Area Rescue Mission helps the unhoused starting with their basic needs and then turns the focus to their long-term recovery, including teaching skills to break substance addictions, job training, counseling, job placement, and more. There are all kinds of volunteer opportunities available from serving a meal to tutoring, and whether you want to volunteer once, regularly, or with a group, there are lots of ways for you to get involved.

Meals on Wheels San Francisco
Meals on Wheels San Francisco
Meals on Wheels San Francisco

The Curry Senior Center helps “low income and homeless seniors through a holistic care approach” and needs volunteers to help plan events, serve meals, play bingo (yes, please!), and more. 

Project Open Hand has been serving “meals with love” to neighbors who are alone and/or hungry for over 35 years and relies on over 125 people every single day to help prepare, package, and deliver meals. Find their most “pressing need” volunteer positions here and all other positions here.

Meals on Wheels San Francisco provides daily meals and safety checks to homebound seniors, which doesn’t just keep those seniors healthy and fed, but prevents loneliness and isolation. Volunteers do everything from making a friendly (virtual for now) social call to the same person every week, grocery shop for a homebound senior, deliver emergency kits (this is a great option for those who have limited time as you can sign up for one two-hour shift), make holiday cards, and more. See all volunteer opportunities here. Because of COVID, Meals on Wheels isn’t offering its traditional Thanksgiving meal delivery volunteer opportunities, but you can sign up to wish a happy holiday to seniors living at home alone. Every hour, you’ll brighten five people’s days over the phone.

St. Anthony Foundation provides meals, clean clothing, and support to those in need and is always looking for volunteers to help in the dining room, distribute groceries, and help sort clothing. Shifts are limited on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but there’s plenty to do all of the other days of the year. See volunteer opportunities here.

Food Runners picks up excess food from restaurants and delivers it to neighborhood food programs and is always looking for “food runners” to help. They ask for an hour a week and you can choose if you want to be a regular runner or on-call.

If you’re looking for more ways to help, the San Francisco Chronicle has an extensive directory of nonprofit groups that need donations and/or volunteers as part of its “SF Homeless Project.”

H.O.M.E.Y.
H.O.M.E.Y.
H.O.M.E.Y.

For those who’d like to help young people

If you’re passionate about working with kids, especially those in the Mission and Bayview who have been disproportionately affected by discrimination and poverty, take a look at HOMEY, a grassroots non-profit that identifies issues adversely affecting the young people in our community (with an eye towards the Latinx community) and helping to “empower” rather than “enable” them by “delivering hope, empowerment, leadership, culture, and most importantly love.” You can help with workshops that “focus on addressing and combating internalized oppression, discrimination, poverty, disenfranchisement and other social ills that can often take root in the Latino/a community,” do street outreach at schools and detention centers, help teach life skills and work readiness, and more. Learn more about volunteer opportunities here.

American Red Cross
American Red Cross
American Red Cross

For those who want to help in the healthcare field and those affected by disasters

Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, a lot of hospitals that typically rely on the help of volunteers have paused those programs, but here are a few places that could use your help right now. 

If and when disaster strikes, the American Red Cross needs thousands of volunteers to help support emergency shelters, including everything from registering people to feeding them. If you train now, you’ll be able to help immediately when your community needs it. 

Planned Parenthood is one of the country’s leading providers of essential and affordable health care and is the nation’s largest provider of sex education, and serves all people no matter what. They’re looking for volunteers to work as health center escorts, support education efforts, and more. Learn how you can get involved here.
 
Hospice by the Bay provides end-of-life care so that people can face it with dignity and comfort-and they also help support families and caregivers. It requires dedication and training to become a patient and family support volunteer, but even if you only have a few hours, you can spread holiday cheer (and hopefully get lots of donations) by wrapping gifts at the Town Center and Book Passage at Corte Madera all through December. 

There with Care provides all kinds of important services to families and children going through a medical crisis, including transportation, meals, home maintenance, and more. Right now the volunteer opportunities are a little more limited because volunteer training has been minimized, but you can still help by making care bags and clothing bundles at home, shopping for much-needed items, and participating in a virtual drive. See all of the COVID-friendly volunteer opportunities here.

Anti Police-Terror Project
Anti Police-Terror Project
Anti Police-Terror Project

For those who want to fight for social justice

This year has helped catapult the fight for racial, social, and economic justice to the front of everyone’s minds. Finally. There are so many ways to help: donate to programs that offer bail assistance, bringing meals to those on the front lines of the protests, help support the legal efforts of those helping people who need help in their personal fight, and more. Here are a few that could use your time and/or money.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area has been fighting for civil rights since 1968 in an attempt to achieve actual “justice for all.” The rely on volunteer attorneys, clerks, fellows, paralegals, and others for both our direct legal services and impact work. Even if you don’t have a legal background, there may still be ways you can help. Find out more here.

The Anti Police-Terror Project is a Black-led, multicultural coalition that “seeks to build a replicable and sustainable model to eradicate police terror in communities of color.” There are monthly virtual membership meetings where you can find out what’s going on and how you can help.

The East Oakland Collective is a member-based group serving the communities in East Oakland by working toward racial and economic equality. They focus on civic engagement and leadership, economic empowerment, homeless solutions and services in the form of food justice and housing justice, and neighborhood and transportation planning. Check out their volunteer opportunities here.

Friends of the San Francisco Public Library
Friends of the San Francisco Public Library
Friends of the San Francisco Public Library

For those who want to help with mentorship and education

There aren’t as many opportunities for in-person mentorship opportunities right now, but here are a few places looking for volunteers for bookworms, tutors, and more.

The San Francisco Public Library needs volunteers to help with all kinds of learning opportunities, including supporting youths by being a reading buddy, helping with homework, assisting at storytime, and more; fostering English language fluency and literacy; assisting Veterans; and bridging the digital divide. If you’re looking for a short-term volunteer opportunity, check out Friends of the San Francisco Public Library who need help with book events and online sales.

The Community Music Center makes “high quality music accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities, regardless of financial means” with students who are as young as a few months old and as old as almost 100. They’re always looking for volunteers who can help with everything from front office reception to concert setup. Learn more here.

Reading Partners needs people who can help with its online tutoring program. The training program is short and you only need to give one hour a week of your time. Learn more here.

Shanti Project
Shanti Project
Shanti Project

For animal lovers  

Again, because of the pandemic, a lot of places that usually need volunteers (like the SFSPCA) have paused their programs, but Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS), which helps care for the pets of people living with disability or illness by offering dog walking, transportation to the vet, monthly dog washes, emergency foster care, and more, is still looking for people. There are tons of ways to get involved, including much-needed emergency services right now (not all of which are animal-specific). 

Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA)
Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA)
Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA)

For those who want to help immigrants

Needless to say, immigration is one of the biggest issues in our country right now, and though we are so lucky to live in a sanctuary city, there’s still lots and lots of work to be done and ways you can help.

SF-CAIRS (San Francisco Coalition of Asylee, Immigrant, and Refugee Services) helps the Bay Area asylee, immigrant, and refugee community in all kinds of ways. From employment to education to legal services, they work to ensure all immigrants are able to live healthy, productive, and safe lives. Volunteer opportunities change based on what is currently needed, but there’s always a need for “at home humanitarians” who help newly arrived individuals and families answer any and all questions about American culture and processes, as well as provide opportunities for them to explore and make new friends. 

Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) is a membership-based community organizing and empowerment program that enables Latina immigrants to effectively advocate on their own behalf and so much more. They need English language tutors to help staff members strengthen their written and oral vocabulary, as well as to support fundraising efforts. Learn more here.

La Casa de las Madres
La Casa de las Madres
La Casa de las Madres

For those who want to help victims of abuse

Because of stay-at-home orders, there has been a surge of domestic abuse in 2020, and those people need services and help more than ever. Here are two places you can volunteer to help those who seek refuge.

W.O.M.A.N., Inc. has helped survivors of domestic violence in the Bay Area since 1978 through support lines, therapy, community education, and more. Volunteers are a crucial part of the organization and right now they’re looking for people who can help with the survivor support line. Find out more here

La Casa De Las Madres provides crisis response, emergency shelter, and other support services to women and children who are being exposed to or at risk of abuse. There are opportunities to provide support to survivors directly, as well as behind-the-scenes roles. Learn more here.

For those who want to help people struggling with mental illness or contemplating self-harm or suicide

There are concerns that because of stay-at-home restrictions this year, rates of suicide have increased. Whether or not that ends up being proven, there are still lots of people out there who are in distress and need someone to talk to. San Francisco Suicide Prevention is the oldest community-based telephone crisis center in the country and has over 150 active volunteers every year. If you’re a good listener who is caring, supportive, and up for a challenge, you can be the person who helps pull someone through a crisis, as well as gain life-saving skills that can be used everywhere. Learn more here.

For those who want to help the LGBTQIA+ community 

Unfortunately a lot of SF’s LGBT community centers and resources are temporarily closed, but you can still help.The LGBT National Youth Talkline provides peer-support and information in an effort to “help end the isolation and fear that many people who question their sexuality and/or gender go through.” Right now all of the volunteer opportunities are remote, so all you need is internet access and a private and safe space to be able to take calls. 

Family Giving Tree
Family Giving Tree
Family Giving Tree

For those who want to help with something holiday-specific

Family Giving Tree’s “Holiday Wish Drive” is going virtual this year, but that’s not going to stop them from providing gifts for Bay Area children, families, and seniors from low-income households. You can help by donating, leading a drive, or helping to sort, wrap, and prepare presents for distribution. 

LifeMoves helps homeless individuals and families return to permanent housing and helps to spread joy to those people over the holidays. Volunteering looks a little different this year, but there are still opportunities to donate, start a fundraiser, sponsor a meal, provide decorating kits, and more.
 

Daisy Barringer is an SF-based freelancer who thinks the Sunday celebrations at GLIDE are one of the best things the city has to offer. Right now, she’s watching them online. See how else she’s keeping busy during this time on her Instagram

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

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