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Volunteer Opportunities in SF Bay Area

Many people glean a sense of personal fulfillment from contributing to the betterment or their community and world. However, a majority of us are unaware of the plentitude and versatility of volunteer opportunities and organizations operating within our communities. As one of the most culturally diverse regions in the nation, the San Francisco Bay Area is particularly rich with such opportunities. Most of these are fairly accessible to the public and are varied enough that there’s literally something for most people who want to get involved- or who stand to benefit from the organizations that thousands of dedicated volunteers make possible. When it comes to volunteer efforts and the causes they support, San Francisco’s organizations are as diverse as its population. We’ve put together a versatile list of volunteer opportunities, organizations, and events- and how to access them if you’re interested in volunteering or taking advantage of them.


Partner in Action with a Worldwide Venture


Partners in Action is one of the Bay Area’s most well-known sustainable community planning resource. For over 30 years, this organization has played an integral role in serving communities in need on a worldwide level. Partners in Action’s mission is to uplift children and families out of poverty by building sustainable communities. Volunteers of all applicable ages are needed at all times during the year. What’s more, Partners in Action has strong links to some of the nation and world’s most prominent volunteer services that benefit worldwide communities.


If you’re interested in embarking on a Mission Trip, opportunities are so abundant that you are invited to reach out with a cause, geographical location, or specific organization in mind to be considered. For example, if you have a vested interest in a specific program type such as those that offer services or raise funds for orphanages or schools, Partners in Action will find a trip for you. All you have to do is express your interest, and the organization will provide you with Mission Trip options. All you need to know is your own personal mission or purpose.


Partners in Action partners with a broad spectrum of non-profit organizations that currently play pioneering roles in entrepreneurialism, innovation, and cross-sector collaboration with diverse communities around the globe. Volunteer opportunities are provided through these sustainability ventures and affiliate organizations. What we love about Partners in Action is that it gives volunteers a chance to combine a love of travel with a purpose. Experience is always more fulfilling when it contributes to a worthy cause or unites diverse communities in the name of giving. Partners in Action works to unite countries in humanitarian efforts, and we can’t imagine a more productive way to expand your horizons.


Art Lovers Unite (for a Good Cause)


Precita Eyes Muralists integrate visual art with the art of giving in San Francisco inner cities. If you’ve been on foot in San Francisco, there’s a high chance you’ve beheld the beauty of a Precita Eyes mural (even though you may not have realized it). For more than 40 years, the organization has been making art a part of daily life for many underprivileged communities within San Francisco. Hundreds of Precita Eyes murals add a splash of color and creativity to local buildings, schools, parks, and even on utility boxes throughout the Mission District. This artful organization works with local kids and street artists (of which San Francisco has many) to commission pieces. The key objective is to provide an outlet for creative expression to the city as a whole.


To get involved, go to the organization’s website, where you can purchase tickets for an art tour led by Precita Eyes founder Susan Cervantes every third Saturday of the month. Led by both Cervantes and various volunteer artists, these tours lead you straight into the heart of the city, where historic murals by Precita Eyes await around every corner. Proceeds from ticket sales help support Precita programs and operations in the Mission.


A beautiful, oceanic mural located in downtown SF

An Award-winning Youth-Centered Mission


Volunteer opportunities and programs that aid youth in the SF Bay Area focus on mentoring, sustainable living, art, filmmaking, and more

Fresh Lifelines for Youth is a nonprofit that intervenes to break the cycle of juvenile violence, crime, and incarceration. The group’s core programs focus on legal education and implement leadership training to redirect the energy of at-risk youth. Serving youth from ages 11-24 who are currently or formerly at risk of justice system involvement, Fresh Lifelines for Youth (or FLY) is often a life-saving program. Inspiringly, the core programs are based on ideas from youth who were facing years or life in prison, but turned their lives around.


FLY familiarizes kids with the law in extensive detail so that they understand the consequences of crime. But simply educating young people about these matters is not enough; kids who are deeply ingrained in crime at a young age have to be not only incentivized to make changes, but have the resources to do so. FLY provides opportunities for kids to do positive things for and within their communities to increase a sense of belonging as well as negate judgments they may be facing from outsiders. Many at-risk kids are all too easily labeled and then written off as “juvenile delinquents”, but FLY is committed to showing them they are more than that. The group realizes that kids are still developing and can’t do change the direction of their lives without immense support. That’s why they prioritize providing kids with positive adult role models who will support them throughout the process and help them take the necessary steps.


These core foundations have been strengthened over the years by partnerships with some of the best known youth development and crime prevention groups in the country. But FLY could not make this happen without the unwavering support and dedication of its volunteer base. To find out more about volunteer opportunities or become a FLY ambassador, contact the organization through their website. Ambassadors are invaluable assets for FLY, but so are volunteers who help in other ways. Organizations like this one are like complex machines: They’re the sum of many small parts that all work harmoniously together; without one the entire system would suffer. Simply spreading the word about FLY or hosting your own information-sharing event at home or work makes you an invaluable asset.


Haven’t got the time, space, or funds to host your own event? You can still help by hosting a table at FLY fundraising events. The unanimous goal is to get more people in the community involved in lifting up our youth (a.k.a. the members of the next adult generation).


Living The Good (Farm) Life- in San Francisco!


Although it’s now a community staple, Alemany Farm grew from humble roots. Originally a 3.5-acre junkyard nearby 1-280, the Farm is now the largest urban farm in San Francisco. Ripe with produce like fresh artichokes and succulent strawberries, Alemany Farm is owned and operated single-handedly by volunteers. They use the farmland to support their diverse causes, including environmental education, eco-conscious agriculture, and job skills. Volunteer opportunities with Alemany Farm exist in all three of those areas. So if you, like many California community members, are committed to strengthening the environment and economy via sustainable agriculture, Alemany Farm might be a great fit for you.


This group of volunteers helps clean up the city’s parks and make them more sustainable

Sustainable living and food production is an important cornerstone of preserving the world we live in, so your efforts go a long way. You’ll reap more immediate rewards from your harvest as well: All of the food grown on this farm is organic and provided for free to volunteers. And getting involved is super easy: Simply show up at Alemany Farm to volunteer at a community farm day- they’re held once every weekend.


Another program that fundamentally works to reform communities through sustainable living is Community Grows. This group actually began as a clean-up crew at Koshland Park in the Western Addition neighborhood. Their grassroots efforts shocked the community by raising $2 million for the renovation of the park, adding an expansive community garden and learning center. They followed up these impressive feats with two other local park renovations. Community Grows was officially established in 2008. Today they use spaces from eight renovated parks to teach children about to maintain garden-grown food sources and teach neighborhood children where their food comes from. Community Grows educational programs offer healthy cooking classes and teaches visitors how to grow their own produce- an invaluable skill for a generation whose environment is in increasing danger. Locally owned farms frequently act as educators for these programs.


You can get contribute your volunteer services at a monthly Garden Workday or at one of the many fundraising events planned throughout the year. Community Grows often hosts carnivals and restaurant events during which a large portion of your bill will be donated to help support Community Grows. In other words, just attending one of these events without signing up to be a volunteer is giving back to your community!


Foodies Unite for a Good Cause (and Yes, Good Food)


The Bread Project teaches community members in need more than just how to make a mean appetizer- they also provide them with transferable job skills and job placement in the food industry

Speaking of food, The Bread Project employs the most powerful tool in its arsenal to fight poverty: Muffins. Yes, you read that correctly. This organization works with refugees, immigrants, the formerly incarcerated, and community members who are trying to advance from minimum wage jobs to higher earning careers. The Bread Project offers Bakery Boot Camps that teach students the skills to pursue more advanced careers in the food industry. Although we certainly believe that formal education is important, it’s not everything- and it is expensive. Believe it or not, there are other reliable avenues to lucrative careers, some of which remain unexplored because they aren’t heavily advertised. With the right resources, it’s possible to break into the restaurant and cooking industry without an expensive culinary education, and The Bread Project extrapolates upon these to help prepare struggling community members for potential restaurant careers. They don’t limit their educational initiatives to helping their students become good chefs and bakers. Students also learn transferable skills that translate to higher-paying jobs and careers. Even better, The Bread Project assists with job placement and recruitment efforts once training is completed.


Getting involved is as simple and savory as grabbing a bite. Just head over to the small café managed by Bakery Boot Camp students, place a local catering order, or grab tickets to one of their fundraising dinners. The dinners are usually partnerships with well-loved local restaurants, so this may just be the most enjoyable volunteer effort you’ll ever make. You won’t have to lift a finger- except to pick up your fork and shovel in your dessert of choice.


The Tipping Point is another grassroots-based organization that helps facilitate employment for community members who are struggling financially. The reality is that one in five Bay Area residents are too poor to meet basic needs, such as making the rent or buying enough food. The Tipping Point partners with grassroots education, employment, housing, and wellness nonprofits in the Bay Area. The group also helps collect donations for these programs, doing extensive research on which organizations are optimal to work with. If you’d like to help, you can make a donation in support of The Tipping Point or one of its partners.


Civil Rights Advocacy


San Francisco is so full of civil rights advocacy programs that it would be virtually impossible to name even a fraction of them at once. But among the most notable and accomplished is CAIR-SFBA, whose mission is to protect and uphold the constitutional rights of the Muslim community. According to this organization, resources are scant in relation to the size of their task, which operates on many levels. (As you can imagine, protecting the constitutional rights of a minority community involves matters concerning business, the legal system, the economy, and more- all expensive ventures). For these reasons, CAIR-SFBA welcomes participation and support all year long.


A longstanding pillar in the community, CAIR-SFBA events often require volunteer work. Currently, the 25th Anniversary Banquet is scheduled for Saturday, November 9th at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Volunteers will be an important part of the event, and several dozen will be needed to host over 1,000 attendees.


To volunteer at the banquet, you can fill out a simple volunteer application by Thursday, August 31st. Applicants will be required to attend a mandatory volunteer orientation and venue walk-through during the months before the event. For any direct questions about volunteer opportunities, you can email at the volunteer coordinator cmagnus@cair.com.


Our favorite thing about volunteer opportunities with CAIR-SFBA is the diversity and creativity of them. In 2019 alone, CAIR-SFBA is seeking volunteers in the areas of graphic design, administrative and operations support, videography, event planning support, marketing, translation, and Jumman outreach. Volunteer opportunities are apparently very flexible, which is another benefit for the typically super-busy population of San Francisco. Also, CAIR-SFBA volunteer opportunities are available in various areas of interest for all community members aged 16 and older. The group also offers flexibility with volunteer opportunities, which comes in handy as most people have to squeeze volunteer efforts into already busy schedules.


Make an Imprint


Do you have a passion for PR or event planning? Imprint City takes popular culture and social events such as music festivals to San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. Historically, arts and entertainment are a huge part of restoring economic conditions and initiating development in any city. It’s a fact that applies tenfold in San Francisco. The city is a veritable melting pot of culture and diversity, and there’s a high demand for entertainment. Luckily, this means that the field of arts and entertainment also holds a world of potential for economic growth.


Imprint City is led by a former art consultant with the fine-tuned knowledge and skills to assess and fulfill the entertainment needs of any given community. Although this non-profit organization was founded only two years ago, it has already drawn more than 5,000 people to events and festivals (such as the Bayview LIVE Festival, which was an out-of-the-ballpark hit. Over 50 artists have performed at Imprint City events and projects, which also garner support for San Francisco-based artists. The Sprayview, a popular outdoor art museum on Egbert Avenue, is a frequent venue of choice for Imprint City events.


To get involved, you can donate to Imprint City or simply sit back and enjoy a show. When you buy tickets to one of Imprint City’s events, such as the Bayview LIVE Festival in October, the proceeds go to the organization’s initiatives. We applaud efforts to not only restore the economy of struggling communities, but also cultivate its art scene as a way to bring in revenue and enhance the quality of life for city dwellers.


Creative Initiatives for a Better Community


Organizations like Queer Women of Color bring representation to a culturally diverse population in film- and help you do the same

Where better to celebrate gay pride than San Francisco? And what better way to do it than support films about queer women in an effort to shift the film industry toward celebratory attitudes regarding the queer community? (That was a rhetorical question). As the name suggests, Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project focuses on homosexual women of color. This organization has funded and supported over 200 films about queer women of color. A cursory glance at Netflix shows that these efforts have paid off in terms of gaining representation for the black queer population on television. It would be wonderful enough if the organization was simply backing and making films. But they also offer a training program for aspiring filmmakers as well as videography, editing, production, and consultation services for films that align with their social justice initiatives.


You can provide your support and goodwill by attending the Queer Women of Color Film Festival in 2019. There are also volunteer opportunities within the event.


In a similar but unique vein, an organization called 826 Valencia was founded by a world-class author Dave Eggers. (You may have read The Circle or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius). The organization was born when several of Eggers’ teacher friends in the Bay Area confided to him that they couldn’t provide some kids struggling with reading and writing enough individualized attention. With the help of Ninive Calegari, the author embarked upon a mission to help 6-18 year old Bay Area children learn creative writing skills. In support of their goal, they created books, magazines, and newspapers. They also provided field trips with literary these and in-school education programs. Because Eggers recognized the importance of individualized attention in the academic development of struggling students, his organization provided individual support. 826 Valencia has served nearly 7,000 students since it was founded in 2002.


You can get directly involved in this project by volunteering to tutor or work with students. Publications by 826 Valencia are available for purchase, bolstering the kids’ self-confidence as well as the project’s imperatives. You can also pay a visit to Eggers’ Pirate Supply Store, which sells such fairy tale items as eye patches and “mermaid bait”, (Whatever mermaid bait is, it sounds fun).


Standing Up for Medical Initiatives


Shanti Project, named for the Sanskrit word that translates to “peace”, offers help for SF-based terminal illness, life-threatening conditions, and disability. Services include in-home care, assistance navigating the often complicated medical systems, and emotional support. At the heart of Shanti Project is a program specifically designed for women with cancer, individuals with HIV or Hepatitis C, and LGBQT seniors. Shanti Project recognizes that loneliness is often a component in serious or terminal illnesses. For those who are feeling isolated and interested in connecting with a pet, Shanti offers a program that connects people with pets. The program is called PAWS, and it has volunteer opportunities for people who want to provide peer support to sick individuals or assist with pet care.


Organizations like Shanti Project, PAWS, and Rocket Dog all connect humans and animals in unique ways

While we’re on the subject of four-legged friends, Rocket Dog Rescue is an organization on a mission to save dogs who are scheduled to be euthanized from Bay Area shelters. Typically, these dogs have been classified as unadoptable due to advanced age or temperament. Rocket Dog Rescue recognizes that what is deemed as poor temperament is often due to lack of training and at least partially rehabilitative. Of course, shelter life is also stressful for dogs and impactful on behavior. Rocket Dog objectives are objectives are to place dogs with foster families just as one would children without homes. They also provide training services that rehabilitate foster dogs who need it and works with foster dog parents to find forever homes for the animals. Rocket Dog has saved more than 8,000 dogs from being euthanized over the last 15 years.


Volunteer opportunities are open to community members who want to help plan events, assist at adoptions, and help manage PR on social media. Naturally, there is also always the option of fostering a pup in need.


As we mentioned earlier, it’s impossible to cover even a fraction of the volunteer opportunities available in such a diverse community. But we hope we’ve given you some viable options and a new, more comprehensive outlook on the San Francisco volunteer community.

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