Doing Better Where You Are

14 Volunteer Opportunities to Keep San Francisco Golden

From LGBTQ+ outreach programs to nonprofits helping the elderly, here are some ways to uphold the city’s golden epithet.

Open Hand

We could all use some good news right now, even if that means making it ourselves. Fortunately, San Francisco, as relatively small a city as it is, is filled with all sorts of organizations dedicated to giving back. Whether your idea of volunteering involves packing food for folks affected by sheltering in place, creative-writing tutoring, or dog-walking, here are 14 ways you can help SF right now.

For the community advocate

Volunteers at Rebuilding Together are trained to perform free home repairs and safety renovations for San Francisco’s elderly, disabled, and low-income residents. During COVID-19, volunteers are currently needed for their “Saving Face” program, which makes 1,000 masks a week for medical professionals and workers. You can also donate and participate in their monthly trivia nights, which support program funding, or sponsor a special benefit like the Builders & Brewers Event next spring.

The Free Farm Stand is a small, volunteer-run organization that has been distributing locally grown food for free in the Mission neighborhood for the last 11 years. Volunteering is limited due to shelter-in-place restrictions, however, if you cannot get involved by handing out pre-packaged food, the organization is also in need of organic produce, so if you grow your own, you can donate it to the cause. Disposable gloves, masks, and recycled plastic & paper bag donations are also urgently needed to continue distribution safely.

Project Open Hand is seeking volunteers to pack and deliver meals and weekly groceries to the city’s critically ill and physically vulnerable residents during social distancing. Check out their Volunteer Hot Spots page for regularly updated opportunities. You can also donate toiletries or face masks for folks in need, or individually wrapped lunches for the volunteers.

Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly

For the people person

If you’re looking for a way to connect with others, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly provides an opportunity to build friendships with the city’s 25,000 seniors who live alone. While regular volunteering opportunities include making holiday and birthday visits or escorting seniors for their hospital visits, during shelter in place orders, volunteers are especially needed to just check in over the phone to offer a friendly ear. You can also donate essential items like toiletries for their senior care kits.

Openhouse connects volunteers with LGBTQ+ seniors and adults with disabilities seeking housing, transportation, and medical services. They are currently looking for volunteers to run essential errands and make phone calls. If you are not available to make a call, Openhouse is also accepting funding and product donations for their senior care kits of toiletries, cleaning supplies, and pharmacy gift cards. 

If you’re available for grocery shopping, dog walking, or medication pickup, Shanti Project needs support assisting residents living with terminal or disabling illnesses and conditions. Get involved in their COVID Volunteer Program (CERV) for in-person opportunities, or donate by using their organization link on eligible purchases whenever you shop on Amazon.

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Musicians on Call

For the musically inclined

For anyone seeking a musical outlet, your talents are needed. Musicians On Call, which launched a San Francisco chapter in 2016, is looking for volunteer musicians and singers to participate in its Virtual Bedside Performance Program, which offers 30- to 60-minute live sessions to bedridden adults, seniors, and children. If you’re not musically gifted, but still want to help, you can donate to help fund the chapter.

826 Valencia

For the youth advocate

Remember that one book in English class you actually looked forward to reading and writing about? Well, 826 Valencia is the perfect opportunity to pass along that excitement for learning. Help low-income students find their voice and hone their creative-writing skills through online tutoring. Monetary donations are also accepted to help keep programs free for underprivileged students in the city.

Anyone obsessed with food-competition shows or who has surprised themselves with their newly discovered culinary skills should check out Sprouts Cooking Club, which educates underprivileged youth about healthy cooking and eating habits through its programs. Volunteers can currently participate in the Virtual Chef-Led Dinner Series by teaching a class or assisting with questions during sessions. Kitchenware, produce, and office-supply donations are also needed to support various programs and students.

Pomeroy Recreation & Rehabilitation Center

For helping the disenfranchised

The Pomeroy Recreation & Rehabilitation Center provides educational and recreational spaces where people with disabilities and trauma can safely participate. While social distancing remains in effect, Pomeroy is taking their programs virtual and needs volunteers to lead remote activities (as well as social media and tech-savvy volunteers to help promote and facilitate them). Classes offered include yoga & meditation sessions, cooking classes, and storytime segments, as well as art therapy, dance, and science classes for adults ages 20-90 or children and teens ages 5-19. 

If you're interested in women’s rights, San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) is a woman-of-color-led organization fighting for survivors of sexual violence through support and legal assistance. Volunteers are desperately needed for their 24-hour hotline to aid women and children stuck in abusive environments during the shelter-in-place order. SFWAR is open to all volunteers, especially self-identifying LBGTQ+, immigrant, and formerly incarcerated women, and offers state-certified sexual assault counselor training for volunteers interested in working directly with survivors.

For folks in the medical field with extra time to give back, the San Francisco Community Health Center (SFCHC) is looking for volunteer RNs for their Trans:Thrive resource center to provide healthcare services for the trans and homeless community. Nonmedical volunteers are also needed to help with virtual community support groups.

If you’ve got a legal background and can offer pro bono representation and/or counseling, Legal Assistance to the Elderly needs your help working with San Francisco's elderly and disabled. They’re seeking lawyers, paralegals, and law students to help with COVID-19 specific issues such as evictions and medical bills, as well as non-pandemic battles such as elder abuse, healthcare, and debt defense. Volunteers with experience in digital marketing and IT are also needed to aid in building the organization’s digital presence.

The LGBTQ+ volunteer-led Rainbow World Fund is focused on changing the international perception of the LGBTQ+ community providing essential medicine, food, and supplies to people affected by natural disasters, poverty, and oppression -- no matter their sexual orientation. Volunteers are needed for administrative work and helping with humanitarian trips such as eradicating landmines in Cambodia and assisting LGBT refugees in Iraq and Uganda. Monetary donations and wishlist contributions are also accepted.

Now you’re armed with the tools to build a better future for the Bay. Get out there, virtually (or not).