Season of Sharing: 12 Ways to Give Back


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With the whirlwind of holiday shopping, visiting relatives, and the kids out of school, we often forget that the holiday season is all about giving back. There are countless local charities in the Bay Area that wonderfully serve the community year round. The list below is just a small sample of the many great Bay Area charities so share the love and let us know in the comment section below where you and your family plan to give back this holiday season.

San Francisco

Drink for a Cause. Who would have ever thought that happy hour is the perfect way to give charitably? This group comes together once a month by partnering with local San Francisco venues to raise funds and awareness for a charitable organization. The more you drink the more money is donated. Everyone loves to have a good time so why not do it for a good cause while you’re at it?

Glide Memorial. Glide serves over 5000 meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as hosts various toy drives and other holiday events. Volunteers are always welcome to help serve meals, pass out toy donations and prepare food bags to be given out.

Food Runners. Food Runners picks up excess perishable and prepared food from businesses such as restaurants, caterers, bakeries, hospitals, event planners, corporate cafeterias, and hotels and delivers it directly to shelters and neighborhood programs that feed the hungry. Not only are they working to end hunger, but to eliminate food waste as well. Volunteers must offer at least an hour of service once a week.

Project Night Night. Winner of the 2011 Totally Awesome Award for Best Charity, Project Night Night provides comfort for homeless children in the form of packages filled with a new security blanket, an age-appropriate children’s book, and a stuffed animal. They hand out over 25,000 packages a year and offer a variety of ways to get involved, from volunteering to hand out packages to collecting animals and books to donate.


Center for Domestic Peace. Did you know that domestic violence is the number one violent crime in Marin County? The Center for Domestic Peace, home of the Marin Abused Women’s Services, promotes the safety and empowerment of those affected by domestic violence. This year in addition to monetary funds, the Center is asking families to “adopt” a family of their own. Each “adopted” family provides a wish list of what they need this year — this is a great way to get your own kids involved in giving back by shopping for the requested gifts together.

Marin Community Food Bank. Compassion in Action program provides nutritional support to families where the primary bread-winner is suffering from long-term severe crisis, such as AIDS or cancer and whose needs cannot be met by other existing services.

East Bay

Alameda County Community Food Bank. Alameda County Community Food Bank distributed over 18 million pounds of food last year. Currently, 1 in 6 Alameda County families use this food bank’s services and 1 in 3 children in Alameda County faces the threat of hunger.  Look for the red donation barrels in Whole Foods stores throughout Alameda County and at Berkeley Bowl.

Drawing on Earth. Art programs are often some of the first to get cut from many schools when funding is low. That’s why professional artist and father Mark Wagner encouraged schools, colleges, corporations, prisons, juvenile halls, and museums around the world to start drawing chalk artwork outside as part of a global art piece that raises awareness about art in schools. Visit their site to find out how you can bring Chalk Art to your school.

Hands on Bay Area. HandsOn Bay Area (HOBA) creates opportunities for people to volunteer, learn and lead in their communities. HOBA works with local nonprofits, schools and parks to initiate high-impact, group-based volunteer projects. They have dozens of opportunities all over the Bay Area that you can search through by date, time, and type of volunteer project.


Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. For blogging parents out there, show you care by adding Second Harvest’s logo badge to your site and encourage readers to “help end local hunger.” Also, 95% of every dollar donated goes directly toward programs that feed hungry people.

The Volunteer Center. The Volunteer Center connects individuals, nonprofits and businesses with opportunities and resources needed to support local communities. Serving both San Francisco and San Mateo County, The Volunteer Center has several holiday volunteer opportunities helping homeless youth, habitat for humanity and more.

Other Opportunities

Changing The Present. Changing the Present is a nonprofit website offering gifts that change the world. Search by causes to find gifts that make a difference, or search for your favorite nonprofit to make a donation.

How is your family giving back this year? Do you have a favorite charity that your family works with or do you try a new one each year? 

— Sarah K. Choi

Photo credit: Ron Sombilon via Flickr, Project Night Night facebook page, Drawing on Earth facebook page, Second Harvest Food Bank facebook page  

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