The reason for the season

No, not Jesus. Tips on holiday volunteering and Bay Area gifts that give back

There's so many ways to give back over the holidays.

HOLIDAY GUIDE With the presidential election over, we are reminded that though our quest for reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality may continue unabated, making a difference must not be limited to a "Ya Voté" sticker every four years. Here's a brief list of ways to do good this season, including community gardening, beach cleanups, and gift fairs where you can shop for a good cause.


Outdoorsy types take note. SFGRO ( has a mission to elevate the profile of community gardening in San Francisco, and to provide support to local gardeners. You can do your part by helping out in the following areas: composting, garden safety and security, resource material development, administrative tasks, and fundraising. Jump into the mix all over the city: the De Haro, Dearborn, Alioto Mini-Park, Page Street, and Potrero Del Sol gardens all need help.

You can also help out at Hayes Valley Farm (450 Laguna, SF. during it's last winter. The farm is set to be turned back over to the city next year, at which point founder Jay Rosenburg hopes enough people will have learned agriculture skills at the farm to continue its mission elsewhere. "It will create a big fireworks explosion and everything we've created here will break off to little pieces all over town," he recently told Edible San Francisco.

Help maintain the beauty of the five-mile-long Ocean Beach with the Surfrider Foundation's regular cleanups. Bonus: they'll give you a chance to commune with our sandy spaces in the winter, when the waves are at their most ruggedly beautiful (Next events: Dec. 4 and 18, 10am-noon. Ocean Beach, Stairway No. 17, SF; Dec. 31, 10am-noon. Baker Beach, SF.

In the North Bay, we suggest you peruse the various opportunities available through Volunteer Marin (555 Northgate Drive, San Rafael. (415) 479-5710, The organization solicits requests from local nonprofits for donations or volunteer time. Its altruistic options include preparing and serving holiday meals, donating food, clothing, or requested gifts, and decorating or wrapping presents.

We are very much proud to say that San Francisco is home to the oldest toy drive in the whole country. The organization responsible for this is our beloved San Francisco Fire Department ( Find the nearest fire station to you and be part of the effort to get gifts to over 40,000 disadvantaged children.

Although many homeless shelters tend to fill up their volunteer shifts early on during the holiday season, head to At The Crossroads (Dec. 12, 6-8pm. 333 Valencia, SF. (415) 487-0691,, when volunteers are needed to assemble care packages for homeless youth in city.

Kids Enjoy Exercise Now ( is an awesome national organization whose mission is promote physical activity among kids and young adults who have developmental disabilities. KEEN is recruiting people to be volunteer coaches, and those who sign up will be paired with an athlete for hours of fun and games — an easy thing to do that'll make a big difference in a young person's life.

And finally, for those of us too lazy or computer-bound to do anything besides point-and-click this holiday season, we present to you Games that Give ( Play an online game like solitaire or mini-golf and for every 10 seconds you're occupied -- and viewing the site's sponsors' ads -- a charity of your choice receives a certain amount of funds.

Related articles

  • Kitty porn: The SPCA windows at Macy's have arrived


    Dirt-cheap local gifts, event listings, and a poop log: Happy holidays from your friends at the Guardian

  • Gabba gabba buy

    What to buy your headphone-obsessed loved one? Our picks, from boxed sets to lovely local scores

  • Also from this author

  • To the desert and back

    The Fresh and Onlys' Tim Cohen ditches the city for rural Arizona and returns with a new record — and new tensions

  • Dispatches from SXSW: Day 3 — Lessons, brisket, and fool's gold

  • Dispatches from SXSW: Day 2 – Fader Fort, Future Islands, and Waiting in Lines