Mincemeat, Christmas goose, Hannukah gelt, lush sprays of holly bedecking the proverbial halls – traditionally, the December holidays are all about richness, overeating, and expense. But -- especially these days -- not everyone will be blessed with bounty over the holidays. In trying economic times, the number of San Franciscans struggling to put food on the table let alone buy their loved ones presents is steadily growing.
So volunteer. San Franciscans have a long-standing tradition of helping out come the holidays, and many of the traditional community meals and grocery hand-outs have filled up their guest lists like a Big Freedia show during Pride Week. Nevertheless, a bunch of opportunities remain for those looking to lend a last-minute hand.
San Francisco Food Bank
Given recent funding cuts to the organization, the San Francisco Food Bank is taking all the help it can get in its quest to feed an ever-growing number of hungry San Franciscans. An enviably efficient volunteer system relies on interested helpers to sign up on an online calendar before showing up for their shift of repackaging food for community distribution.
900 Pennsylvania, SF. www.sffoodbank.org
Glide Memorial Church
Signing up to volunteer with Glide is a bit like jockeying for the last square of fudge. But luckily the organization – a superpower of Samaritan spirit – has a few spots left for December. Chose between an early-morning grocery bag distribution gig or a toy sorting task.
330 Ellis, SF. www.glide.org
Packed to the gills with volunteers for its main events, St. Anthony's is still calling out for help with two upcoming items: managing curbside drop-offs on December 23rd and 24th and clothing collection throughout the month. Both duties require the volunteer to be at least somewhat physically fit and able to lift 25 pounds of goodies. Shifts are four to five hours long and can be signed up for via a voicemail message to the volunteer hotline (see below).
150 Golden Gate, SF. (415) 592-2829, www.stanthonysf.org
If you're looking to participate in a volunteer-run, community-oriented holiday dinner, this is one of the best bets as better-known options are already staffed out the wazoo. Tenderloin Tessie provides holiday meals to homeless, low-income, disabled, and elderly San Franciscans – and has a wide-open sign-up sheet for volunteers. December 24th shifts involve loading and unloading food from the truck while shifts on Christmas Day are dedicated to decorating the dining room, preparing and serving dinner, and cleaning up afterwards.
First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin, SF. Call Michael Gagne at (415) 584-3252 to register, www.tenderlointessie.com
Meals on Wheels San Francisco
The nationwide organization that delivers healthy meals to homebound seniors is peddling its Chefs of the Bay Area calendar for the next few weeks at various locations throughout the city. Individual volunteers are needed to staff the tables and promote the calendars, the proceeds from which eventually translate into someone's hot holiday dinner.
Habitat For Humanity
Habitat Greater San Francisco holds an ongoing inter-faith build on one of their largest projects to date, a 36-unit condominium at 7555 Mission. No construction experience is necessary, and December 21 marks the start of their Winter Solstice Build, a community-driven effort to get the Daly City residence available to low-income tenants as soon as possible.
7555 Mission, Daly City. Sign up online at www.habitatgsf.org
Little Brothers San Francisco
Not everyone has family around for the holidays, and older San Franciscans can be especially in need of some care and affection. Little Brothers organizes several opportunities for volunteers looking to befriend community elders, from Christmas Day house visits to phone check-ins to help at the office.
Various locations, SF. Sign up online or at (415) 771-7957, www.littlebrotherssf.org
AIDS Emergency Fund
Unlimited slots for volunteers pretty much guarantees a perfect present of a Christmas Eve dinner for San Franciscans with HIV/AIDS and their families. Last year, more than 1,000 people ate; this year (the 24th such dinner), a similar turnout is expected. Load-in of supplies begins at 10 a.m. on December 23rd and shifts run all day on Christmas Eve, starting at 8 a.m.
War Memorial Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness, SF. www.aef-sf.org, sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jewish Family and Children's Services
Gather and deliver holiday treats to those who might not otherwise celebrate the holidays on December 16th and 18th at the JFCS. Individuals and groups of volunteers are both welcome; sign up by December 9.
2150 Post, SF. Call (415) 449-3832 or email email@example.com to sign up.
A sprinkling of volunteer spots remains (especially post-Christmas) at the SPCA's annual window display at Macy's Union Square. Staff the windows – full of then-and-there-adoptable creatures – to raise money for future SPCA programs.
Hayes Valley Farm
Always open to volunteers, Hayes Valley Farm, an off-ramp-turned-urban-ag-oasis, holds special holiday hours for those looking to weed away end-of-year poundage or just engage with some of the happiest plants and gardeners in San Francisco. December 27 marks the first post-holiday gardening session and is sure to host droves of veterans and newbies alike.
450 Laguna, SF. www.hayesvalleyfarm.org