volunteering in the east bay (sf bay area)
November 5, 2013 7:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a possibly regular volunteer opportunity in the east bay (oakland or berkeley) working with seniors, homeless, or needy. Tell me about the volunteer org you know of that does great work and is a great place! Some random criteria:

- Work directly with people at least most of the time (not sorting office supplies in the back room). However, I am somewhat shy and awkward.

- Not interested in community-enrichment-type volunteering (e.g. helping out at a documentary film festival)

- I don't want to work with children, mentally ill, or mentally disabled (at least not to start off with, maybe in a few years)

- Prefer non-religious organizations, or at least non-proselytizing

- I am reasonably handy with tools and technical things. My past (rare) volunteering has been with habitat for humanity, grid alternatives, and a community bike workshop. Fun, but not what I'm looking for right now.

- I could commit to once a month to start off.

- I'm a woman, late 20's, white, well-educated, in case that effects where I'd be useful.

Examples of activities that sound good to me: any kind of hanging out with seniors, soup kitchen worker, tutor for adults

I know there are lots of opportunities listed on volunteermatch, but I would feel more comfortable going somewhere that I've heard is a good place that does good work. If any of my friends volunteer, they don't talk about it, so I thought I'd check here. Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I worked at a non-profit that works with homeless families in San Francisco revamping their volunteer program over the summer, and in my experience (and definitely with my organization), a lot of non-profits (at least those working with the homeless) look for weekly (or at least bi-weekly commitments) for that sort of work where you're working directly with people, both due to the time it takes to coordinate/train volunteers and also to create a sense of consistency with their clients given the relative instability that many homeless people experience.

Another important factor to consider is whether you are available during normal business hours or not -- many organizations have difficulty providing volunteer opportunities outside of these.

To more directly answer your question (though they're located in San Francisco pretty close to BART and not the east bay), Raphael House (not the org I worked with) has a very solid volunteer program with some positions that might work for you. Despite their imagery, they are no longer a religiously affiliated organization.
posted by kylej at 9:13 AM on November 5, 2013

Little Brothers -- Friends of the Elderly is always looking for "friendly visitors" to spend a couple of hours with seniors, or even just to chat on the phone regularly with those who don't have much of a support network of their own.

This is more of a social thing than a "use your handy skills at x" thing, but it's incredibly rewarding, and you will make a bunch of new, interesting senior friends.

About the only time religion comes in is around the holidays -- you might be asked to take someone to church services, but you can always ask for nonreligious activities, like holiday party prep, grocery shopping, or movie trips.
posted by vickyverky at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2013

The overlap between "homeless, or needy" and "mentally ill, or mentally disabled" is pretty substantial--many poor and/or homeless people are in their circumstances exactly because of a lack of treatment/services for mental illness/developmental delays. I don't know of any non-profit organizations that specifically exclude the mentally ill or developmentally delayed from their services, so you're almost certain to encounter them while volunteering for any organization that exists to serve the homeless or poor generally.

That narrows your possibilities quite a bit, to organizations that specialize in services for housed and healthy seniors.

On preview--vickyverky's suggestion sounds like a great fit!
posted by jesourie at 2:15 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

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