Many people find a way to give back to their community during the holiday season, regardless of interest or schedule. Should you be interested in doing the same, the South Bay is home several organizations dedicated to empowering the less privileged and improving their quality of life. From making blankets for sick kids to mentoring at-risk youth, here are five great volunteer opportunities.
Named for the iconic blanket-toting Peanuts character, Project Linus provides security blankets to children in times of crisis, whether it be illness, trauma or life upheaval. Volunteers in the San Jose chapter of Project Linus knit, crochet and quilt new blankets, which are then sent to local hospitals and social service agencies. Blanket-making experience is not required, and it’s easy to learn.
Commitment: Anywhere from making one blanket to organizing a blanket drive.
Contact: Sharon Lee at 408.252.1858, between the hours of 9am and 8pm.
Innvison Shelter Network
Two nonprofits, Innvision the Way Home and Shelter Network, have joined together as “Innvision Shelter Network” to more efficiently accomplish their goal of ending homelessness in Silicon Valley. Their “Beyond the Bed” approach focuses not only on providing shelter but also on conducting life skills and job-training workshops. Innvision Shelter Network operates shelters throughout the Peninsula and South Bay and provides numerous ways to get involved, especially over the holidays. Volunteers can decorate sites, serve holiday meals and participate in gift-wrapping parties for homeless families. Those looking to become more involved can teach seminars on everything from cooking to finance management.
Commitment: Holiday-specific opportunities are one-time deals, but those looking to teach are encouraged to make a three-month-plus commitment.
Contact: In San Mateo County, Lynnelle Bilsey at [email protected] In Santa Clara County, Erika Sutton at [email protected] or call 650.685.5880. Visit www.ivsn.org/holidays for more information.
South Bay: 1900 The Alameda, Suite 400, San Jose
Peninsula: 1450 Chapin Ave., Second Floor, Burlingame
Health Trust is a charitable foundation dedicated to promoting the health of the Silicon Valley community through their Healthy Living, Healthy Aging and Healthy Communities initiatives. There are various ways to help, whether by providing administrative support to the organization itself or working in their Food Basket and Meals on Wheels programs that provide groceries and meals to homebound individuals. Health Trust has also partnered with Americorps to make Silicon Valley HealthCorps, which aims to build and maintain community gardens across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
Commitment: Short-term volunteer commitments available; Food Basket and Meals on Wheels require a six-month-plus commitment. See http://www.healthtrust.org/participate for more information.
Contact: Leif Christiansen at [email protected] or call 408.513.8700, 3180 Newberry Dr., Suite 200, San Jose.
Bill Wilson Center
The Bill Wilson Center in Santa Clara provides a wide range of programs “to ensure that every youth has access to the range of services needed to grow to be healthy and self-sufficient adults.” The center primarily provides shelter and services for runaway and homeless youth. Volunteer opportunities are numerous: manning the crisis hotline, being a transitional housing monitor and assisting county social workers with client cases, among others.
Commitment: Requires a volunteer orientation, application and background check.
Contact: Lyndsey Marks at 408.850.6138 or [email protected], 3490 The Alameda, Santa Clara.
Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY)
FLY strives to help at-risk youth ages 15 through 18 “alter the trajectory of their lives” through legal education, leadership training and mentoring. Volunteers can participate in any of these areas whether it be instructing youth in a law program designed to inform their future life decisions or becoming a friend and role model through the mentoring program.
Commitment: Varies. The law program requires an application and training program, while the mentoring program requires an orientation and a one-year commitment once you’re matched with a youth.
Contact: 408.263.2630. 330 Twin Dolphin Dr., Suite #109, Redwood City.