How to Give Back to the Community

Bay Area organizations need our help more than ever. Here are the ones poised to make the biggest difference.

You delete the emails by the dozen.

They come in waves, with subject lines bearing stark warnings and exclamation marks. Yes, our inboxes are under assault from organizations in need of our donations, but deciding which ones to support can quickly become overwhelming.

Here in the Bay Area, we are lucky to have a number of incredible institutions working to help and protect marginalized groups of every stripe. To list them is akin to assembling a roster of everyone most likely to face increased discrimination under our incoming Demagogue-in-Chief.

In an effort to help highlight some of the organizations that are poised to make the biggest impact in the months and years to come, here is a selection of places that work tirelessly to protect and celebrate the rights of all people.

There are so many more out there, too: operating out of store-fronts, basements, and walking the streets on a nightly basis to offer food, shelter, and companionship to our citizens most in need. So while the emails keep coming, make sure you’re getting the right ones — and reading them.

There are no wrong answers, but here are some of the right ones.



Stephany Ashley should be an honorary mayor of San Francisco, because in her role as the executive director of St. James Infirmary, she’s fought to ensure the city remembers that not every citizen has access to medical services, peer counseling, or simply someone to talk to without fear of judgment.

The St. James Infirmary provides healthcare and social services to current and former sex workers of all genders and sexual orientations. These range from HIV and STI testing, counseling, and needle exchange to transgender hormone replacement programs and holistic treatments.

Having recently moved to Eddy Street from Mission Street following the somewhat sudden sale of the building they were housed in, St. James Infirmary is up and running again and welcomes donations and volunteers to further their incredible work.

How to Volunteer:

St. James is always in need of healthcare professionals willing to donate their time. They also host quarterly volunteer orientations and welcome current, former, and transitioning sex workers to join the organization in a volunteer capacity. To learn more, visit their website and download an application.

Stephany Ashley, executive director

234 Eddy St. San Francisco

Phone: 415-554-8494




We’ve come a long way from the grassroots fights of the HIV activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) in the late 1980s and early ’90s, but there is still much work to be done. One of the organizations doing that work is the Shanti Project, a group dedicated to improving the quality of life and mental well-being of those suffering from terminal and life-threatening illnesses.

Established in 1974 by Dr. Charles Garfield, the “Shanti” model has been adopted nationally and continues to be an invaluable resource for people to assist their suffering peers and provide peace in a variety of different ways. While not solely focused on members of the LGBTQ community, the Shanti Project has assisted countless individuals suffering from stigmatized illnesses and sometimes unable to receive care and support from their families.

How to Volunteer:

Shanti welcomes volunteers for a variety of programs, including Peer Support Client Match, Drop-in Center Peer Support, fund-raising, pet support (through partner organization PAWS), and more.

Kaushik Roy, executive director

730 Polk St., San Francisco

Phone: 415-674-4700




Domestic violence continues to plague our country, and in a time when our president-elect is a man who was caught on tape cavalierly discussing his past harassment of women, resources for those who have suffered from domestic violence or fear for their safety are vital.

The San Francisco Asian Women’s Shelter (SFAWS) offers support to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, with services ranging from a 24-hour crisis line

to a shelter program, case management, and access to health and legal services.

Focused on immigrants and refugees but open to all who need its services, the SFAWS has quite literally saved the lives of countless individuals. Many come from Pan-Asian backgrounds, and one of the many assets SFAWS offers is the language and cultural capacity to assist those for whom English may be an obstacle to receiving services.

How to Volunteer:

As a consensus-based, shared leadership work model, volunteers and language advocates are a crucial component to ensuring SFAWS can continue their work. All volunteers are required to complete 64 or more hours of training to become domestic violence counselors.

For confidentiality and safety reasons, the SFAWS does not publicly list the names of its board members.

3543 18th St. No. 19, San Francisco

Phone: 415-751-7110




While the ideal fight would be to prevent excessive and unnecessary imprisonment, especially of minorities and other marginalized persons, the truth is that many are likely to find themselves incarcerated in the near future. For that reason, Roots & Rebound is a critical operation, offering re-entry assistance for those recently released from jail and prison.

Being released from incarceration can often mean having no home, no job resources, and few if any resources to begin the process of reclaiming your life. As re-entry advocates, Root & Rebound help those that are often unable to obtain services elsewhere.

How to Volunteer:

Roots & Rebound needs lawyers, students, graphic designers, coders, filmmakers, activists, and educators to help further its mission. To learn more, fill out a volunteer application at their website.

Katherine Katcher, founder and executive director

1730 Franklin St., Suite 300, Oakland,

Phone: 510-279-4662




Food is a force that binds us all. La Cocina was built on this principle, offering low income food entrepreneurs access to commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance, and market opportunities. Catering mainly to women of color and immigrant communities, La Cocina provides culinary innovators lacking resources a place to develop dishes they can ultimately turn into a business of their own.

In 2015, Paolo Lucchesi of the San Francisco Chronicle said La Cocina “might also prove to be the key for San Francisco to remain San Francisco.”

How to Volunteer:

La Cocina welcomes volunteers in the fields of technical assistance providers and mentors, as well as general volunteers.

Caleb Zigas, executive director

2948 Folsom St., San Francisco

Phone: 415-824-2729



Eviction Defense

The Eviction Defense Collaborative is the principal organization in San Francisco helping low-income tenants respond to eviction lawsuits.

Birth Justice Project 

Works with incarcerated and underserved communities towards reproductive justice for all.



#YesWeCode is a national initiative to help 100,000 young women and men from underrepresented backgrounds find success in the tech sector.

Women’s Community Clinic

The mission of the Women’s Community Clinic is to improve the health and well-being of women and girls. Preventive, educational care is essential to lifelong health and that all women deserve excellent health care, regardless of their ability to pay.


Transgender Law Center
The Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.

Lyric Center for LGBTQ Youth

LYRIC’s mission is to build community and inspire positive social change through education enhancement, career trainings, health promotion, and leadership development with LGBTQ youth, their families, and allies of all races, classes, genders, and abilities.


Jewish Family & Community East Bay Refugee Resettlement

JFCS East Bay’s resettlement program serves refugees from around the world, particularly focusing on those who have experienced persecution based on their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

International Institute of the Bay Area

The International Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA) provides high-quality immigration legal services, education, and civic engagement opportunities to immigrants, refugees, and their families as they join and contribute to the community.


At the Crossroads

The mission of At the Crossroads is to reach out to homeless youth and young adults at their point of need, and work with them to build healthy and fulfilling lives.

Harm Reduction Therapy

Harm Reduction Therapy is a revolutionary client-therapist collaboration that combines substance abuse treatment with psychotherapy, helping people to address both their substance use and the issues behind it.

Coalition on Homelessness

The Coalition on Homelessness brings together homeless folks, front-line service providers, and their allies to build a San Francisco that everyone can call home.


Project Open Hand

Founded in 1985, Project Open Hand is a nonprofit organization that provides meals with love to critically ill neighbors and seniors.

Mental Health Advocacy Project

Mental Health Advocacy Project (MHAP) empowers people with mental health and developmental disabilities to live more independent, secure, and satisfying lives through the enforcement of their legal rights and the advancement of their social and economic well being.

Mission Cultural Center

The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (MCCLA) was established in 1977 by artists and community activists with a shared vision to promote, preserve, and develop the Latino cultural arts that reflect the living tradition and experiences of the Chicano, Central and South American, and Caribbean people. MCCLA makes the arts accessible as an essential element to the community’s development and well-being.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes. Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.

It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to rebuild the Black liberation movement.

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