Giving during the holidays

Service locations are overlooked as volunteers flock to others.


Grace Boudreau

Junior Anna Doggett lays out gingerbread men to prepare for the Santa Fest holiday fundraiser at the General’s Residence in Fort Mason. Children of Shelters runs the annual event in the Presidio for local homeless children.

Mason Cooney, Features Editor

Volunteers clamor to serve meals at soup kitchens or package food at local food banks as the holidays approach, while less popular organizations in San Francisco are overlooked and left with little assistance.

“Unfortunately, people like to reach out and say, ‘I’m going to go to Glide and serve a meal because it’s the holidays,’” Ray O’Connor, Stuart Hall service learning director, said. “Well, there’s a lot of people who think that way. Then they get inundated with volunteers and don’t need it, so I like to find those places that may be forgotten that may need it.”

O’Connor says Most Holy Redeemer Church in the Castro district is one of those places constantly in need of help for its Wednesday night suppers. Elder homes, such as The Sequoias and Vintage Coventry in Japantown, are a hidden and vulnerable population that also could use help over the holidays.

“We have so many retirement communities in this city with a ton of people and no one visiting them,” O’Connor, who established the Students in Action club, said. “Families are either distant, can’t or won’t visit them and a lot of [the residents] can’t go anywhere.”

While O’Connor says he and students in SIA often send out emails to the student body to communicate volunteer opportunities, junior Molly Brown finds out about service opportunities through her service non-profit.

“I’m part of National Charity League where mothers and daughters do community service together,” junior Molly Brown said. “We’re in contact with organizations around the city, so there’s a ton of different philanthropies you can do.”

Brown says she has signed up for several volunteer opportunities this winter through the charity league, including helping at family housing organizations like the Hamilton Families and the Raphael House.

Junior Isabella Bermejo, who volunteers at the SF SPCA as a cat socializer, says the animal nonprofit needs extra help over the holidays.

“There is an influx of traffic during the holidays from people who see the animals in the Macy’s windows,” Bermejo said. “If they don’t find an animal there, they get inspired to go to the shelters to find a pet.”

O’Connor says he is astounded by the amount of service Convent & Stuart Hall students at do and says the willingness to serve is strong.

“We have the reputation that we deliver, that we’re responsible and that we follow through,” O’Connor said. “I want to preserve that. It is a great reflection on our entire community.”