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Giving back: The Standard guide to volunteering this Thanksgiving

Volunteers John Lee (left), Catherine Chao Thomsen (middle) and Sarah Potter (right) carve ham at Freedom Hall for the Glide Memorial Thanksgiving feast on Nov. 26, 2015. | Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Though Thanksgiving has long been centered on gathering around a dining table, many San Franciscans now celebrate the holiday by volunteering to help others in the community.

This year, these long-standing groups—and several newer nonprofits—are hosting street dinners, neighborhood gardening sessions and many other events to serve others throughout Thanksgiving week, and there’s still time to sign up for a volunteer shift!

As the Ohlone expression goes, makkin ‘irrite ‘alšip, or “we are full of gratitude.”

1. Glide Foundation

The Tenderloin 

📍 330 Ellis St.
☎️ (415) 674-6000

Historic Methodist church and countercultural gathering place with a daily free food program
Available shifts: Thanksgiving prep between Nov. 19-23

2. SF-Marin Food Bank

Potrero Hill 

📍 900 Pennsylvania Ave.
☎️ (415) 282-1900

The food bank collects and distributes free groceries for the hungry.
Available shifts: Every day of the week at the food bank’s network of partner pantries and through Nov. 23 in the food bank warehouses 

3. Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly

Lower Nob Hill 

📍 909 Hyde St. #628
☎️ (415) 771-7957

LBFE matches volunteers with members of the elderly community. Background check required.
Available shifts: Thanksgiving Day

4. St. Anthony Foundation

The Tenderloin 

📍 150 Golden Gate Ave.
☎️ (415) 241-2600

Social services organization that serves free meals, provides clothing and hosts a tech lab
Available shifts: Ongoing volunteer days

5. Project Open Hand

Little Saigon 

📍 730 Polk St.
☎️ (415) 447-2300

Provides medically tailored meals and groceries to homebound and elderly San Franciscans 
Available shifts: Senior lunch program shifts between Thanksgiving and Christmas 

6. Openhouse SF

Mint Hill

📍 65 Laguna St. 
☎️ (415) 296-8995

Community center that serves LGBTQ+ senior citizens 
Available shifts: Opportunities with Openhouse’s home-delivered grocery program throughout the holiday season

7. Tenderloin Tessie 

The Castro 

📍 2261 Market St.
☎️ (415) 584-3252

Free food program named in honor of a Tenderloin drag performer and bartender
Available shifts: Call for open slots

8. San Francisco Baykeeper

Downtown Oakland

📍 1736 Franklin St., Suite 800
☎️ (510) 735-9700

Organization that hosts shoreline cleanups 
Available shifts: Ongoing volunteer days 

People serve others during a free Thanksgiving dinner in San Francisco on Nov. 21, 2013. | Michael Short/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

9. Mama G’s Thanksgiving Street Dinner

Civic Center

📍 355 McAllister St.
14th annual free Thanksgiving dinner at U.N. Plaza on Nov. 20
Available shifts: Meal prep, serving and cleanup Nov. 19-20

10. 826 Valencia

The Mission | Mission Bay | The Tenderloin

📍 826 Valencia St. | 1310 Fourth St. | 180 Golden Gate Ave.
☎️ (510) 735-9700 | (415) 642-5905 | (415) 642-5905

Educational nonprofit that offers writing programs to under-resourced youth 
Available shifts: Ongoing volunteer days. Application required

11. Friends of the Urban Forest

The Presidio

📍 1007 General Kennedy Drive #1
☎️ (415) 561-6890

Hosts native tree plantings and sidewalk gardening days
Available shifts: Ongoing volunteer days

12. SF Food Not Bombs

Civic Center | The Mission

📍65 Ninth St. | 110 Julian Ave. 
☎️ (415) 890-3184 | (415) 484-3288 

Long-standing free food program hosts cooking and sharing sessions twice per week
Available shifts: Every Wednesday in the Mission and every Friday at Civic Center

13. Self Help for the Elderly

Russian Hill

📍1483 Mason St.
☎️ (415) 677-7600

Delivers Thanksgiving lunch to elderly residents
Available shifts: Delivery drivers for Thanksgiving Day

14. Rainbow World Fund

The Castro 

📍4111 18th St. #5
☎️ (415) 677-7600

Annual origami holiday tree decoration to promote peace, love and humanitarianism for display at Grace Cathedral
Available shifts: Nov. 16-27

15. The Salvation Army


📍1275 Harrison St.
☎️ (415) 503-3000

International charity organizes Thanksgiving Day meal deliveries
Available shifts: Nov. 24, 6 a.m.-1 p.m.

16. Golden Gate Parks Conservancy

Fort Mason 

📍2 Fort Mason 11
☎️ (415) 561-3044

Cleanup days at Black Point Historic Gardens, a long-neglected site just north of the waterfront
Available shifts: Nov. 25, 9 a.m.-12 pm.

17. National Park Service

Point Reyes 

📍1 Bear Valley Road
☎️ (415) 464-5225

Hosts native habitat volunteer days at Point Reyes National Seashore
Available shifts: Nov. 25

Read More from Our Guide to the Best of Thanksgiving in San Francisco

Check out The Standard’s 2022 Thanksgiving Guide to find new ideas on everything from where to buy takeout turkey and unique pies, to where to stroll off your feast.

Much of Thanksgiving weekend in the SF Bay Area takes place in the outdoors. | Getty Images

Shelley D. Fargo contributed additional research for this story.