Our mission of “People Helping People” is one that is meant to be simple. You see an issue affecting your community, you identify an opportunity for change, and you get involved. We still firmly believe that simple acts of service have the power to unite communities, bridge gaps, and develop empathy for the more vulnerable among us, but we also recognize that our mission is not as simple as it may seem. Whether you are exercising your green thumb in a park, painting the walls of low-income housing units, or helping a fellow human break down the barriers that keep them from employment, no volunteer work is complete without a social justice lens that acknowledges the deep-seeded effect that Racism has on every one of these issue areas. For this reason, we accept the responsibility to learn, educate, give and do more.
Where we find ourselves
It is quite shocking that while we are, “sort of,” “finally…..maybe” coming out of two years of dealing with the worst of COVID, we find ourselves confronting yet more horrors in the world. The vicious attack on the Ukraine by Russia, the escalating attacks on the freedoms of our own citizens through hateful legislation aimed at preventing people of color from voting, a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, or a transgender person’s right to be who they are. Not to mention the backdrop of the increasing toll of climate change on our lives or the continuing toll of police brutality toward people of color. It is really hard to maintain any sort of positive outlook on the world we find ourselves in.
Those of us in the nonprofit world are often tasked with trying to find the hope hidden in the despair; trying to point out the ray of light that still shines in the darkness. For me, even after 18 years at HandsOn Bay Area, I still turn to the healing power of service to others in need. Just today I felt a renewed sense of joy when I saw the smiles of children as they received a stuffed toy made by a volunteer. Or when I saw the happiness on the faces of people tasked with making a warm blanket for a senior or for a family experiencing homelessness.
Yes, these are tiny things and they seem so insignificant as an antidote to the horror of the world where we find ourselves, but I believe it is exactly these tiny acts of human kindness that win the day in the end. Now, as always, I take comfort in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King jr. who told us “Darkness can not drive out darkness; only light can do that…'' and that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Where we find ourselves today is staring at a very, very long arc.
Through our service to others and these tiny acts of hope we inch towards the justice that awaits us at the other end. Below is a list of great organizations and ways that you can make a tiny act of hope and bring light into the darkness.
Bay Area-Based Efforts
The Ukrainian American Coordinating Council, based in San Francisco, is raising funds to pay for medical supplies to ship to Ukraine. Palo-Alto based group Nova Ukraine puts together humanitarian aid packages for Ukrainians, and is currently raising funds to continue doing so. They also have a volunteer Facebook group.
Hromada, a San Francisco-based organization, runs the Anhelyk Foundation, which collects money to send children whose families died from fighting in eastern Ukraine. It also provides college scholarships.
Ruslan Gurzhiy, the editor-in-chief for Slavic Sacramento, started a GoFundMe to send food, water, gas and medications to Ukrainian refugees. You can donate here
Help for a Woman's Right to Choose
HandsOn Bay Area is in deep mourning over the decision by the Supreme Court justices who put their personal political beliefs ahead of the lives of the most vulnerable in our society. We expected better from those who have been entrusted with the laws of our nation. Let’s be clear that this decision will end in the death of low income women in our nation who do not have the means to travel to a place of safety for their health. It is for them and all women who have lost the right to choose that our hearts are breaking.
If you are compelled to action by this tragic decision - here are some organizations that help women with their reproductive rights:
Help for the Fight Against Racism
On January 07, 2023, Tyre Nichols was stopped by Memphis police officers for “suspected reckless driving,” with no evidence to substantiate this claim. He was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days later. RowVaughan Wells is Nichols’ mother who set up an official gofundme to allow Nichols family to afford time to grieve and take time off work. Wells is planning to create a memorial skate park for Nichols “in honor of his love for skating and sunsets.”
Help for Queer and Transgender People
Help for Ukraine
- Equality Now:
Equality Now works to achieve legal equality and promote women’s rights for women and girls through legislation changes, policy shifts, and advocacy.
- Center for Reproductive Rights:
The Center for Reproductive Rights aims to advance women’s sexual and reproductive rights by challenging existing policies, norms, and legislation that are discriminatory to women’s wellbeing.
- ActionAid USA:
ActionAid USA challenges social and cultural norms that suppress women and put them at risk for violence or discrimination.
Dating back to 1865, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. While tens of thousands of people will attend parades, rodeos, cookouts, contests, live music, community awards, workshops, and other outdoor activities, this year’s Juneteenth is difficult to celebrate as Black people still must fight for equal rights in labor, health care, housing, education and more.
In 2021, as Juneteenth was officially established as a federal holiday, some groups are simultaneously banning critical race theory in schools, destabilizing COVID mutual aid efforts, and refusing to fix systemic racism in our police force. Thus, as we move into the weekend, HandsOn Bay Area recognizes Juneteenth as a day of celebration and freedom but also acknowledges that there is more work that needs to be done by all of us.
Justice for George: Virtual Day of Action
In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation: May 25, 2021 marks exactly one year since George Floyd was murdered. As part of the inaugural Remembrance of his death, The George Floyd Memorial Foundation is convening a Virtual Day of Action to honor his legacy. A year ago, we realized the power of our collective voice as we took to the streets in the name of justice. Since the day of George Floyd’s murder, nearly 200 Black people have been killed by police. We made the world stop and listen last year – and we can do it again.
Change is long overdue, and it’s our time to keep speaking up. There are many ways you can make a difference, from donating to the George Floyd Memorial Foundation and learning about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to demanding policy changes and registering to vote. Learn about all the ways you can take action here. For George Floyd – and for every family seeking justice for the loved one they lost to senseless violence.
Like so many others awaiting the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, HandsOn Bay Area was pleased to see accountability for the murder of George Floyd almost 11 months ago. Nevertheless, the struggle and fight for racial justice continues. There is much work to be done to progress as a country, and deliver justice in ways that not only holds bad actors accountable, but dismantles the systems that made them that way and supported their actions, in the first place.
Just as we stated in the immediate aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, service unites us as individuals in this fight, and can also educate those just beginning their journey in combating racism in our country. We invite anyone who is grappling with the weight of the Chauvin trial and the continued attacks on our BIPOC neighbors at the hands of the police to connect with our partners doing the work to dissolve divisions, and sustain meaningful connections in our communities.
Our future needs us all to stay engaged and build off of this momentum to achieve the justice we all know is so sorely needed. Take care of yourselves, breathe a sigh of relief for this decision, and when you are ready and able, join your community in continuing the work. One possible action step is to consider joining our community project to Thank Black Leaders for their work in combating systemic racism.
Against Voter Suppression
Due to the successful organizing of leaders like our partners at Black Futures Lab last year, the 2020 election saw the greatest voter turnout in our nation’s history. While this is cause for celebration, it has also led to an increased manipulation of the public view to spread unfounded theories of widespread fraud, and threaten the public’s faith in our election system. As a result, we now are witnessing an accelerated campaign in as many as 43 states to suppress the vote under the guise of election security measures. It is simply a reality that these efforts are disproportionately affecting communities of color and other marginalized groups, and we stand with the organizers that are on the ground combating these efforts.
Call to action - GIVE THANKS to the Black Organizers who not only combatted voter suppression in the 2020 election, but also propelled the conversation to a national audience. Join us on Wednesday, April 28 from 6pm-7:15pm PST to learn more. Register here.
My Turn Volunteer
My Turn Volunteer is a statewide volunteer initiative to help accelerate the administration of vaccines. Volunteers are needed to assist with vaccinations and support on-site operations at vaccine sites. In addition to volunteering at vaccination sites, volunteers are also needed to share the facts and spread the word around their neighborhood. Sign up to volunteer. #VaccinateAll58
Stand Against Anti-Asian Violence and Racism
Fuelled by the false, race-baiting narrative propagated by powerful leaders to blame the COVID-19 pandemic on people of Asian descent, anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise at an alarming rate in the United States. In listening to our neighbors of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent and examining America’s extensive documented history of anti-Asian discrimination, we know that this is not a new experience, but rather one that simply does not get the attention it deserves.
Safety - from discrimination, from objectification, from physical assault, from widespread xenophobic fear-mongering in the face of a global pandemic - should not be a privilege, but a basic human right. Yet, the data show that safety is rapidly diminishing for this community during this time of crisis, and we must find ways to actively combat this horrific pattern.
Together, we can create a culture of radical mutual support and aid for our AAPI neighbors. Please do what you can to show up and actively dismantle the structures that have allowed this to persist. Report race-based crimes, intervene when witnessing aggressions (on any scale), donate, patronize AAPI-owned businesses, and protect each other through service.
Our communities are hurting. The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Breonna Taylor among countless others have hit us all with immense grief, frustration, and a sense of helplessness against the centuries-deep impact of racism on our country. We’re struck with the same questions our community members have on how to take action, show up for one another, and protect our loved ones. The violent images we’ve all seen at this point depict a world in which the lives of our black neighbors, friends, and families do not matter. As a result, the historic uprising we are now witnessing forces the more privileged among us out of complacency and into a dialogue to put in work to end the terrible influence that racism has on every facet of our society.
We stand in solidarity with everyone out there defiantly, confidently, proudly proclaiming that Black Lives Matter.
We accept the responsibility to learn, educate, give and do more. We implore all of our community members to join us on this mission as you define your own path towards being actively anti racist. We’ve compiled a few resources below for us to begin this work. It is not complete, but this is where we’ll start.
Anti-Racist Reading List from USA Today
E-Book - "Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? - Police Violence and Resistance in the United States" - Haymarket Books is providing FREE downloads of the book through June 5th.
Please visit the websites of our partners working for Racial Justice. Volunteer or donate when you can.
Support the Grassroots Law Project - a team of grassroots organizers and legal experts committed to transforming the American criminal legal system - volunteer and donate to this growing project.
Due to COVID-19, the demand for food has reached staggering numbers in our communities. Food banks and organizations are serving an even greater number of vulnerable neighbors and are continuing to address food insecurity through this crisis.
If you would like to help and need ideas on where to donate food or host a local or virtual food drive in your community, check out this list of resources in the greater Bay Area. This may inspire you to also make an impact on fighting hunger.
Food Runners - Accepting business & individual excess food donations
Alameda & Contra Costa County/East Bay:
Peninsula & South Bay:
Martha's Kitchen - Also accepting paper plates, take out boxes, plastic utensils & paper cups donations
Santa Cruz County:
Northern California & Lake Counties: