More Amazing Organizations!
As we mentioned, we went to our employees (and a few regular customers put their input in as well) and had a list of almost 50 organizations long! It warmed our hearts to no end to see all the good happening in our community. And so, it's our intent to shine the spotlight on them as well. Here is that list. Maybe something new here will resonate with you and you'll find your people...
Oh, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are oodles more amazing organizations in this city, small and large in scope, and they are all in need of advocates, superfans and funds.
ACLU - SD
You likely know what the ACLU does— they reach out and represent anyone whose fundamental freedoms have been violated —and they’ve been doing it since 1933 in San Diego. They work on cases that involve criminal justice reform, education equity, immigration reform, LGBT equality, privacy and technology, religious freedom, reproductive justice and voting rights. The first step to helping the ACLU of California is to become a member.
ARTS: A Reason to Survive - A BLAH Agent of Change!
Started here in San Diego locally by Matt D’Arrigo in 1993, ARTS has grown into a multi-stemmed organization that has tons of balls in the air daily, all for kids in need. Their primary goal: follow youth, long term, meeting them where they are emotionally, socially, developmentally and artistically. They have become a sort of one-stop shop to move kids from crisis to college and/or career using art and creativity. They are working with kids inside their own communities to beautify them through art, they are teaching them business skills in their entrepreneur-arts program, they have artist in residency programs for teens and they have an arts center where they teach from. They are a shining example of what genuine on-the-ground outreach can look like. ARTS has tons of opportunities for volunteers who want to work with the arts and teens and the best way to find out more is attend one of their monthly volunteer orientations. Also of note— they have a sizable staff and often have paid job opportunities.
BIKE SD - A BLAH Agent of Change!
This bike group’s mission is to establish San Diego as a world-class bicycling city and create a more livable urban community by promoting everyday riding and advocating for bicycling infrastructure. They played an active part in getting Montezuma’s bike lanes widened and protected, among other truly tangible accomplishments. Like SD Bike Coalition, BIKE SD has loads of opportunities to volunteer. You like bikes? Care about your city? This is one of several groups you should hook up with.
Bikes Del Pueblo - A BLAH Agent of Change!
Bikes del Pueblo is a bilingual DIY educational bike collective that focuses on teaching bike maintenance and providing accessible bikes and bike parts to the community. They build an average of 11 bikes per week resulting in 600 bikes a year. They like to get involved in the community and contribute to events such as group rides, scavenger hunts, film screenings, and bike builds for various other local organizations. Bikes del Pueblo is at the City Heights Farmer’s Market each week and a Pop-Up on El Cajon Boulevard three times a week. They are always looking for members and assistance with organizing donated parts, building/refurbishing bikes, doing neighborhood outreach, organizing events, seeking grants and dreaming big.
Blind Stokers Club
Tandeming is a team sport, and requires two teammates (stoker and captain) to be well-matched in both size and personality. This Club matches a seeing rider with a blind rider, teaches and coaches them and encourages the camaraderie. Since 2005, BSC members have pedaled over 150,000 member miles. Over 160 members of 80 tandem teams have competed in dozens of races. They are always looking for more riders, support people, coordinators, carpool drivers and just plain members.
Border Angels / Angels de la Frontera - A BLAH Agent of Change!
The Border Angels advocate for human rights, humane immigration reform and social justice with a special focus on issues related to the US-Mexico border. They support several specific projects under their umbrella, including assisting the vast number of Haitian refugees that are currently in Tijuana; and “Bridges to Education” which involves mentoring, tutoring, English instruction and assistance with college applications for US citizens living in Tijuana. The Border Angels are in need of volunteers to maintain water stations along the border (and make water drops), do outreach with day laborers, and help out with events and programs.
California Innocence Project - A BLAH Agent of Change!
This organization was started here in San Diego at the Cal Western School of Law and they tirelessly fight to release wrongfully committed inmates. They also advocate for the laws to change that allow for so many wrongful convictions to go through and have an educational component wherein they are teaching future lawyers to be more clued in to the outdated laws that cause wrongful convictions. They review over 2,000 cases of proclaimed innocence a year and fight for the ones they feel they can support legally. The Innocence Project is always looking for lawyers, expert witnesses and Investigators as well as high school, college and law school students interested in criminal and post-conviction law.
Cancer for College
This super group we have worked with in the past (and will work with in the future!) provides college scholarships for kids who have had cancer. Think about it— families struck by cancer hardly have the money to pay their medical bills, let alone their children’s college tuition. When you’re dealing with a sick kid all you can focus on is getting that kid well, you certainly don’t think about 5 or 10 years down the line... and college. They put over 2 million dollars into the hands of teens to pay for college. They also pair those survivors with mentors in their field of study and so they are always looking for qualified mentors to join their program.
CASA aka Voices for Children
Voices for Children transforms the lives of abused children by providing them with volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs.) These Advocates are a “constant” in a child’s life and helps ensure that the child is given the rights and opportunities they deserve while in foster care. These Advocates also serve as informed, empowered sources of unbiased and up-to-date information about the child’s best interests. This is a seriously wonderful organization that needs dedicated people to volunteer as Advocates but can also use assistance in other capacities.
The Center Hillcrest Youth Center - A BLAH Agent of Change!
Most of us know about the Center via their annual Dining Out for Life campaign but they really are this immense and powerful option for the local LGBT community. Their mission? To enhance and sustain the health and well-being all the LGBT and HIV communities by providing activities, programs, and services. They seek to empower their community members and advocate for civil and human rights all the while embracing and promoting and supporting the cultural diversity around them. They collaborate with other community agencies to provide a well-rounded continuum of care and service. We are donating our month's money to their Youth Center. They have tons of opportunities to help out, including working on their Dining Out for Life initiative.
This group has outfitted several sailing boats with the technology to allow for people with disabilities to sail. It operates wholly with volunteers, teaching sailing and supporting challenged sailors on the open sea. Can you imagine how sailing could be very freeing for someone stuck in a wheelchair or unable to move entirely on their own? They have a lot of opportunities for volunteering even if you don’t sail. And of course, they need sailors!
This group provides outpatient behavioral health services for seriously emotionally disturbed kids and teens. The kids get exposed to varying types of therapy and ways to overcome their individual traumatic experiences. Since most are experiencing homelessness, staff pick up the youth weekly and take them where they need to go, advocate to get items they need, and overall try to make their lives better through therapeutic relationships and case management. Sounds crazy heavy and truly awesome.
This one may seem out of the ordinary since it’s a theater company as opposed to a classic non-profit but one of our staff members brought it to our attention and we loved the idea of adding it to the list. The Diversionary Theatre was founded in 1986 to provide quality theatre for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The mission of the theatre is to provide an inspiring and thought provoking theatrical platform to explore complex and diverse LGBT stories, which influence the larger cultural discussion. They have a ton of really wonderful volunteer opportunities that allow for the next generation of LGBT voices to be heard.
Donors of Change
Previously known as Photocharity, DoC’s aim is get homeless youth off the streets and back on track and they’ve been doing it since 2001. They work in partnership with San Diego Youth Services’ Storefront shelter and have placed over 1,800 homeless youth (12-17) in long-term safe housing since their inception. They operate several programs to help youth overcome homelessness, including weekly outreach walks, weekly music and art programs to build trust and teach useful skills, and a long-term, comprehensive self-sufficiency program. Donors of Change is always looking for people to assist with marketing, social media, fundraising, auction item procurement, organization, office work, food prep — as well as music teachers since music is at the heart of this really inspiring program.
FACE Foundation (Foundation for Animal Care and Education)
This group, which has been around since 2006, provides financial grants for animal owners who are unable to afford the cost of their pet's emergency or critical care. They save a lot of pets that are treatable from being euthanized. They work with 120 different vet hospitals in the county. Their first year they saved 12 lives and in 2016 they saved their 1500th life! You can read all the wonderful success stories on their website. They are looking for volunteers to man all their regular events.
Feeding San Diego - A BLAH Agent of Change!
Feeding San Diego’s mission speaks of dignity as they lead the local community in the fight against hunger. Additionally, they have an eye towards efficiency in this process and are one of the most organized charities we came across. One in eight people in San Diego county are what they refer to as “food insecure.” The local chapter of the National Feeding America has several productive programs such as the Backpack program (filled with nutritious lunches), School Pantry where they stock schools and then they partner with pantries, kitchens and shelters across the county. That efficiency extends to their volunteer network— they make it easy to give your time to—as they have projects such as sorting, cleaning, bagging and boxing food, as well as administrative assistance. Also great for clubs and companies because they can accommodate larger groups of volunteers.
Friends of Normal Heights Canyons
This volunteer group works on habitat restoration and preservation, as well as updating trail plans and spearheading clean up efforts and canyon tours. This Normal Heights group meets on the second Wednesday of every month. This group is part of the San Diego Canyonlands non-profit and there are canyon clean up groups all over this city and perhaps you can find one closer to home for you to join in with. Here is the list— there are over 40 groups protecting the canyons in our area! http://www.sdcanyonlands.org/canyon-friends-groups/group-list
Frosted Faces Foundation
This locally founded group not only finds foster homes for older dogs, they help families afford medical care and supplies for their older dogs. As we know there are a lot of animal and particularly dog groups in San Diego. Our resident dog sitter (and awesome lead bartender/supervisor) Peter said his favorite groups, the ones who seem to be doing the most good in an organized fashion are this group and It’s the Pits, a local group that specializes in fostering/adopting/helping “bully breeds” (see below.) As owners of older dogs, we love this group’s focus. And like most animal charities, they rely on volunteers to help at their events and beyond.
Girls Rising - A BLAH Agent of Change!
This Big Sister program is homegrown, having come out of a the Big Brother/Big Sister program of San Diego in 2012. They pair each at-risk young girl with a mentor specific to them. The girls and their mentors go on both planned GR activities as well as independent fun kid activities. Through us they signed up several new mentors last year, something they really are in need of.
International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future. Locally, the IRC in San Diego's multi-lingual staff work closely with refugees from the day they arrive to the day they become US citizens. They have various programs to ensure that refugee families are successfully resettled in our community, made possible with the great help of over 500 volunteers annually. More than 90 cents of every dollar they spend goes directly to refugees. The IRC office in San Diego was established in 1975. They have the highest rating from Charity Navigator and Charity Watch and have been consistently named as one of the best charities to give to to aid in Aleppo. They have many ways to help out from joining and attending events and more.
It’s the Pits!
This group, founded by one local woman, coordinates the fostering and adoption of dogs that haven’t yet found their permanent home. They specialize in American Staffordshire Terriers (“Am Staffs”), Staffordshire Bull Terriers ("Staffy's"), and American Pit Bull Terriers, but they help additional breeds as well, not just as they put it, dogs unfairly known as “bully breeds.” There are a lot of animal rescue groups in San Diego, but our resident dog whisperer Peter gives this group (and Frosted Faces) his stamp of approval.
Keep A Breast
This internationally recognized group was started in North County by Shanie Jo, a friend in this town to many, including us. She has grown this very punk, grass-roots org into a major influencer with the express goal to empower young people with breast cancer education and support. They have a whole lot of ways you can get involved from DIY fundraisers to self love checks to educating others and telling your story. And of course, volunteering with this incredible group of smart women and men.
National Organization of Women SD - A BLAH Agent of Change!
The local chapter of the internationally known National Organization of Women, believe that women’s rights are human rights. They fight for equality, safe reproductive access for all women, ending sexual discrimination, promoting diversity, marriage equality and educating the end of racism and violence against women. They are inclusive of men and transgender women and they work with a lot of other local chapters of orgs like Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, End Rape on Campus & various transgender groups. They seek more members to attend meetings, join committees and be a part of this inviting community.
Ocean Discovery Institute - A BLAH Agent of Change!
This group is bringing science to urban neighborhoods and most succinctly to City Heights. They work with SD Unified to bring more hands-on science learning to lots of schools in our area (with an eye towards conservation), they have a program that promotes careers in science for high school students and now they have an insanely cool ODI Center in City Heights that has in-house learning/programs. Started by a local woman who has been named one of the CNN Heroes of 2016 and she got the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science. They seek mentors, office support, canyon restoration folks, fundraising support and folks working in STEM to advise.
Outdoor Outreach - A BLAH Agent of Change!
Another amazingly organized group started here in SD, some of our employees know first hand that they are good at what they do and they are doing it often. They have a staff of volunteers who take kids out from three different schools regularly (like every week) on hikes and climbs and then they partner with the school district and take kids from lots of other schools out regularly but a little less frequently. Additionally they train the kids who are super into it to become leaders themselves in the org. These are obviously kids who wouldn’t otherwise get to be outdoors. We were really impressed how they have such a wide scope and yet such a succinct mission. They are always looking for reliable outdoor enthusiast volunteers.
PATH (People Assisting the Homeless)
This homeless groups provides A LOT of practical ways we can help from cooking or donating food to cleaning and doing supply drives. Their mission is to join lots of smaller homeless groups and agencies together becoming a sort of one-stop shop for the homeless to find everything they need: housing, assistance to get on their feet, get financial help, get food, get clothing plus they work with the necessary government agencies. It’s really a pretty novel idea.
A lot of people think they know what Planned Parenthood does, but do you? For 100 years PP has been a trusted health care provider, they have been informed educators and passionate advocates in our community and communities around the globe. In a single year they provide over 270,000 PAP tests and more than 360,000 breast exams—critical care in the fight to detect cancer. For many women across the country and in this city, this is their only source of much-needed healthcare.
This group is a small outreach of the SDSU Graduate English program and Poetry International magazine (which is based here in SD.) They provide writing workshops and poetry workshops to underserved kids in our community. They also provide lesson plans to teachers. They’ve worked with the Monarch School most of all, but also with various charters in our neighborhood. Do you love poetry? This may be the group for you.
Project Concern International (PCI)
In 1961, a young doctor from San Diego volunteering at a Tijuana clinic saved the lives of two small children who were dying of pneumonia. This experience led Dr. James Turpin to found PCI and forever change the lives of millions of children and families around the world by providing health and hope to those most in need. Since then, the focus of the organization has remained true to its founder: PCI works in vulnerable communities to improve health and create long-term change by helping people help themselves. For 50 years, thousands of dedicated individuals and groups have worked to make this vision a reality. Their charitable umbrella also encompasses the groups Women Empowered and Walk for Water. Working out of San Diego, they impact the world.
SD Bike Coalition - A BLAH Agent of Change!
The Bike Coalition advocates for and protects the rights of all people who ride bicycles. They are actively working on projects all over the county such as the Barrio Logan section of the Bayshore Bikeway and getting 13 miles of protected bike lanes through North Park among many others. They support regular Bike Rodeos (skill workshops) and community rides, provide Bike Valet for various events and participate in CiclosDias. If you love cycling of any kind, there are many opportunities to volunteer with this super group and favorite of ours.
San Diego Food Bank
The SD Food Bank receives food from a range of sources including locally-run food drives, the USDA, growers, retailers, and wholesalers. Once the food arrives at their warehouse, they rely on volunteers to inspect and sort the food. Food is then categorized by food group and boxed and bagged for distribution to the community. The Food Bank distributes food directly to families and individuals in need at 183 distribution sites throughout the county every month, often in parking lots. The Food Bank also provides food to 350 nonprofits that operate feeding programs. Nonprofits pick up food from the Food Bank’s warehouse and distribute the food to people in need in their areas. This is a great place to volunteer as they have so many opportunities every day.
SD Refugee Tutoring - A BLAH Agent of Change!
Another great organization initially started by one person who saw a need in City Heights. They tutor K-8 kids in math and reading after school at Ibarra Elementary in City Heights. But they really go beyond just teaching these refugee kids school skills, they are involved in their home life and trying to help these families in the most non-intrusive but helpful way possible. This group needs tutors, and even teens can tutor with them. The work they do is pretty basic stuff so truly there is opportunity here for anyone interested in helping kids and our refugee community.
San Diego Velo Youth - A BLAH Agent of Change!
SD Velo Youth offers at-risk and disadvantaged teens 18 hours of coaching in cycle at the track in Balboa Park’s Velodrome. The youth athletes then give back via community services projects, ultimately becoming mentors to their younger peers, paying it forward — all in an effort to earn their own bike. They need new and used cycling equipment and bike-loving folks to volunteer with their programs, events and activities.
Showing Up for Racial Injustice
This national network of local groups (with a local chapter here in SD) has the express purpose of organizing white people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, they inspire people of all colors to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. They work with other social justice groups within San Diego.
You’ve likely seen their little red barn downtown in a green parking lot. Founded in 2012 by one local woman, their mission is to enrich minds by providing creativity to underserved kids 5-15. They promote life skills and self esteem via classes and programs in photography, the arts, gardening and more. They have a community garden, visual art workshops and more. Humane Smarts is looking for people in the community who want to share their artistic passions with the kids.
This local group provides educational and engaging and social reading experiences for kids in lower-income neighborhoods by bringing the books— and the storytellers — to the kids in story tents at the El Cajon, City Heights and Imperial Beach Farmer’s Markets as well as right here in North Park at Waypoint Public. They need readers! Another great group to get your teens involved with.
Urban Surf 4 Kids
Foster kids, orphans, at-risk youths, adopted kids all get to go to the beach and play and learn to surf with the volunteers of this homegrown organization. They try to let them have a normal kid life on the weekends. In addition, these volunteers take their mentees to do other volunteer work from feeding the homeless to beach clean up days. This group is always looking for volunteers into the ocean, surfing and mentoring kids.
Their end game is college for refugee students and they accomplish this goal by way of a soccer club, a tutoring facility/program and college guidance from beginning to end. Primary recipients of this help is the refugee community in El Cajon. They have organization and thoroughness. We truly love this group. They are looking for volunteers who can help tutor, mentor and play soccer!