Miss A Columnist

Born and raised in Marin County, Monica Smith now lives in “the northern-most region of North Beach,” which has its charms despite the dangerous proximity to Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghiradelli Square and all things touristy. Monica earned a B.A. in Communications in 2009 and now works at a small tech PR agency. She loves writing, music, coffee and fashion, including designing clothes and restyling rejected thrift-store garments. Monica has traveled extensively (most recently to China and Ecuador), and is always planning her next foreign adventure. Whether abroad or at home, she enjoys exploring and discovering new neighborhoods, restaurants and experiences. She is a strong believer in the power of endorphins and stays active through running, hiking, yoga and snowboarding.

One Brick San Francisco: Volunteering Made Easy

When I first moved to San Francisco nearly two years ago, I knew almost no one. Though I grew up nearby and could navigate my way around the city fairly well, my new home just didn’t feel like home. I was eager to meet some fun new people with similar interests and values, so I set out to join a volunteer organization.

San Francisco is home to myriad nonprofits and charitable organizations, but my initial Google searches proved far more challenging than I had anticipated. My full time work schedule left me with minimal availability, making matters difficult as many of the organizations I looked into demanded lengthy time commitments or mandated that volunteers sign agreements pledging to serve for an entire year. Some volunteer groups had such stringent application processes, requesting several essays and letters of recommendation, that I was too intimidated to even apply. Having just sold my car, I was also restricted to nearby, bus-accessible areas, further limiting my prospects.

Cleaning Up Temescal Creek in Oakland One Brick San Francisco

Cleaning Up Temescal Creek in Oakland (Photo Credit: One Brick San Francisco)

Fortunately my long, frustrating search did eventually yield the exact the type of organization I was looking for: One Brick’s San Francisco Chapter.  Headquartered in San Francisco, One Brick is a national non-profit service organization that recruits volunteers to aid other non-profits for specific events. The organization has 13 chapters nationwide, with more than 50,000 volunteers total.

True to its tag-line, “Volunteering made easy,” One Brick is the ideal organization for working professionals, moms and anyone who is inspired to give back, but isn’t able to commit to a regularly scheduled volunteer gig. It’s also great for those new to the volunteer scene; if you find a charity you love, you can go on to work directly with that organization, and you can also try new activities with no obligations. If you realize beach cleanup isn’t for you, you’ll have the freedom to pick a cleaner activity next time.

One of my favorite aspects of One Brick is the variety of volunteer opportunities available. In October alone, the broad volunteer calendar includes cheering on walkers and helping clean up after the East Bay Walk to Defeat ALS in Walnut Creek; dressing in costume and handing out treats at the Children’s Fairyland Jack O’Lantern Jamboree in Oakland; and even gardening in Golden Gate Park’s Bison Paddock.

Food Prep at Glide Memorial One Brick San Francisco

Food Prep at Glide Memorial (Photo Credit: One Brick San Francisco)

In addition to its charitable works, One Brick also provides plenty of opportunities for volunteers to socialize and get to know one another, including laid-back gatherings after most of its volunteer activities. For example, after my first One Brick experience at the San Francisco Food Bank (weighing and packaging portions of rice that would be given to needy families), I joined a welcoming group of both established One-Brickers and other newcomers for pizza and beer at a nearby restaurant. One Brick also routinely hosts happy hours at local bars and recently introduced One Brick Social, a new fundraising event series with proceeds benefiting local non-profit and community organizations. This month’s social, October 18 at Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem in the Mission, will feature two-for-one margaritas and a portion of bar sales will go to Super Stars Literacy, an organization that helps children build literacy and comprehension skills.

It’s easy to blame lack of time or come up with any number of excuses to put off volunteering, but One Brick makes the volunteer process so easy that you really have no reason not to join in, at least once in a while. You may even meet some new friends or find a cause you’re passionate about or and want to support further. To get involved, visit One Brick San Francisco’s website, pick an event, RSVP and go have fun giving back. It’s that simple!

One Brick San Francisco

237 Kearney St #209
San Francisco, CA 94108


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