Family Holiday Helpers

Holiday Volunteer Opportunities for Families in the San Francisco Bay Area

The following is a list of holiday volunteer opportunities. Note that each listing mentions the type of volunteering ("DONATE" which includes purchasing and compiling food or gifts and/or "SERVICE" which means working a shift at a specified location), the specific calendar dates, and the age requirements. Additional information for each listing can be accessed by selecting the "LEARN MORE" box at the end of each listing. If you have questions about one of the volunteering opportunities, please contact the organization directly. Happy volunteering and happy holidays!



Ecumenical Hunger Program provides low-income families in East Palo Alto and surrounding communities with food and gifts every holiday season. EHP has several donation programs during the holidays and needs volunteers ages 12 and up to work shifts at their East Palo Alto facility for Thanksgiving and Christmas Distribution. 

Types of volunteering: Donate (food or gifts) / Service (toy/food packing and distribution shifts)

Dates: During the holiday season (Thanksgiving and Christmas)

Ages: Volunteers can be any age to donate; must be 12 and up for service


Family Giving Tree's Holiday Wish Drive

Since 1990, Family Giving Tree has fulfilled gift wishes for over one million Bay Area children from low-income households, holding firm the belief that no child should feel forgotten during the holidays. Volunteers are needed for various shifts at the Holiday Wish Drive warehouse (location announced each holiday season). 

Type of volunteering: Service (warehouse shifts)

Dates: Various dates in the month of December

Ages: Volunteers can be any age as long as they are strictly supervised in the warehouse (any volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult or guardian 21 or older)



JFCS is one of the largest and oldest family services agencies in the U.S., currently serving over 75,000 people in need per year. Volunteer with your children to assemble and deliver Hanukkah treat bags at one of JFCS' five locations in the Bay Area.

Type of volunteering: Service (Hanukkah treat bag assembly and/or delivery)

Dates: Various dates in the month of December

Ages: Volunteers can be any age (accompanied by an adult)



LifeMoves (formerly InnVision/Shelter Network) offers several holiday volunteering opportunities that allow you to include children of any age. Families can participate in programs such as: Adopt a Household, Donate a Thanksgiving or Holiday Basket, Decorate a LifeMoves site, or Plan a Holiday Party (facilities located throughout the Bay Area).

Types of volunteering: Donate (food or gifts) / Service (helping at a LifeMoves facility)

Dates: Throughout the holiday season: November - January

Ages: Volunteers can be any age (accompanied by an adult)


Meals on wheels of san francisco

Meals on Wheels San Francisco continues a long-time tradition of bringing the joy of the holiday to thousands of homebound seniors who cannot leave their homes because of age or illness with its annual Thanksgiving Day Meal Delivery. Hundreds of volunteers help deliver the meals, a placemat, and a gift on Thanksgiving day. This is a great volunteer opportunity for friends, individuals, couples and families. Children are welcome too! Shifts are assigned and time slots fill up quickly, so please sign up early!

Type of volunteering: Service (meal delivery)

Date: Thanksgiving Day

Ages: Volunteers can be any age (accompanied by an adult)


palo alto community thanksgiving meal

The annual Estelle Chalfin Palo Alto Community Thanksgiving Meal, sponsored by LifeMoves and Downtown Streets Team, is held at All Saints Episcopal Church in downtown Palo Alto. Volunteers are needed on-site to prep food the day before Thanksgiving, to serve food on Thanksgiving Day, and to serve leftover lunch the day after. Children can be involved in shopping for specified ingredients or preparing foods off-site (from the specified menu). 

Types of volunteering: Donate (food or supplies) / Service (prepping or serving food)

Dates: Thanksgiving Day (plus day before and day after)

Ages: Volunteers can be any age as long as they are able to help out (accompanied by an adult)


PROJECT open hand

Project Open Hand is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that provides meals with love to seniors and the critically ill. Project Open Hand offers two types of volunteering before and on Thanksgiving Day: food prep or food delivery. 

Type of volunteering: Service (food prep and/or delivery)

Date: Before and on Thanksgiving Day

Ages: Volunteers can be any age for delivery shifts; must be 15 and up for food prep shifts in the kitchen


san francisco food bank

San Francisco Food Bank - When you volunteer at the Food Bank, you'll help sort and package the food distributed to food pantries, children's snack programs and soup kitchens throughout San Francisco and Marin — enough for more than 107,000 meals each day. There's always a role for little ones, such as putting stickers on packaged food, bagging produce, or packing food in boxes. Shifts for the holidays fill up way in advance — this is a great opportunity to volunteer with little ones as young as 4 any time of the year.

Type of volunteering: Service (food bank warehouse shifts)

Dates: Every day (except for federal holidays)

Ages: Volunteers must be at least 4 years old during Sunday projects and 8 years old during Saturday projects, and 11 and up Monday through Friday. Every child middle school-aged and younger must be accompanied by an adult


san francisco SPCA holiday windows

San Francisco SPCA Holiday Windows at Macy's Union Square -- this 30-year old holiday tradition is a wonderful expression of the holiday spirit in San Francisco. The windows feature adorable adoptable cats and dogs. 

Type of volunteering: Service (greeting people at the Macy's Holiday Windows)

Dates: Throughout the holiday season: November - January 

Ages: Volunteers must be ages 5 and up; children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Due to traffic and high congestion at this location, volunteering at Windows is not recommended for children under 5 years of age


second harvest food bank

Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties is one of the largest food banks in the nation. Second Harvest offers warehouse food-sorting volunteer opportunities and needs volunteers for the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot (Thanksgiving)

Types of volunteering: Donate (food or decorations) / Service (warehouse shifts and/or Turkey Trot)

Dates: Various dates throughout the holiday season

Ages: Volunteers can be any age to donate; must be 14 and up for service 


St. Anthony's San Francisco Dining Room

St. Anthony's San Francisco Dining Room opened in 1950 and is the only dining room in San Francisco that serves free meals every day of the year. Dining Room Service is more than a meal: it is building community, and a place to share stories and smiles. Working with 30 to 40 fellow volunteers, Individual Dining Room Servers help prepare and provide around 3,000 meals each day. Service includes: delivering meals, preparing food and drinks, bussing tables, and helping with other tasks as needed. 

Type of volunteering: Service (prepping or serving food)

Dates: Special holiday meals are served on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day (in addition to free meals served every day of the year) 

Ages: Volunteers must be ages 13 and older. Youths aged between 13 and 14 must volunteer with an adult


St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo County

St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo County provides basic survival necessities, including food and clothing, for the homeless and the precariously housed. On-site holiday volunteering opportunities for older youth include: preparing and serving meals to the homeless at SVdP’s Homeless Help Centers and helping at one of SVdP’s stores. Opportunities for families with younger children include donating gifts of goodwill to one of SVdP's three homeless shelters.

Types of volunteering: Donate (food or gifts) / Service (prepping/serving meals and/or helping at stores)

Dates: Throughout the holiday season: November - January

Ages: Volunteers can be any age to donate; must be in grades 8 and up for service

Additional Resources

  • HandsOn Bay Area provides a calendar of volunteering opportunities throughout the year. Age requirements are posted for each project. For more information on upcoming projects, check out the calendar and sign-up online

  • Doing Good Together offers a monthly calendar of family volunteer opportunities in Silicon Valley. Check out the listings online or subscribe to their monthly email of family volunteer opportunities

  • La Comida is a non-profit organization serving hot meals to seniors in Palo Alto. La Comida is in need of volunteers for the upcoming holiday lunches as well as regular year-round volunteers. For more information, email