I’m very lucky. My grandparents came here after the Holocaust and worked hard to make life better. By luck of two generations, I haven’t had to worry about separation from family members, financial instability, and lack of opportunity. But, as a descendent of immigrants, I have always felt passionate about giving back to those less fortunate—I even had a childhood dream of becoming a child advocacy attorney.
For my first year after college, I had the privilege of working as an AmeriCorps teacher in the Excelsior District of San Francisco, teaching kids their ABCs, poetry, and how to kick a soccer ball. I watched them start as shy, fearful kids, and end the year standing proudly in their graduation gowns with their classmates, parents, and friends.
After AmeriCorps, I moved into advertising and marketing, but still felt as though something was missing. I discovered that missing piece when I became a court-appointed child advocate to a five-year-old boy named Mikey. Mikey was in the foster system, being raised by his paternal grandmother. I participated in Mikey’s representation in court and had input into the court’s recommendations. But more meaningfully, I spent time with Mikey, playing sports, celebrating birthdays, and just overall trying to provide him with a stable, normal childhood.
For the past year, I have had the privilege of spending my Thursday nights at Raphael House. Raphael House is a family home in the Tenderloin, which offers less fortunate families a safe haven and assistance to get them back on their feet through career development, job placement, mental health counseling, finance workshops, childcare services, and tutoring. To sum it up, Raphael House helps families stay together when times are hard.
The Toddler Time program at Raphael House. (Photo courtesy of Raphael House)
The Raphael House program I help with is Toddler Time—and it is the absolute best. Toddler Time is one hour every evening where parents can drop off their kids, ages three months to five years old, so they can focus on priorities—whether it’s updating their résumés, cleaning their rooms, prepping for a job interview, or making phone calls to catch up with family and friends. The hour with the kids consists of storytelling, dancing, singing, and arts and crafts. This is my favorite night of the week, and I often get more out of these nights than I give.
There are many opportunities to volunteer at Raphael House as a group or by yourself:
Similar to Raphael House, Firewood has a spirit of warmth, compassion, and kindness at its core, and provides a supportive, nurturing environment that feels a lot like home. I love that Firewood is built on a foundation that encourages philanthropy, and when I learned about the Season of Giving and Firewood in the Field pro bono initiatives, I knew this place was right for me. I’m grateful to be part of such a wonderful company!