Saturdays are for Service

The age-old, yet notably profound, saying of “practice what you preach” is one that often stumps many nonprofit organizations and do-gooders alike. In the efforts of day-to-day life or ensuring that a company runs, this mentality can often get lost amongst the errands, paperwork, and email chains.

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At UniversalGiving, that is why the vision to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life” is not just a parroted goal, but an integral part of the company culture. This past weekend in particular, members of the team made their way to serve at the Northridge CommUNITY Garden in the Bayview. The garden itself is a part of the Northridge Cooperative Homes, an organization that seeks to provide safe and affordable housing to those looking to improve their quality of life. Two times per month, individuals from this community work in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco and its volunteers for a ‘Park Beautification’ project.

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“I wasn’t sure what to expect when we showed up on Saturday, but working for Habitat for Humanity ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences so far this summer,” remarks CSR Intern Sheridan Wilbur about her day at Northridge. “Everyone was a stranger at first, but by the end of the shift, I had exchanged phone numbers with the coordinator, Laurel, listened to the program leader’s upcoming adventures in Yosemite, and heard about how one woman got herself out of alcohol addiction and now is following her passion in tech and sports. I left inspired and felt more connected to the San Francisco community.” Team member Angel Sun agrees, exclaiming that she “…[feels] connected and energized when serving the community and making our city better!”

During the day, volunteers completed tasks such as weeding, transplanting roses, removing debris, spreading mulch, and harvesting fruit from the community’s orchard. The shift concluded with a group lunch, where participants were able to talk to their experiences over rice, salad, and even some harvested plums. “Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity is one of my favorite things to do — I get to be outside, work hard, and contribute to an important project,” says Mindy Bush, manager of UniversalGiving’s Corporate Client Services. “Most impactful for me, however, is the spirit of community that I feel. I loved having the time outside of work with [other team members] Katie, Sheridan and Angel and getting to know them all better. At the end of our shift, I felt inspired by all of the individuals who chose to be a part of the work that day!”

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The program is a part of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco’s Neighborhood Revitalization’ campaign, which strives to bring the organization’s work into neighborhoods where its houses have been built. With additional projects focused on improving the health and well-being of the Bayview and East Palo Alto areas — such as home repair and school renovation — the organization seeks to make the Bay Area a more comfortable and community-based place. Now that is the epitome of “practice what you preach.”

From the Bay Area? Want to learn more about volunteering with Habitat projects like the one mentioned in this article? Head to for Neighborhood Revitalization opportunities and more.


The Profound Impact of Programs Providing Housing for the Homeless

Today’s guest post is from Catie Keeler.

Most of us will never know what it means to be homeless. To lose everything you own and to have no sense of what the future holds. To live every day in desperation and terror of sinking further.

Most of us assure ourselves that we will never face such circumstances so long as we work hard and make good decisions for ourselves. Yet many people who made the same assumptions found themselves suddenly out of options after losing a job, or suffering a serious injury, or getting a divorce, or any number of other circumstances.

Many programs are available to help the homeless, yet the ones that make the most impact for many are the ones that remove the very status of “homeless” with a singular act: These are the programs that provide new homes for the homeless.

Programs such as Habitat for Humanity and others provide housing for homeless people to give them a fresh start in life. This one act can make all the difference for these people, inspiring positive change in a number of ways.

Providing a Foundation

Think of your own home: What feelings does it bring to mind? You might think of it as your safe place. It is the place you return every night, the place where you can be yourself, the place where you can create a life. Now think about how you would feel if you didn’t have that place in your life. You might feel adrift. Lost. Unsure of yourself. Insecure about your future.

A house provides a person who was homeless a safe place — a foundation for building a life. No longer does that person have to worry about where he or she will sleep that night, whether it will be a safe place, whether it will be protected from the elements, and whether they will have to endure that worry night after night.

Instilling a Sense of Ownership

Homeless people have had to face one disappointment after another. Over time, those disappointments can feel like personal failures — like a reflection of personal worth. No matter what may have cause that person’s homelessness — even if they were uncontrollable circumstances — that person will feel responsible.

Providing a homeless person a home gives him or her a sense of ownership, which fosters confidence and pride. Those feelings help to cut off feelings of defeat and despair, helping that person to heal.

A Real Start for a Job Search

Many people cruelly assume that the homeless don’t want to work and that’s why they are homeless. Yet many homeless people wind up that way through circumstances beyond their control. Then when they are homeless, the odds are stacked even higher against them because they don’t have the things they need to conduct a proper job search — like clean clothes and an address and phone number at which to be contacted.

Providing a home to a homeless person gives him or her the chance to really start the job search again. They have an address to put on their resume. They have a place to install a phone to reach out to potential employers. They have a real chance to be taken seriously as a professional and to expand their opportunities.

Restoring Pride

One of the most profound ways programs that provide housing to the homeless help to transform these people’s lives is by restoring a sense of pride. These people can start to feel “normal” again — to have a shared experience with those in their community. They don’t have to feel like outcasts and rejects.

Programs that provide housing to the homeless also show them that other people care, and that helps them maintain a sense of hope and optimism. It also inspires a sense of philanthropy, encouraging those who have received help to reach out to others and help, as well.

The next time you consider what volunteer activities you’d like to be involved in, consider volunteering for a program such as Habitat for Humanity or another that provides housing for the homeless. You will be changing a life for the better, and your actions will have immediate and profound results.

Catie Keeler is the primary researcher and writer for Her most recent accomplishments include graduating from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a degree in business and communications. Her current focus for the site involves mortgage insurance rates and mortgage rates california.