We learned many lessons and remembered some universal truths during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were reminded of the lengths we will go to keep our loved ones safe, how much we miss when we’re isolated, and what we’re willing to do to protect and help those most vulnerable. Watching communities come together to navigate the difficult, and sometimes heartbreaking, terrain of the pandemic reminded us above all, that we are a people who believe in people – we are each other’s safety net.
April brings us Volunteer Week; a moment when we get to recognize those who donate their time in service of others. It’s also a time we stop to see what still needs to be done and ask ourselves “how can we help?” If you’ve ever asked yourself that question or thought about getting more involved but weren’t sure where to start, we’ve got you covered. Here are just a few Felton Institute programs that you can volunteer for right now!
San Francisco Suicide Prevention (SFSP)
Even in times of separation, solace can be found on the other end of the phone.
Founded by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Journalist, Bernard Mayes, San Francisco Suicide Prevention is the oldest community-based telephone crisis center in the United States, helping Bay Area residents since 1962. Then, the agency opened from a Tenderloin hotel with just six volunteers. Since 2019, Felton Institute has operated SFSP with the help of over 200 volunteers, providing emotional support for all of San Francisco’s diverse communities. Felton has increased investment into the program, providing a professional team of trained behavioral health specialists, mental health practitioners, and technical equipment upgrades to address the more than 60,000 calls received each year. The mission remains the same: provide “education, assistance, and intervention as necessary to all persons in crisis… with the goal of reducing suicides and self-destructive behaviors.”
SFSP offers many services including grief support groups, youth outreach, and community education, as well as the service that started it all, the 24 hours crisis hotlines where local volunteers are trained to provide support to callers. SFSP recruits for administrative and outreach volunteers as well.
To find out more about SFSP volunteer opportunities, click here.
Senior Companion Program (SCP)
Those most vulnerable to COVID-19 experienced a different type of isolation; not only where they allowed few visitors, if any, many were not even able to go out for groceries or to run necessary errands. For some, this risk is still present.
Felton’s Senior Companion Program presents the opportunity for older adults to help each other. Those 55 and older, and who are mobile, can volunteer their time to engage at-risk seniors in activities at adult day health centers and senior centers. Neither participants, nor volunteers are charged fees for the program.
For SCP volunteer opportunities, click here.
Foster Grandparent Program (FGP)
The pandemic has taken its toll on all of us, especially our children. They need to feel community and support now more than ever.
If you’re 55 and older and want to develop meaningful relationships by sharing your experience with the next generations, the Foster Grandparent Program might be for you. FGP provides older adults the opportunity to “offer support, love and wisdom to children and youth in the San Francisco Bay Area.”
Foster Grandparents befriend, tutor, and mentor young lives, serving 15-30 hours a week in preschools, elementary schools and various community settings. They get to bring their passion for helping children to classroom and group activities, field trips and more. In some cases, they connect with youth who do not have older adults to foster relationships with of their own.
FGP volunteers can receive a small, hourly stipend – tax-free.
For FGP volunteer opportunities, click here.
Felton’s Tech Squad is there to help close the technology gap, particularly amongst older adults and people with disabilities. Volunteers are trained to “provide culturally appropriate small group training and ongoing coaching.”
They utilize pop-up locations to teach people how to access community, city and commercial services online and offer tech support in 30 min sessions in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. In addition, they offer zoom training sessions for anyone struggling to use the platform on multiple devices.
Volunteer opportunities are open to all ages, so if you’re tech-savvy and passionate about helping others thrive in the digital age, this could be the perfect place to connect.
For volunteer opportunities with Tech Squad, click here.
San Francisco Long-Term Care Ombudsman
With increased neglect and isolation, older adults residing in long-term care facilities experienced extremely difficult times during the height of the pandemic. Even without the looming threat of COVID-19, the long-term care population is one of our most vulnerable, in need of advocacy.
The Ombudsman program is a federally mandated visiting program and the only federally funded, long-term care advocacy program in the United States. Felton’s Ombudsman program volunteers are trained, extensively, to “receive and investigate complaints about health, safety, welfare, and rights of older adults and people with disabilities living in long-term care facilities.” The mission is to maintain the quality of life and care, and dignity for these residents.
As an Ombudsman, you get to ensure residents that you are there just for them; you get to listen to their needs and act on their concerns. In some cases, you may be the only non-facility staff visitor they’ve had for quite some time. Most importantly, you get to be there, letting them know they are not alone.
For volunteer opportunities with Ombudsman, click here.
For a deeper look at the experience of one Ombudsman volunteer, read our spotlight article here.
As we continue to make our way out of the pandemic and back into everyday life, we endeavor to remember what we’ve learned – we need each other, we need the village. If you volunteer your time and yourself, we celebrate you and say thank you! If you’ve ever thought about volunteering previously but been on the fence, please consider reaching out to one of our programs for more info; you may make all the difference.
About Felton Institute: Founded in 1889, Felton Institute responds to human needs by providing cutting edge, evidence-based mental health and social services that transform lives. Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.
Offering more than 50 acclaimed and honored programs that address homelessness, mental health, prenatal, adolescent, adult, and senior needs, Felton Institute provides services in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties. Felton’s social services and programs utilize the latest scientific research, combining cultural sensitivity, deep respect for client and staff, and a commitment to social justice.
Felton is the oldest non-sectarian and nonprofit social services provider in the City and County of San Francisco. For over a century, Felton Institute has been at the forefront of social service innovation, pioneering new approaches to meet underserved populations’ emerging needs. At the heart of our work is the belief that individuals and families in crisis must have access to services and resources to help them build on their inherent strengths and develop self-sufficiency. www.felton.org