10 Places to Volunteer in San Diego

There are many benefits to volunteer work, such as staying active, meeting new people, and achieving the fulfilling feeling that comes from giving back. If you are looking for volunteer opportunities in San Diego, there are dozens of charities and nonprofits throughout the county who rely on volunteers to achieve their missions.

While there are several high-profile charitable organizations in San Diego with volunteer opportunities, here is a list of 10 lesser-known places to volunteer that you may not have heard of before, all of which would benefit from your time and unique skills!

Gleaners for Unused Food

Gleaning is a food-gathering activity that goes back thousands of years, to when landowners would leave a portion of their crops to be harvested by the poor, rather than let it go wasted. Today, unused food from farms often ends in landfills. Gleaners in San Diego gather surplus food from farms, gardens, orchards, and yards, which is then donated to feed local residents who are food insecure. Check out the list of organizations looking for gleaners on the San Diego Food System Alliance website—there are organizations in various parts of the county, and even a group specifically for seniors 55 and over!

Fleet Science Center

If you love science and helping the public, consider one of the volunteer positions at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. Positions include Museum Ambassador, Camp Counselor, Gallery Facilitator, Education Programs Volunteer, and more! It’s a great way to share your passions with like-minded visitors to the museum.

SD Refugee Tutoring

Help local refugee children in City Heights by providing one-on-one English and math tutoring on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Tutors also read and play educational games with the students, all of whom have been in the United States anywhere from one month to four years. Volunteers are not required to have any formal training aside from speaking English fluently and committing to tutoring at least once a week throughout the school year.

Mama’s Kitchen

Mama’s Kitchen is a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that prepares and delivers nutritious meals for San Diegans living with cancer, AIDS, or other critical illnesses who are too sick to shop and cook for themselves. They need volunteers to drive and deliver meals, kitchen workers, front desk managers, and volunteers to assist in the pantry, and at food drives and events.

I Love a Clean San Diego

I Love a Clean San Diego hosts cleanup events throughout greater San Diego County, resulting in the removal of half a million pounds of debris from neighborhoods, canyons, and the coastline each year. You can volunteer as an individual, or enlist your coworkers for a great team-building event.

Girls Inc. of San Diego

For 50 years, Girls Inc. has helped girls ages 8 to 18 learn essential life skills, explore professions in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), and view attending college as an attainable goal, despite the hardships they may face. They do this through providing mentoring relationships, a pro-female mindset, and research-based programming. Volunteers make a difference in the lives of under-served girls by serving as positive role models during one-hour program classes, or as operational volunteers who keep the organization running smoothly.

Home Start

Home Start is a non-profit child abuse prevention and treatment agency, strengthening San Diego families since 1972. They address conditions that contribute to abusive situations, such as unsafe neighborhoods and poverty, while helping with self-sufficiency and emotional needs. Their mission requires volunteers in a variety of roles, such as administrative support, child care, psychological assistants, domestic violence advocates, and volunteers to offer free tax filing support during tax season.

Feeding San Diego

Working with farmers, manufacturers, and distributors, Feeding San Diego collects unused food to serve the nearly 400,000 San Diegans who are food insecure. Volunteers help with a variety of projects, including cleaning, sorting, and boxing food, and help with administrative tasks is needed as well. While you can volunteer on your own, this is another organization that encourages groups to come as a team-building or family-bonding activity.

Helen Woodward Animal Center

The motto of the Helen Woodward Animal Center is “people help animals and animals help people.” The no-kill facility provides educational programs, humane care and adoption for homeless animals, meals for the pets of low-income seniors and disabled military members with service dogs, pet encounter therapy, and other programs that benefit both animals and humans. They need volunteers in a wide range of roles including walking dogs, helping at events, or lending a hand in the home office.


For over 45 years, ElderHelp has provided services to help seniors remain independent and live with dignity in their own homes. Seniors are matched with volunteers who provide home visits and assist with grocery shopping, home safety inspections, accompanying seniors on social outings, organizing mail, and light home tasks such as gardening. They also provide transportation for seniors, and education for their caregivers.

If you are looking to give back by volunteering this year, any one of the above organizations would be grateful for your time and effort!


For more articles on healthy living in San Diego, visit Scrippsamg.com

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