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10 Meaningful Ways to Give Back to the Sonoma County Community

Two volunteers unloading boxes of food donationsSonoma County is famous for its majestic redwoods and miles of rugged Pacific coastlines. 

But it’s the local community that truly makes it such a special place.

And if you’re looking for ways to give back in Sonoma County, there are ample options available no matter your passion, skill, or background.

Here are a few options you can consider.

10 Ways to Make a Difference in Sonoma County

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to giving back in your community. Deciding the most impactful place to focus your time, efforts, or financial support isn’t always an easy decision.

The good news is that there are a multitude of ways in which you can make a difference with various levels of commitment.

1. Donate to a local food bank or soup kitchen

Two people packing bags of food donationsAccording to the most recent Sonoma County Hunger Index report, around 60,000 low-income householdsrepresenting about 1/3 of county residentswere food insecure.

So, if you’re looking to give back to the community, donating to a local food bank is an impactful way to do it. 

The Redwood Empire Food Bank is the primary hunger-relief organization serving Sonoma County. 

They distribute food to over 80,000 people in need each month through a network of over 100 charitable agencies, including soup kitchens. You can help by donating money or food or volunteering your time.

2. Give blood at a local blood drive

A technician's gloved hand holding some gauze over a blood donor's armThroughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Sonoma County (and all of Northern California) faced an urgent situation as hundreds of blood drives across the state were canceled, causing a shortage much-needed blood donations. 

While many people are unsettled by needles, blood donations help save the lives of people who have been in accidents, undergone surgery, or are suffering from a blood disorder. 

You can check with your local hospital or Red Cross chapter to find out where the nearest blood drive is. While it can seem intimidating, the process is relatively easy.

Make sure you have a healthy meal, get a good night’s sleep, and drink lots of water before heading to your appointment. The process generally takes less than an hour.

3. Volunteer at a local school or after-school program

A group of children listening to their teacher while sitting on a carpet. Two have their hand in the air. This option may not work for everyone, but if you enjoy being around kids and have a schedule that can accommodate it, volunteering at a local school is a rewarding way for you to contribute to the health and wellness of your community.

When you volunteer at after-school programs, you can help out with homework, be a mentor, or even help with supervision. 

When you provide support for local teachers and children, you’re playing an important role in empowering the future thinkers and innovators of Sonoma County. 

4. Help out at a senior center or nursing home 

A senior woman smiling while looking at a smartphone that's being held by a younger volunteerMany nursing homes need volunteers to help with various tasks, from reading to residents and helping them write letters to providing administrative support. 

You can also help with special events or outings for the occupants, providing support and companionship. 

Our elderly are often among our most neglected and vulnerable citizens, and providing comfort and friendship will make a huge difference in their lives.

Organizations like Vintage House help facilitate support and volunteer opportunities for Sonoma County’s senior citizens. 

5. Collect and donate items to a local animal shelter or rescue group

A dog lying on top of a pile of blanketsEach year, more than 4,000 animals come through the doors of Sonoma County Animal Services–a number that can sometimes be overwhelming for staff and create strains on capacity and facilities.

Donating items to an animal shelter or rescue group is a critical way to make life better for these animals for whom the future might otherwise be bleak. 

Animal shelters and rescue groups always need donations, and yours can make a big difference in the lives of the animals they help.

Some of the things always needed by these organizations include:

  • Monetary donations
  • Pet food
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Towels and blankets

You can also donate your time by volunteering at a local shelter or rescue group. There are many ways to help, such as socializing animals, cleaning cages, walking dogs, and helping with office work.

6. Donate clothes or other household items to a local thrift store or homeless shelter

Someone folding a shirt on top of a pile of clothing. Preliminary numbers for the 2022 Sonoma County PIT count show a 5% year-over-year increase in people experiencing a form of homelessness, bringing the total to nearly 2,893 individuals.

You can support people experiencing homelessness by donating to a local thrift store or homeless shelter when you clear out your closet. 

Many of these organizations always need donations, and your unwanted, unneeded, or unused items could make a real difference in someone’s life.

When giving clothes to a homeless shelter, ensure they’re clean and in good condition. 

You can also contribute to a local thrift store, which helps support different causes depending on the organization. 

Make sure to do your research to know where your donation is going.

7. Tutor students struggling in school 

A woman and young boy reading togetherMany Sonoma County students require support to succeed in school. Some require more resources while others need more support at home. 

Regardless, tutoring can be a great way to give back to the community and help these students to thrive, and there are several ways to get involved with tutoring in Sonoma County.

One option is to volunteer with an organization like the Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma County or, if this isn’t possible, you can always try private tutoring firms in your area.

8. Mentor someone starting a small business 

Two women speaking together while sitting at a tableSmall business owners are the backbone of the American economy. They create jobs, drive innovation, and help keep communities vibrant. 

And if you’re a small business owner yourself, you know just how significant it can be to receive support, insight, and guidance from mentors and people who have succeeded in building a business before you. 

Many organizations in Sonoma County could benefit from your time and expertise, and you can provide it by joining a local chamber of commerce, SCORE, or the Small Business Development Center. 

You can also become a mentor through the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. For just a few hours a month, you’ll make a difference in someone’s life and help strengthen the local economy in the process. 

9. Coach a Little League team 

A young baseball player sliding onto the baseThere’s nothing like sport to teach life lessons to the next generation of citizens in Sonoma County. And coaches are always in high demand for kids’ sports teams. 

Teaching the game to eager young athletes while also molding character and minds is one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can have. 

If you’re passionate about a particular sport, there are local leagues you can connect with to volunteer your time. 

And if coaching isn’t for you, you can consider becoming a team manager or sponsoring a team to help them buy uniforms or equipment.

10. Serve on a local board or commission

A work meeting with four people at the table and one person standing and pointing to sticky notes on the wallAn often-forgotten way to help the community is to serve on a city board or commission. These organizations help make decisions on various topics affecting the community, such as zoning changes and event permits. 

While not everyone may be interested in the day-to-day workings of government, serving on one of these boards is a great way to impact the community directly.

Local Businesses Can Also Make a Difference

Businesses can make a huge difference in giving back to the community, and the benefits can be endless.

  • Increase in customers and brand loyalty: When businesses give back to the community, they often see an increase in customers. Customers also become more loyal to brands that support causes they care about. 
  • Improved employee morale and engagement: Employees want to work for companies that are doing good globally. Giving back to the community can help improve employee morale and engagement. 
  • Tax breaks: Businesses can get tax breaks for donating money or goods to charities

For businesses, giving back doesn’t have to mean cutting a check. It can also take the form of volunteer days or the provision of probono services. 

There are a number of Sonoma County-based businesses striving to make a big difference and using our very own SOMO Cowork as their headquarters. 

Giving back is a personal journey, and everyone has their own unique capacity for doing so. But to whatever extent you’re able to do so, there are ample opportunities to make a difference in Sonoma County. 

If you’re interested in living in a close-knit community that offers the conveniences of city life with the best of country living, then we invite you to download our Residential Project Brief to learn more about SOMO Village or to get in touch with us today.

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