A winner of our 2021 first annual Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Awards — Bay Area, the Assistance League of Diablo Valley is an all-volunteer organization established in 1967 as an outpost of the national Assistance League, made up of 120 chapters across the country. Make It Better Foundation founder and Chief Visionary Officer Susan B. Noyes recently sat down for a live virtual event with Suzi Geldin, president of the Assistance League of Diablo Valley, to discuss practical ways to support individuals and families who need a helping hand.
Composed of approximately 400 members, mainly in Contra Costa County, the Assistance League of Diablo Valley currently supports 16 different programs, all designed to help communities from cradle to grave: children, students, families and seniors. The organization’s initiatives include donating boxes of food to families on CalWorks, providing baby bags for infants at risk of developmental delays, and distributing backpacks with emergency supplies to foster children and teens in crisis, among other projects. All programs are funded by proceeds from the postage stamp-sized Assistance League Wayside Inn Thrift Shop in Lafayette, as well as grants and donations from individuals, businesses and foundations. The thrift shop alone raised more than $400,000 during the pandemic via sales and events.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Geldin has been president of the Assistance League of Diablo Valley since June 2020. Service runs in her family, who taught her at a young age that everyone should give back to their communities, and she says being president of this nonprofit organization has given her the opportunity to make a big impact. During the virtual event, Geldin shared these three ways you can support the Assistance League of Diablo Valley and the much-needed work they’re doing.
- Join your local Assistance League chapter or the Diablo Valley Assistance League. The more volunteers they get, the better they can serve the community. Geldin says there’s “a short learning curve,” but after that you can feel free to choose from any philanthropic or volunteer programs, committees or thrift shop teams that interest you. If you’re interested in food, for example, volunteer to put together meal kits for kids who don’t have access to school meals on the weekends. Similarly, if you’re a retired educator, volunteer to help a high school sponsorship program for foster youth.
- Encourage the teenagers in your life to volunteer for Assisteens. Assisteens is similar to the adult program, but it’s geared toward kids in 7th through 12th grades who are looking to not only volunteer, but also to bolster their leadership and organizational skills. Teens select their own philanthropic programs — which in the past have ranged from sending notecards to homebound seniors to shopping for clothing for homeless youth — and raise the funds to implement the projects.
- Donate, donate, donate! Whether it’s by donating your gently used goods to the thrift store or shopping there, every dollar counts. Or if you prefer, send money directly to the Assistance League — and don’t forget to discuss corporate sponsorship or matching with your HR department.
Donate to the Assistance League here.
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Maria De La O is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and is an award-winning writer and editor, having contributed to publications including the Village Voice, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Curve and the Washington Post. She lives in San Francisco and New York with her partner and uber-cool daughter, Vivienne. She supports all manner of media nonprofits and volunteers for Dear Community, an initiative to revive San Francisco Chinatown and support AAPI elders.