Building Friendships Through Community Service

By Emily McDonnell

When I moved to San Francisco, I wanted to find a way to become involved in, and give back to, my community in a way that would affect real change in the city and help me learn about various organizations doing philanthropic work at the same time. The kinds of opportunities that I had come across on sites like were mostly focused around short-term “band-aid” type solutions like beach cleanups. I was looking for something that would have a longer-term impact than just picking up trash each month.

I heard about the Junior League through my high school’s annual alumni community service day organizer, who had also organized a Day of Volunteerism for the Junior League’s East Bay chapter.

I was immediately interested in the Junior League after spending a day with women working together to help build a community garden in a modest neighborhood in Alameda. Living and working in the city, I decided to join JLSF. JLSF immediately exceeded my expectations. I loved the fact that the provisional class was made up of smaller groups of women who all live, work, and frequent a chosen neighborhood. This allowed me to get to know the women in my group much more easily and intimately than if I was meeting everyone in the context of a large provisional class, and I quickly began to form close friendships with similarly impact-oriented and very diverse women within JLSF. It was a great opportunity to form a friendship group not based on our sector of work or college background but purely based on our interest in giving back to our community.

With so many opportunities to help different organizations with their volunteer needs, I’ve come to know and appreciate many organizations in San Francisco, have felt like I’ve made an impact through my placement on the Raphael House committee and various one-day volunteer opportunities such as planting trees in the Aids Memorial Grove. The best part is definitely meeting all of the other amazing JLSF women along the way. Thanks, JLSF, for helping me learn new skills, build my community and network, make a difference, and have fun along the way!