Quick Take:

With the holiday season upon us, plenty of Santa Cruz County residents are in need of help — and you can lend a hand by volunteering with or donating to these organizations throughout the county.

With many across the country and around the world continuing the slow climb out of the COVID-19 pandemic hole, it’s no secret that more people than ever need help. Santa Cruz is no exception.

There are many organizations in Santa Cruz County that provide food and more to families in need. Here are some that welcome volunteers and donations to support community members in need.

Community Bridges


The mission: Since 1977, Community Bridges has delivered vital resources to those in need in Santa Cruz County. With 10 programs across 20 sites involving food, transportation and family resources, the organization serves just about every demographic in need across the county.
Website: https://communitybridges.org
Hours: 9-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Location: 519 Main St., Watsonville 95067
Contact: 831-688-8840 or email info@cbridges.org. See additional contact information for specific divisions here.
To volunteer: Fill out an application and send it to hr@cbridges.org. You may also drop it off at the Watsonville office location listed above.

Food Not Bombs

Food Not Bombs distributing meals at Front and Laurel streets.
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

The mission: Established in 1992, the Santa Cruz chapter of Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer program that serves vegan meals, produce and baked goods to those in need. Meals are given out in the parking lot at the corner of Laurel and Front streets. Food Not Bombs serve 50-100 people each weekday, and up to 300 per day on the weekends.
Website: https://santacruz.foodnotbombs.net/index.php
Hours: Volunteers are needed every day from noon to 4 p.m. at Laurel and Front streets. Those interested can inquire about other volunteer positions as well.
Contact: 800-884-1136 or email menu@foodnotbombs.net
To volunteer: Email santacruzfoodnotbombs@gmail.com

Grey Bears

The mission: Conceived in 1973 by two UCSC graduates, Grey Bears has dedicated itself to producing fresh fruits and vegetables from their gardens for the elderly poor, veterans, families, and agricultural workers.
Website: https://greybears.org/
Hours: 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Location: 2710 Chanticleer Ave., Santa Cruz 95065
Contact: 831-479-1055 or email info@greybears.org
To Volunteer: Call 831-479-1055 ext. 226, email rosie@greybears.org, and fill out a volunteer application here.

Homeless Garden Project

A sign welcomes visitors to the Homeless Garden Project farm on the Westside
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

The mission: Since 1990, the Homeless Garden Project has been growing organic produce, first at a plot on Pelton Avenue and later at its Natural Bridges Farm, and selling it to local restaurants and farmers markets. The organization strives to provide sanctuary, refuge and meaningful work within the space of the farm.
Website: https://homelessgardenproject.org/
Hours: Natural Bridges Farm is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. The downtown store is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
Locations: Main office: 30 West Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz 95060
Natural Bridges Farm: Shaffer Road at Delaware Avenue
Downtown store: 1338 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz 95060
Contact: 831-426-3609 or email info@homelessgardenproject.org
To volunteer: Volunteer opportunities are available at the Farm Kitchen and the Natural Bridges Farm. Email volunteer@homelessgardenproject.org for more information and fill out a volunteer application here.

Meals On Wheels for Santa Cruz County


The mission: Run by Community Bridges, Meals On Wheels delivers food to senior citizens around the county.
Website: https://communitybridges.org/mealsonwheels/
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Location: 1777 Capitola Rd., Santa Cruz 95062
Contact: 831-464-3180 or email MOWINFO@cbridges.org
To volunteer: Fill out an application and send it to hr@cbridges.org. You may also drop it off at the main office location listed above.

Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes

The mission: A community-supported kitchen and pantry founded in 1989 in Pajaro Valley, the organization is dedicated to provide residents with nutritious food and education.
Website: https://www.pvloavesandfishes.org/
Hours: 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Location: 150 2nd St., Watsonville 95076
Contact: 831-722-4144 or email info@pvloavesandfishes.org
To volunteer: Call 831-319-4571 or email volunteer@pvloavesandfishes.org.

Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County

Second Harvest volunteers in action.
Second Harvest volunteers in action. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

The mission: Established in 1972, Second Harvest was the first food bank in California and the second oldest in the country. The nonprofit frequently holds volunteer opportunities, including for groups, such as packing and sorting food at a warehouse, Saturday sorting, community food distributions and more.
Website: https://www.thefoodbank.org/
Hours: Food distribution typically takes place in two-hour periods on weekday afternoon; Saturday sorting sessions are from 8 a.m. to noon, as are warehouse volunteer days. For a full calendar of volunteer opportunities, click here.
Location: 800 Ohlone Parkway, Watsonville 95076
Contact: 831-722-7110 or email foodhotline@thefoodbank.org
To volunteer: Email Jael Salinas at jael@thefoodbank.org

St. Francis Catholic Kitchen

Volunteers at St. Francis Catholic Kitchen in Santa Cruz.
Volunteers at St. Francis Catholic Kitchen in Santa Cruz. Credit: Via St. Francis Catholic Kitchen

The mission: For more than 35 years, St. Francis Catholic Kitchen has been serving a hot lunch for about 150 people every day at noon. During the COVID pandemic, the organization has shifted to giving out brown bag lunches curbside at the same time.
Website: https://stfrancissoupkitchen.org/soup-kitchen/
Hours: Office hours are from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Location: 205 Mora St., Santa Cruz, 95060
Contact: Richard Crowe, kitchen program director, at 831-459-6712

Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County

A promotional image for Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County
Credit: Via Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County

The mission: The Volunteer Center is a one-stop shop for anything volunteer-related for individuals, organizations, and businesses. Serving Santa Cruz since 1967, the center’s programs include Adopt-a-Family, grocery shopping for those in need, youth services and more, making it easy to find a fit for your skills and availability.
Website: https://scvolunteercenter.org/
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Location: 1740 17th Ave., Santa Cruz 95062
Contact: 831-427-5070 or email info@scvolunteercenter.org

What organizations did we miss? Let us know via email at news@lookoutlocal.com.

Max Chun is the general-assignment correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Max’s position has pulled him in many different directions, seeing him cover development, COVID, the opioid crisis, labor, courts...