Sign up for The Oaklandside’s free daily newsletter.

As the New Year looms with hopes and resolutions for a better version of ourselves, we may feel the call to support change within our community. When all the presents have been unwrapped and the festive lights continue to glow, we each have the opportunity to help make our neighbors’ needs a little lighter. 

The giving spirit isn’t limited to the holidays though. We’ve compiled a list of 10 organizations that support Oakland’s most vulnerable residents year-round, which accept community support in the form of food and clothing donations and/or volunteers. We know there are so many more groups doing amazing work in Oakland (including a number of food pantries not listed below) and this is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Whether it’s these organizations or others, we hope you’ll continue to support local service organizations however and whenever you can, and share those opportunities with friends and neighbors.

Asian Prisoner Support Committee

Since 2002, the group has been raising awareness of the growing number of incarcerated Asian and Pacific Islanders, supporting that population with leadership programs, anti-deportation campaigns, and care packages. Donations made online will also be used to support the organization’s reentry services that can help reduce recidivism to jails and prisons. Find out more on the APSC website, Instagram, and Twitter

Community Kitchens

Among the food-justice collective’s programs is Dining for Justice, in which participating restaurants add a 1% surcharge to their bills and donate the revenues to support community meals for Oaklanders in need. Volunteer chefs from Community Kitchens also contribute to keeping Oakland’s various “town fridges”—free neighborhood food supplies—stocked with healthy offerings. The organization’s community partners include a couple of groups (Homies Empowerment and People’s Programs) that you can learn more about below, as well as East Oakland Collective, BOSS, Kerry’s Kids, and Roots Health Community Center. They’ve also begun providing meals for the Eat. Play. Learn Bus, a mobile food and resource center conceived by Stephen and Ayesha Curry’s Eat.Play.Learn foundation. Cash donations and volunteers are needed.

Committees United for Restorative Youth Justice (Youth)

CURYJ is primarily staffed by formerly incarcerated people, youth, and volunteers who assist others who are transitioning back after incarceration, and work to promote community healing and policy change. Donations to the organization will help support CURYJ programs like the Homies 4 Justice (H4J) Internship, which provides social justice and job training to youth, and the Dream Beyond Bars (DBB) Fellowship, a leadership development and diversion program. Volunteers are also welcome.

Homies Empowerment

The East Oakland organization, co-founded in 2009 by César Cruz and Lizbeth Gomez, offers programs encouraging community self-sufficiency and self-determination. Tax deductible donations will go to supporting the FREEdom Store in deep East Oakland, where the organization distributes free food and household necessities to those in need. Donations of canned food, diapers, and other basic-needs can help to ensure that the FREEdom Store stays fully stocked.

Native American Health Center (NAHC)

Native American Health Center in Fruitvale. Photo: Pete Rosos

NAHC has been providing health and community services in the Bay Area for more than 50 years. In 2021, a section of International Blvd was renamed Waukazoo Way in honor of CEO Martin Waukazoo for his 40 years of service promoting the health of Oaklanders at the center. This federally qualified health center serves communities throughout the Bay Area, including at its East Oakland location in Fruitvale, regardless of tribal affiliations or ethnicity. But NAHC is more than just a health clinic. Its programs include housing-attorney consultations for renters, mental and behavioral health services, basic dental care, and more. Donations are accepted online or by mail to 2920 International Blvd. Oakland, CA 94601

East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC)

For over 40 years EOYDC has given GED preparation, counseling services, and youth job opportunities to Oakland youth. In July 2022, EOYDC hosted a gala to support its Pathway to College and Career program serving Black and brown youth from economically exploited and low-income households. Donations will help to maintain programming for families and children. For activities and updates you can follow EOYDC on Instagram or visit their website.

Oakland Reach

A parent-led advocacy organization that works to educate Oakland parents and empower them to make change, particularly those with children in underperforming schools. Known for their collective work wearing yellow t-shirts, the parents group also has a Family Advocacy Fellowship for parents and grandparents to gain knowledge about Oakland’s educational system. Reach’s School Enrollment Support team assists families with the school enrollment process. Donations are accepted on their website.

Peoples’ Programs 

The organizers behind People’s Programs are also the hosts of the Hella Black podcast, which recently created a multimedia project called Tales of the Town, a podcast and book chronicling 100 years of Black history in Oakland. The project also includes an album featuring artists from around the Bay Area, with proceeds going to support community workshops, political education, and a mobile health clinic. Donations to Peoples’ Programs can be made on the organization’s website. For more information and updates follow the group on Instagram. People’s Program is also looking for volunteers to assist with their breakfast program for unhoused communities.

Punks with Lunch

Punks With Lunch a group which educates people on injection drug use, Narcan, and other resources in West Oakland. Credit: Amir Aziz

The non-profit group of volunteers works to provide harm-reduction services including community clean-ups, hygiene supply distributions, and narcan trainings. The group also operates a mobile needle-exchange and disposal program. This year, the organization’s Winter Care Village provided HIV and Hep C testing, a clothing drive, bike repair, and treatment for pets whose owners are unhoused.  

Contact the organization on its website or by email at: oaklandpunkswithlunch@gmail.com

West Oakland Mural Project

Jilchristina Vest’s West Oakland Victorian home honors the women of the Black Panther Party. It also functions as a museum that was created and designed to highlight Black women and the #SayHerName movement that aims to make visible Black women victims of police brutality and racist violence in the United States. The mural and museum are a block away from the bust of Huey P. Newton, which was unveiled last year on Huey P. Newton Way. Tours are available by appointment. Tax deductible donations go to maintaining the house and museum.

Brandy Collins

Brandy Collins is a writer and public services advocate, born and raised in the Bay Area. She is a 2019-2020 cohort graduate from the Maynard Institute for Journalism, a correspondent for Oakland Voices, a blogger, and the funny one in numerous group chats. She is concerned with civic engagement and leadership development toward making public works more efficient for the people. Brandy is full of Scorpio magic and a self-proclaimed Professional Aunty. Follow her on Twitter @MsBrandyCollins or Instagram @story_soul_collecter.