Give back to your community through the best organizations in Marin

Maddie Loebbaka


Whether you are a freshman looking for the perfect community service project or a senior searching for a new project, finding a good organization to volunteer for can be difficult. Many organizations require their volunteers to be at least 18 years old or have a long time commitment that is hard to balance with a demanding school schedule. I’m here to help! After navigating the ins and outs of the Marin philanthropy world for six years, I want to share my knowledge to make the process easy, and most importantly, rewarding.


Bridge the Gap

For the academically inclined, Bridge the Gap College Prep in Marin City is the dream volunteering gig. Bridge the Gap is a tutoring program for underprivileged youth in the Marin City and Sausalito area with the ultimate goal being to send all kids in the program to college, and so far, they’ve been 100 percent successful! They offer general tutoring for younger grades in subjects such as math and English, as well as more specialized tutoring for older age groups, such as essay writing and résumé building. In the tutoring program, you are matched with one student in first through eighth grade that you tutor in these subjects throughout the school year. With the tutoring programs taking place on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in both after-school and one-on-one evening sessions the program can cater to all types of schedules. The program also hosts “Fab Fridays” once a month where students in Marin City and Sausalito are encouraged to come and hang out with friends, enjoy tasty food and play games with volunteers. 

I have worked with the program for six years now and each day I come in, whether it be as a tutor or a friend, the experience brightens my day. I’ve had the opportunity to work with kids from both elementary and middle school and was able to let the volunteer coordinator, Pam Flores, know what subjects I specialize in and was ready to teach. Bridge the Gap caters to the volunteer’s needs and specifications while still maintaining a focus on the student, making it a perfect fit for many Redwood students.

Hooves for Harmony

Hooves for Harmony is the perfect balance for connecting with animals and children. If you are looking to help in an impactful way, look no further than Morning Star Ranch in Novato. This equestrian-therapy program provides free sessions for children, whether it stems from socioeconomic stress, mental disabilities or speech, using horseback riding to encourage communication in children with special needs. No prior experience with horses is needed for the program—though it is recommended—so the program is available to all. The only setback with this organization is the distance from the Redwood area. Some might find the 30-minute drive too long for an early Sunday morning, but the experience will make up for it. Being able to get the hands-on experience of helping groom and prepare the horses and then spending quality time with the children participating in the program will have a meaningful impact on your day and the community. Leading the horses and speaking to the kids in need provides a perfect setting to spend time in nature with friendly animals, surrounded by children that love to tell jokes. At Hooves for Harmony, one of the most special aspects of the program is when you can feel the participant begin to open up and become comfortable with the volunteers and the animals through riding the horse and speaking with caring volunteers.


Milo Foundation

Some of the most commonly thought of animal volunteering options are the Marin Humane Society and Guide Dogs for the Blind, which both require volunteers to be 18 years or older and commit to a required number of volunteer hours. If those requirements don’t work for you, the Milo Foundation is a great alternative! Milo is a successful animal shelter with the goal of rescuing at-risk animals and matching them with suitable homes. They accept volunteers of all ages and no experience is required. The only prerequisite to volunteer is to attend a volunteer orientation that happens about once a month that volunteers are only required to attend one time. After you have been to orientation and are a registered volunteer, you can stop by whenever you are available, perfect for students with busy schedules. The most common activities are simply taking dogs on walks or playing with the animals, which are great stress relievers as well! The only downside to the Milo Foundation is its location: Point Richmond, which is a fair way away from Marin. However, the drive is not as long as it seems, only about 20 minutes from Redwood. The main issue is having to pay the bridge tolls after crossing the Richmond Bridge. Despite the commute, working with the organization is well worth it. From what I have experienced, the staff at the Milo Foundation is one of the kindest around and is always looking for a helping hand. They appreciate all the help they can get, no matter how much time you can volunteer. However, the most valuable aspect of Milo is the time spent with the animals, especially if you’re a dog-person!


Special Olympics

The Special Olympics hosts a legendary annual event where special needs athletes from across Northern California can compete in track and field, tennis and swimming. Although this is the largest and most noteworthy event of the year for the organization, there are many other times they look for help from volunteers, such as their Bowling Championship in the wintertime, the Basketball Regionals during the spring and the Polar Plunge in the cold month of February. The mission of the Special Olympics is to provide athletic opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities so that they can enjoy the same freedoms as neurotypical people do. On the Northern California Special Olympics website (, the events are clearly presented so that opportunities are always happening. Special Olympics is a popular place to volunteer, so make sure to check the calendar in advance—at least a few months ahead—to snag a highly coveted spot. This organization is great for those who love working with people and are ready to dedicate a few hours in the sun to a good cause. There are many options for volunteering, whether it be as a referee, scorekeeper or simply someone who chats with the athletes. The Special Olympics’ strength is the extensive connections you can make with both the participating athletes and your fellow volunteers.


At the end of the day, what matters most in philanthropy is going out there and doing the hard work. Any organization can be fun as long as you go in with the right attitude. Nonetheless, these organizations are the best to maximize your experience, but more importantly, the positive impact you have on the community while volunteering.