At the core of Responsible Travel is a commitment to maximizing positive impacts to a destination you visit. One powerful means of doing so is through “voluntourism” or volunteer tourism. The act of donating a few hours of your time is the most personal way of leaving a destination better than you found it. We invite you to explore our curated list of volunteer opportunities below and encourage you to consider incorporating voluntourism into your Sonoma County experience.
TIP: While some of these opportunities can be secured on short notice, we recommend scheduling your volunteer activity at least two weeks prior to your visit to Sonoma County.
If volunteering, we welcome you to tag us at #SonomaCounty to share your voluntourism stories and photos!
Redwood Empire Food Bank
Redwood Empire Food Bank is Sonoma County's largest hunger-relief organization, serving 133 charitable organizations, including emergency food pantries, shelters and dining rooms, childcare centers, youth programs, group homes, and disaster relief agencies. Belonging to the Feeding America network, its mission is to end hunger in the communities it serves.
Volunteer opportunities include warehouse shifts: where you can glean and package fresh produce, assemble grocery boxes, or sort donated pantry items for distribution; or distribution shifts: which involve distributing fresh produce, healthy groceries, and staple pantry items at one of the Redwood Empire Food Bank’s sites.
Those interested in volunteering with Redwood Empire Food Bank can register for a shift through its volunteer portal at volunteer.refb.org.
Sonoma County Regional Parks
Sonoma County Regional Parks preserves irreplaceable natural and cultural resources and offers opportunities for recreation and education that enhance the quality of life and well-being of Sonoma County's residents and visitors. Its properties include more than 50 parks and beaches from Petaluma to Gualala and Sonoma to Bodega Bay. Many offer wild landscapes and miles of trails. Others feature sports fields, playgrounds, and campgrounds. Regional Parks also manages the county's largest ocean marina and largest extracurricular environmental education center.
Volunteers are a crucial source of support for Sonoma County Regional Parks. They build trails, maintain campgrounds, staff special events, mend fences, clear brush, and help with much more. You can view a list of upcoming volunteer opportunities here.
Farm to Pantry
Farm to Pantry provides a continuous supply of fresh, healthy produce to those who lack access to it by rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste and getting it to people in need. Farm to Pantry envisions a just food system in which everyone has access to healthy food that honors and nourishes our community and heals the planet through eliminating food waste.
Gleaning with Farm to Pantry means around a three hour commitment on a farm or property with the possibility of a drop-off to one of its partners to see first-hand where it all goes.
View Farm to Pantry’s volunteer gleaning schedule at farmtopantry.org and fill out its gleaning form here.
Sonoma Ecology Center
Sonoma Ecology Center works to address challenges related to water supply and quality, open space, rural character, biodiversity, energy, climate change, and a better quality of life for all residents. Its education program teaches over 1,300 students every year; its preservation efforts have helped protect more than 5,000 acres of land; and its trained professionals provide ecological restoration services including biological site assessments, native plant seed collection and propagation, invasive plant mapping and treatments, stream bank stabilization and erosion control, and fire fuel management.
Volunteer Opportunities at Sonoma Ecology Center include weeding, planting, pruning, and harvesting in its Sonoma Garden Park; or participating in creek clean-ups.
Additional Voluntourism Opportunities
For additional voluntourism opportunities, we recommend checking out volunteernow.org powered by the Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL). CVNL’s volunteer matching portal can help you find the perfect volunteer opportunity based on your availability, location, type of volunteer activity, and cause.
If you represent a Sonoma County nonprofit organization that would like to be considered for inclusion on this list of curated volunteer opportunities, please contact [email protected].