In the Tenderloin

The Tenderloin - notorious for being one of SF's most unsavory neighborhoods. I signed up to do some Pro Bono work for Hands On the Bay Area (HOBA), which organizes volunteer opportunities for people (individuals, schools, businesses, etc). Today was Levi's & Co.'s Community Day, and Levi's sent its employees out around the city via HOBA to do some good.

I toured four of these projects. They were randomly assigned. To be honest, I was hoping for the Dog Washing assignment, but it didn't happen. I might go beg to photograph dog washing (I'm guessing at a rescue org) if ever it happens again, by any volunteer group. Anyways, my projects were all based in the Tenderloin. As well as being a sketchy place at night, it is also filled with non-profits, and interesting ethnic food joints. There were some blocks I didn't like the look of even on a bright sunshiney morning, and I avoided walking by those. Amazing how one block can be completely different from the one adjacent.

I started at the Hamilton Family Center, who provide shelter and programs to homeless. Here, Levi's volunteers were scrubbing down the walls. Next, over to Compass Community Services - Childcare Center, providing kid care for homeless/low income families. The rooftop playground was being cleaned, repainted, planted with flowers.

Project Open Hand is a massive kitchen providing meals to elderly and others in need. The either give out groceries to be delivered or picked up, or frozen meals. A massive massive undertaking. Food arrived in warehouse sized quantities, forklifted here and there. The volunteers had to divvy up crates of yogurt and string cheese, and bag up potatoes into manageable proportions. In the kitchen area, where I had to wear a hairnet for perhaps the second time in my life (I cannot remember the first, but there was something unpleasantly familiar about it), volunteers were making a gazillion meatballs. OK. Almost 2000 meatballs. For dinner.

Lastly, over to Shanti, which provides support to people with cancer, HIV and other such life-scary illnesses. A room was repainted, surfaces scrubbed, office furniture rearranged.

While I did not photograph any dog washing, it was a learning experience. Tenderloin streets may not be the funnest place to hang out, but there's a lot of people working to improve lives behind the building facades.