Dear Tony: New year, new opportunities.

St. Anthony’s provides a free, hot meal 365 days a year, and a range of other essential services, with the help of volunteers.

Dear Tony,

I’m in a post-holiday funk. I made a new year’s resolution to give back to the community, but I’m not sure where to start. Can you give me any ideas or inspiration?


January Blues

Dear January,

First, kudos on an excellent new year’s resolution. Second, know that you are not alone in that funkiness you’re feeling. The month of January serves up a cocktail of complicated emotions for many of us, as the holidays wind down and the weather takes a turn for the worse.

In the world of volunteer and donation driven programs, that January cocktail comes garnished with additional challenges. After the rush of the holidays, during which people fervently and joyously give their time and money, it’s natural to see a drop off in support for our low income and homeless neighbors in need.

But those in our city who lack food, shelter, and community need assistance all year round, including and especially in January. If it’s a hard month for you or me, imagine what it feels like for someone who spent the holidays estranged from family, sleeping outside, or without enough to get by. For those reasons, January may be the most critical month of the year.

In January 2016, St. Anthony’s served an average of 2,247 meals per day — higher than the average served in November or December of 2015. Though data shows that need for volunteers in January is consistent with or higher than in other months, more than 500 dining room volunteer slots remain unfilled for this January. That’s almost double the average number of slots typically available at the start of a month.

St. Anthony’s Winter Shelter has offered safety, security, and a hot meal for 60 individuals per night since its opening in December. That’s more than 2,000 total services so far. Data from last year shows that shelter attendance does not vary during the month of January. The shelter relies on volunteers every morning and evening to serve meals and assist with set up and tear down duties . Currently more than 150 of those slots are unfilled for January.

Up to 60 individuals per night find a safe, warm place to sleep in St. Anthony’s winter shelter.

So if you’re looking for ways to make the most of January, consider taking action that helps low-income and homeless San Franciscans. Whether by signing up to volunteer in the shelter, prepare or serve a meal in the Dining Room, sort clothes in the Clothing Program, or help someone open an email account in the Tech Lab — the impact you bring in just a few hours is endlessly important to our guests and our St. Anthony’s community.