Outreach & Volunteers at City Center

Kitchen Volunteers

Volunteer Activities

From the identifiable beginnings of Zen, working together has been an integral part of the practice. Work is one way to bring this practice out of the meditation hall and into the world, and is one of the most important ways practitioners can come together and begin to know one another intimately, forging the Sangha (community), which is one of Buddhism’s Three Treasures.

If you are interested in joining this practice by volunteering at Beginner's Mind Temple, please contact the Outreach Coordinator, Ellen Simpson, at ellen.simpson@sfzc.org.

Volunteering is an opportunity to experience working wholeheartedly in a practice setting while giving one's time and energy to the Sangha. Though not always open, these are examples of volunteer opportunities at City Center:

  • Bookstore
  • Garden
  • Kitchen
  • Library
  • Outreach

There are also volunteer opportunities at Green Gulch Farm.

Outreach Activities

Outreach activities at City Center include cooking and distributing meals to formerly homeless people; providing dharma books, pen pals and meditation classes for prison and jail inmates, and activities with families in transitional housing. Volunteers are welcome in the following outreach activities. See below for details.

  • Book sale
  • Food offerings
  • Activities with children and families
  • Prison correspondence
  • Sitting & discussion group for people in recovery
  • Other outreach activities

Book Sale

The proceeds from City Center’s biannual sales go to support Zen Center’s outreach activities to prisoners, to families in transition, to those in rehabilitation facilities, and other venues.

Activities with Children and Families

Zen Center organizes field trips and other events for children and families in neighborhood transitional housing. Volunteers with ideas, energy, transportation, talents, and/or planning skills are warmly invited to get involved. Contact the Outreach office at outreach@sfzc.org.

Zen Center Prison Program

Prison Correspondence: City Center matches prisoners who wish to discuss their Buddhist practice with volunteer pen pals. We are looking for people with an established practice, an understanding of basic Buddhist teachings, and about half an hour a month. All mail comes through the Zen Center office and it's possible for penpals to use a pseudonym to protect their anonymity. In addition, there is a fund to send Buddhist books to prisoners at no cost to the pen pal. Guidelines, a sample first letter, and on-going support are provided.

Those interested in the Prison Correspondence Program can contact the Outreach Coordinator, Ellen Simpson, at ellen.simpson@sfzc.org.

Meditation and Stress Reduction in Jail: City Center practice leaders visit the San Francisco jail on a regular basis bringing meditation and stress reduction practices to the incarcerated. 

Sitting & Discussion Group for People in Recovery

Mondays 7:30 – 9 pm

This is a drop-in group for those interested in exploring the connection between Buddhist teaching and practice and recovery work. See the Meditation in Recovery web page for more information.

Other Outreach Activities

City Center teachers and community practitioners now offer meditation and stress reduction classes at Western Park Apartments (a residential facility for low income retired people), Lighthouse for the Blind, and Civic Center Residence (a residence for people with mental or physical disabilities who were previously unhoused).

Contact Outreach Coordinator

San Francisco Zen Center is very interested in creating and strengthening ties with local organizations and welcome inquiries. Contact the Outreach office at outreach@sfzc.org.