Outreach & Volunteers at City Center

Kitchen Volunteers


Volunteer Activities

As with all SF Zen Center's onsite events, the outreach and volunteer activities—except for the prison correspondence program—are on indefinite hold due to Covid-19.


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.

Interested students may join this practice and effort by volunteering in a variety of areas at Beginner’s Mind Temple. To explore what might be the best fit, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator, Jeffrey Schneider, at either 415.354.0361 or via email at outreach@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.

Food Offerings

The Zen Center Outreach Department, supported by volunteers, currently brings meals to residents of the Richardson Apartments in Hayes Valley. The residents of the apartments are formerly homeless individuals who have conditions (physical or psychiatric) for which they require assistance to live independently.

Those who are interested in participating can contact the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Jeffrey Schneider. He may be reached at either 415.354.0361 or by email at outreach@sfzc.org.

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 or at 415.354.0361.

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 Outreach Coordinator Jeffrey Schneider at outreach@sfzc.org, or at 415.354.0361.

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 currently offers meditation and stress reduction classes at the West Side Apartments (a residential facility for retired people) and Lighthouse for the Blind. In addition, City Center also participates in providing meals as part of the Winter Shelter Program of the SF Interfaith Council and breakfast for homeless men and women at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

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 or at 415.354.0361.