Monday, September 30, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight: Violet Banta

The Family House staff knows a friendly voice when they pick up the phone and a cheerful voice says, "Hello, Darling!" This is none other than the self-titled "Queen of Irving Street," Violet Banta. Violet is 86 years old and has lived in the Inner Sunset District for 52 years. She is a true volunteer all-star as far as Family House is concerned!

Violet has committed to soliciting donations from neighbors and businesses near and far on behalf of Family House. She has collected donations of food, clothing, and toys for families; auction items for fundraising events; and monetary donations, too. Local businesses that Violet has brought on to "team Family House" include Park Chow, Social Brewery, Andronico's, Nopalito, Walgreens, Chloe's Closet, and many more! Chloe's Closet are her downstairs neighbor's, so she often brings bags of clothes for babies and children that Chloe's cannot use. Violet first found out about Family House through Bobby "The Bunny" Thomas, who hosts an annual Easter party at Family House.

When Violet is not fundraising on behalf of Family House, she loves to tap dance, eat Filipino food, and volunteers with a veterans charity. Thank you, Violet, for all of your hard work! We love you, and Family House wouldn't be the same without you!

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at 

Update! How I Got Involved with Family House by Erika Shue

What sorts of Family House activities have you been involved with since you started volunteering here?
When I first started volunteering at Family House in November 2011, I had a weekly volunteer shift on Friday mornings.  I did a lot of checklists - making sure the families on every floor had what they need (toilet paper, laundry detergent, food label stickers, etc.)  I joined the Family House Young Professionals Advisory Council when my schedule no longer allowed for a weekly volunteer shift.  As a YPAC member, I helped put together family activity nights.  The YPAC Family Activity Nights included snacks and a seasonal craft.

Are there any events/experiences that stand out for you?
One of my favorite experiences at Family House was making valentines at the February YPAC Family Activity Night.  This is a special memory for me because my friend, Steven, and his family joined us.  Steven is the reason why I started volunteering with Family House - while he was receiving treatment at UCSF, his family stayed at Family House.  It was wonderful to not only see my friend healthy, but also see him and his family providing peer support to the families.

What do you like best about being involved with YPAC?
The people - YPAC members, Family House staff, volunteers, and the families. I feel very lucky to be around such wonderful people.

What's coming up next for YPAC, and what is the long-term future of YPAC as you see it?
YPAC's 2nd Annual Shipwrecked on the Barbary Coast was a few weeks ago, on September 21st - what a great night!

I am so excited to see what the future holds for YPAC, especially once Family House moves to Mission Bay.  Shipwrecked is sure to continue to be one of YPAC's main events.  In addition, I hope to see YPAC have move direct involvement in the House.

Camp Okizu offers summer-camp experiences for kids with cancer and their families. Some Family House families have had life-changing experiences at Okizu.  How did you get involved with them?
There was a summer camp job fair in the Student Union at Sacramento State University.  Since I got out of class early and had a few extra minutes before meeting my friends, I thought, "Why not check it out?"  I was just about to leave when I met Grams and Mold (we have camp names at Okizu - mine is Pumpkin).  I can't remember exactly what they told me about camp, but I remember walking away thinking "I want to be a part of that!"  Okizu wasn't something I actively sought out.  I just happened to be at the right place, at the right time, and I am so thankful for that.

What was a favorite experience/memory at Camp Okizu?
Baseball lunch is my favorite camp event.  We eat hot dogs, dress up in our favorite baseball gear, and dance to music.  I usually like to dance, but one summer I skipped out on the dancing to sit with a couple of kids who didn't feel like dancing.  It was wonderful watching everyone dance.  They were all having so much fun; you would never know that they were affected by childhood cancer.

Have you ever met any Family House kids/families there?
This summer I met a camper who stayed at Family House.  Hearing how highly he spoke of Family House made me feel proud to be a Family House volunteer.

To learn more about volunteering with Family House, or about our Young Professionals Advisory Council, click here:

To learn more about Camp Okizu, click here:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival Recap - September 14th and 15th

The sun was shining, the chocolate was flowing… well, it was a little melty, anyway (see the previous comment about the sun), but that didn't stop anybody from having an amazing time at the 18th Annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival on Beach street.

With the America's Cup racing boats behind us on the water, the foot traffic was better than usual this year. We talked with hundreds of chocolate fans - Bay Area natives, chocolate enthusiasts from across the country, and even visitors from as far away as Canada and Europe! (Now, these folks are REALLY dedicated to their chocolate addiction!)
Family House volunteers and staff were invited by our friends at Personality Hotels to share their booth on Sunday. The event's proceeds benefit Project Open Hand, a San Francisco nonprofit that is dedicated to feeding people with life-threatening illnesses; and so we were excited to have an opportunity to tell event attendees about the Family House mission - providing free, temporary housing to families of children with life-threatening illnesses. It was a great way to tell LOTS of people about Family House, and make new friends.

We talked with everyone who came by about Family House, and about Personality Hotels' new "Save Me, San Francisco" hotel package.  Personality Hotels came up with this great idea to help support Family House. When you stay at one of their fantastic boutique San Francisco hotels, you can add on the "Save Me, San Francisco" package, which includes a bottle of Train's award-winning Soul Sister Pinot Noir, two wine-pairing bars of Ghirardelli/Save Me, San Francisco Chocolate, late checkout (after your night on the town!), and a direct cash donation to Family House.

 This package brings together support and love from Personality Hotels and from the Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company - what could be better?  Chocolate Festival VIPs had a chance to taste some Save Me, San Francisco Wine in the Cadillac Wine and Chocolate Pavilion - and event volunteers there were able to tell the story about how rock band Train found Family House and how they've been incredible supporters ever since!  If chocolate equals love, man, this day was one serious love fest!

Big shout outs to Personality Hotels, Ghirardelli Chocolate, Train, and the Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company, and to all our friends that we saw at the chocolate festival - Three Twins Ice Cream, the San Francisco Bulls, and of course, Project Open Hand and all our new friends that we made that day!

Ready to book your stay at a Personality Hotel? Click here to add a Save Me, San Francisco package!

You can get involved with Family House! Learn more at

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month! Family House supports families of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses being treated at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.  With your support, we provide comfort, community, courage, and dignity, cost-free to all families.