Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Cris Cohen & Jonny Justice

Volunteers of all sorts help at Family House, from weekly volunteers, to those that make dinner for families, to those that host arts & crafts and other activities. Particularly special volunteers are our Therapy Dogs & their people. These (human) volunteers bring their certified therapy dogs once a month for a couple of hours to bond with families going through crisis. Therapy dogs offer extremely valuable positive interactions - not only good to relieve stresses of the mind, but also to improve negative health conditions.

One of our favorite therapy dogs-people-combos is Jonny Justice & his person, Cris Cohen. Cris first heard about Family House through 4Paws for Healing about 2 years ago. Since then, Jonny has become quite a celebrity - winning a Gund contest to have a stuffed animal made in his likeness. Cris absolutely adores Family House and even donated the stuffed animals to the families.

When Cris is not volunteering at Family House, he works full time for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and also supports Bad Rap, an organization in Oakland that rehabilitates  and finds homes for homeless Pit Bulls.

Cris, you provide so much joy and laughter to families at Family House through Jonny’s amazing and adorable tricks! We are so lucky to have such a great friend and Family House advocate!

Thank you so much for your support of Family House!

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at

Monday, April 28, 2014

Shop at Amazon Smile to Help Family House Ever shop on  If you're using the internet, you probably do.  You can help Family House when you shop online by starting your purchases at - set Family House as your selected charity, and a portion of every purchase gets donated back to help families of kids with life-threatening illnesses. The best part? It doesn't cost you a thing!  Sign up today at to help Family House San Francisco!

Click here to view the Family House wishlist:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Salesforce Volunteers

Family House is very fortunate to have a regular rotation of volunteers from - usually a monthly group of “new hires.”  Even though the volunteers are new to Family House each time, they always do a fantastic job, with everything from deep-cleans to re-organizing the garage to painting projects to arts and crafts with the kids!

Recently, we were the recipient of a Salesforce Volunteer Program Grant - this enabled us to purchase new shelves for our garage. A team from Salesforce spent the day assembling the new shelving, and re-organizing all the bins.

Thank you to Salesforce for always being such wonderful contributors to our community!

Get involved with Family House! Learn more at

Monday, April 7, 2014

Staff Spotlight: Amy Lenz

Interview with Amy Lenz, Development Associate

How did you come to be at Family House?
When I was at San Francisco State, in the Fall semester of 2005, I took a Community Involvement Course, where you get credit for volunteering. SF State had a whole wall of brochures of different places in the city to volunteer and get involved… I had worked at other nonprofits that raised money for cancer research and support, and since I love kids, Family House was a really good fit, where those things are all combined.

I was at Family House weekly throughout that semester, and I then became a Weekend Manager in 2006.  I worked in the hospitality industry for several years before joining Family House full time as the Volunteer Coordinator in 2009. Also in 2009, I helped start the Family House Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC), and was the first Chairperson - our first fundraiser was at Tonic in the Russian Hill neighborhood.

How has Family House changed since you first started?
We’ve hired more people since I’ve been here, so there’s more staff, which is good, because the organization as a whole has really grown as far as the amount of work there is.  We do a lot more outreach, a lot more events - specifically with the work that YPAC has done.  I think we’ve grown as a “brand” in San Francisco, and we’ve built a really strong community for our families and our volunteers through social media. 

When I first got here, we weren’t actively doing social media. We had a Facebook page, and every time we had a volunteer group, we’d put their photos on Facebook, and put that link in the “thank you” email. We still do that today,  but we have a marketing plan now!

And that doesn’t even consider everything that’s happening with Mission Bay. When I got here, the focus was on doing what we do really well, and continuing to get better with that; and now we’re actually looking to expand and scale what we do to a level that will help even more people.

What are some of your favorite Family House memories?
There’s a couple who stayed here, Hank and Ashley Stull, from Central CA - they really influenced me. Their baby, Lorenzo, didn’t develop a diaphragm, and everything in his chest cavity merged together and he ended up passing away.  It’s so sad, but that family, Hank and Ashley, were the sweetest couple, and Hank’s passion was food.  They stayed here for a week after Lorenzo passed, and since Hank was a chef, he ended up cooking a meal for the 10th Avenue staff - me, Greg, Jon, and Joe. They were just the most beautiful, positive people, and they made us this dinner, and they were so thankful… They came back for an anniversary of Lorenzo’s passing, and they had since gotten married and shared photos of their life with us…

It’s a great example of how even when things don’t turn out the way you want them to, there’s still a light. It was still a beautiful experience despite the tragedy.  And they were able to use the baby’s organs to save another child, they used his heart to save another baby. 

Each of the staff here connect differently to different families, and anytime I’ve really had a chance to connect with anyone - the kid or the parents (usually the parents, for me) - it really makes a strong, positive impact on me, and you get a sense of how what we do really helps.

Their story was one of the first posts on our blog: