NAI Northern California volunteers with Project Open Hand in Oakland

NAI Northern California Project Open Hand Volunteering - Oakland

On Thursday, July 25th, NAI Northern California volunteered with Project Open Hand in Oakland. Ten brokers, staff, and members of management from both the Oakland and San Francisco offices worked at the Grocery Center repackaging pinto beans, black beans, and quick oats from their original bags into individual servings for sick and vulnerable people in the Bay Area. Project Open Hand’s program coordinator, Sharon Schrager, described the nonprofit’s origin during the AIDS crisis and their mission of providing healthy, nutritious meals to people with critical illnesses.

After the introduction, they put on their hairnets, washed their hands, and put on gloves (“In that order!”) Then they set up their work space and poured 50 pounds of pinto beans into a tub while Sharon put on a playlist of 80’s pop music to set the vibe. Two people pulled the bags for the individual serving off of the rolls they came on; two applied labels to the bags; three people measured out eight ounces of each item; two sealed the bags; and one counted the completed bags and moved them into crates. Rinse and repeat until all the beans are gone, and then load in 50 pounds of black beans, then 50 pounds of quick oats, then clean up. “A lot of the time the team was so focused that they wouldn’t stop for pictures!” said Danyn Oakes, the digital marketing manager for NAI Northern California. Their hard work, teamwork, and efficiency resulted in finishing over half an hour earlier than planned; repackaging 150 pounds of food (300 servings) only took the team about an hour and a half.

Despite the frenzy of activity, they still had fun, humming along with the music and laughing when they bumped into each other. Market analyst Trey Sells said, “Volunteering at Project Open Hand was a reminder how teamwork is fun, motivating, efficient, and helpful. I am glad there are resources like Open Hand to support members of our community.” Sourcer Travis Chu agreed, and was ready to keep going if they’d had more work to do; he said, “My experience with Project Open Hand was great. Although the workload was too easy, I enjoyed working with the team, creating bonding moments, and making small impacts to the community.”

Operations Services Associate Anna Guzman, who coordinated the event for NAI Northern California, said, “It was lovely to hear how Project Open Hand started from just one person cooking for those around her who were suffering from the AIDS epidemic. It goes to show you that just one small gesture can expand into greatness for others.”

“I thought it was a great experience,” said Samantha Schoneweis, a market analyst in the San Francisco office. “I didn’t realize that they aren’t necessarily a food bank but are dedicated specifically to educating around nutrition and feeding those with disabilities and illnesses. It’s so great that they’ve continued to operate in the Bay Area for almost 40 years now.”

In a thank-you letter from Project Open Hand, their program coordinator wrote, “The amount of hard work, energy, and enthusiasm your group brought was unmatched, and we so appreciate your generous donation of your time and service.”

See all the photos from the event on NAI Northern California’s Facebook page.


Founded in 1985, Project Open Hand is a nonprofit organization that provides meals with love to critically ill neighbors and seniors. Their food is like medicine, helping clients recover from illness, get stronger, and lead healthier lives.

Every day, they prepare 2,500 nutritious meals and provide 200 bags of healthy groceries to help sustain their clients as they battle serious illnesses, isolation, or the health challenges of aging. They serve San Francisco and Oakland, engaging more than 125 volunteers daily to nourish their community.

Learn more or sign up to volunteer at