Rather than feeding people directly, the facility receives, sorts, repackages, and ships large quantities of food each day that are sent to organizations like the Ritter Center in San Rafael and into the hands of the needy. Donations come from all over—from those giant "Donate Food" barrels that you see so many of around the holidays to grocery store excess that would otherwise be thrown away to produce from backyard farmers.

With some help from our enthusiastic leader Joe, we quickly got oriented and down to the task at hand: repackaging huge quantities of rice into more manageable cases of fifteen one-pound bags. We were broken up into a handful of assembly line teams (bringing out some competitive spirits!) and got to work. It was extremely satisfying to hear how many people we’d helped feed at the end of the day.

Next, we headed north to West Wind Wines in Nicasio. All of the proceeds from West Wind’s vintages go to support Gilead House, a transitional home in Marin County that provides a safe haven for single mothers and their children, many of whom have fled abusive situations. The goal of Gilead House is to provide a successful transition to permanent housing as well as financial and emotional stability for its families. This goal is achieved through a unique program of further education and job skills training; mentoring; and the development of parenting, life-management, and money-management skills.

West Wind Wines was founded by winemaker Cynthia Klock and her husband John. The two were in a position to retire early and wanted to spend time doing something they loved that would help others at the same time. When we arrived at West Wind’s idyllic hillside setting the two greeted us warmly, and offered us a homemade lunch. After the nice respite, we headed into the wine cave, which is literally carved into a hillside.

Because West Wind’s wine sales support Gilead House, they rely heavily on volunteers during harvest and bottling times. We were positioned into our second assembly line of the day—getting wine into bottles, corking, sealing, labeling and packing. Most of us had never been involved in any kind of winemaking before so it was a fun learning experience. Best of all we were able to get a lot of bottles packed and ready to sell.

And just in time, too—West Wind Wines has an event coming up on August 24th called "Flights and Bites" which will feature live music and hors d’oeuvres paired with hand-crafted wines. All proceeds, of course, will go to Gilead House. For tickets click here.