Salesforce and Family House: A Story of Giving Back

by Susan Ruhne

Published on April 21, 2021

As an employee at Salesforce, we are encouraged to give back to our communities through volunteering, donations, and our product use. I had been aware of Family House but hadn’t made it to the action step of actually volunteering there before I joined the company. Our teams often organize VTO (Volunteer Time Off) activities to not only give back to the community but also provide team-building opportunities. Over six years ago, I joined one group outing to Family House at 10th Avenue to help with sorting and purging to prepare for the move to the new location in Mission Bay. I had so much fun, and soon, I was back with another group from my team to help at the Irving Street building—moving furniture out, deep cleaning, and more. I was hooked, and I hadn’t even met any residents yet! Salesforce provided teams to help prepare the new building. I learned about building Elfa closets from the Container Store and got to know the layout of the building by moving in truckloads of stuff and belongings. I also helped with the pre-opening party. The staff we worked with made us feel welcomed, appreciated, and provided us with clear and easy directions to follow. 

Susan Ruhne, right, helps clean the Family House on Irving Street in preparation for the move to Mission Bay

Salesforce has a strong connection with both Family House and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. In the pre-COVID world, teams from our onboarding program used to spend an afternoon at Family House helping with cleaning and other tasks. One department arranged monthly birthday celebrations. I’ve been honored to organize a group of volunteers to help run the annual Easter party featuring a visit from Bobby the Easter Bunny. These last two years during the pandemic, we turned Easter into a virtual celebration by creating cards that were distributed to the families and shared a virtual video card that was displayed on the monitors in the House. The Salesforce Foundation also allows teams to request grants to fund activities we are volunteering for, enabling us to work with the staff to make events more memorable. We also get matching funds for donations made to non-profits we choose to donate to. Many teams have also come in to make dinners and interact with families, help with holiday events or do toy drives to stock Fozzy’s Toy Room. We will keep doing virtual activities until we can return to in-person volunteering again.

Working for a company that lives its core values is a great way to be connected to Family House. Seeing so many co-workers connect with the amazing, resilient families and the fantastic place has been one of life’s greatest joys. It is due to these amazing people that Family House is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. 

We are always looking for new ways to connect with the community and the families there. I remember that two years ago, I was chatting with a mom after dinner, and she was asking about Salesforce. It turned out that every time she and her daughter drove into San Francisco for treatments, her daughter would notice Salesforce Tower. She had watched it be built to the tallest building in the San Francisco skyline. She asked if there was a way they could visit. We stayed in touch, and on a future trip, we coordinated a personal tour to the Ohana Floor on the top of Salesforce Tower for the mom and her daughter.   

An email from Karen Banks or Tarence Dixon saying “we need help” prompts immediate action at Salesforce. We put out the word via our internal network and the volunteers show up immediately. Karen and Tarence network with so many other local companies and organizations such as the National Charity League, Dropbox, DocuSign, and Project Sunshine. Volunteering at a Family House fundraiser like Cabernet for Connoisseurs or the Family House Gala means working with amazing volunteers who care so much about the patients, siblings, moms, dads, and others who call Family House their “home away from home.” Volunteer activities are always organized with clear plans, fun, and safety in mind, focusing on the families. If your company, group, or family is looking for a way to give back, check out the options or suggest a new one. Shopping on the Family House Amazon Wish List always makes me feel good.

Volunteers play a pivotal role in the success of our mission at Family House, by assisting our staff in providing a safe and comfortable home for families in crisis. We rely on over 5,000 volunteers per year and due to the pandemic nearly all volunteering has been halted. Find out more about how you can help support our families. 

Corporate volunteer groupsSchool, church, and community groups

If you have questions about Volunteering at Family House, contact Chief Community Engagement Officer Karen Banks at or (415) 502-5659.