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Oakland Facebook page connects non-profits, volunteers

on July 15, 2009

When Mike Kim created the Oakland Facebook page, he didn’t think many people would pay attention to it.  “I thought it would be, like, 30 or 40 of my friends,” said Kim.

But that was before it went viral.  Over the course of a few months, 10,000 people became online ‘fans’ of Oakland.  Kim and his friend, Stephen Flynn, suddenly found themselves with an enormous and unexpected audience.  “We had all these people following the web page.  We had to use the opportunity to say something,” said Flynn.

They started posting information about events around Oakland, but then last week took it a step further, when they stepped out of the on-line world and into the real world to organize the first OakTown MeetUP.  The event, a volunteer symposium, was an effort to bring together Bay-area non-profits and would-be volunteers to connect.

Standing inside Levende East restaurant in Old Oakland Wednesday evening,  Kim and Flynn seemed a little awe-struck by their success.  A crowd of 50 or 60 Oakland residents, most in their 20’s or 30’s, filled the bar.  People drifted from table to table, wine glass or wheat beer in hand engaging in animated conversations and listening to non-profit representatives give their spiels.

fbphotos7Kim, 25, organized the volunteer event because he wanted to bring people together with their passions, he said. He’s also fascinated with how technology can be used to create social good. “I think one thing our generation has a problem with is finding out how to get involved,” he said.

Their Oakland page became the perfect funnel. “It’s become an online home for people who are passionate about the city,” said Kim. “When you say you’re a fan of Oakland, it means you get the city, you understand the culture.”

Janine, an environmental consultant who attended the event, seemed enthusiastic about the choices.  “I’m a huge supporter of Oakland.  There are so many beautiful things going on here,” she said, scanning the crowd.  Keep Oakland Beautiful and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland were two organizations that piqued her interest because “Oakland is great, but there are so many potholes that it’s hard to bike around.”

fbphotos3Kitty, a waitress in Oakland, said that Pro Arts, a community art organization and Help a Mother Out, which delivers clothing and supplies to homeless moms, were two places she would consider volunteering with.

Flynn said that for every thousand members the fan page enrolls, they will host another event.  “It was so easy,” said Kim, with a bemused expression, looking around the room. “We created the page and they came.”

If you missed it, here are some of the non-profits and organizations in search of volunteers:

College Track

Friends of the Oakland Animal Shelter, 510-225-3992

Help a Mother Out

Keep Oakland Beautiful

Misssey (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth)

Pro Arts

Save the Libraries

Building Bridges

Swords to Plowshares

Vitas Hospice

What Now America

WOBO (Walk Oakland Bike Oakland)

Jack London Aquatic Center

Children’s Hospital Oakland

Oakland Creek to Bay Day


  1. Diane Carlson on July 15, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    None of the links work, and there is no reference to the actual FB page.

  2. Alexia Underwood on July 16, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Thanks, Diane. I fixed the problem.

  3. Karen Smulevitz on July 19, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Oaktown meetup was a very nice event. I hope you sign up a thousand soon so you can throw another. Lots and lots of good people getting together, what could be sweeter?

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