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Best children's charities

How’s this for irony? San Francisco, which has the lowest population of children per capita of any large U.S. city, is obsessed with taking care of kids. In fact, the whole Bay Area is wall-to-wall with do-good organizations that focus on needy youngsters. Apparently, staying childless does have its advantages, like disposable income (to donate) and free time (to volunteer).

Children of Shelters provides children living in San Francisco’s five family shelters with empowerment and inspiration. The organization is 100 percent volunteer-based, with no overhead. Money gathered through fundraising efforts goes toward educational schol­arships, counseling, and school supplies. cos-sf.org

Based in Oakland, Leadership Excellence encou­rages youth to become community leaders. The organization focuses on African American youth aged 5 to 18, involving them in their own communities to raise social awareness and create positive change in their lives and urban environments. leadershipexcell­ence.org

If you haven’t heard, San Francisco’s Youth Speaks promotes literacy through poetry slams, after-school workshops, and summer writing camps. It inspires 45,000 kids a year in the Bay Area alone—plus tens of thousands more through partnerships in 36 other cities. youthspeaks.org

With budget cuts from Sacramento threatening to starve the city’s already emaciated public schools, here’s a way to help: Click on donorschoose.org to see 128 specific requests from S.F. schools. For example, a gift of $541 would buy 12 splinter-free chairs for Argonne Elementary kindergarteners, and $498 would buy second graders at Glen Park Elementary a full set of new dictionaries.

The mission of First Graduate is simple yet powerful: to help disadvantaged students finish high school and become the first in their families to earn a college degree. This San Francisco nonprofit makes a 10-year investment in the future of each participant. Everybody wins: the kids, their families, and society for generations to come. firstgraduate.org

In our era of declining music education, the continued success of the San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures in Music (AIM) program is particularly heartening. Now in its 20th year, AIM annually offers every single child in the city’s public schools (grades one–five) four in-school presentations and copious hands-on interaction, plus a concert in Davies Symphony Hall. sfsymphony.org/aim