Stepping In with SSF’s Newest Volunteer: Christopher Browder

This month’s volunteer spotlight introduces you to SSF’s newest volunteer, Christopher Browder. Christopher has dedicated his life to service, both professionally and as a volunteer. He has a diverse and long history of state service, working in forestry and acting as a liaison with tribes throughout Northern California. Recently, Christopher made a significant impact as a volunteer at the Point-In-Time (PIT) Count. The PIT Count is a point-in-time census that requires hundreds of volunteers to help canvass the number of people experiencing homelessness on a given night. The data collected during this event helps our community understand homelessness, design better policies and programs, measure progress, and engage the stakeholders on housing issues. Christopher committed his time both nights and was among the last to leave, expressing strong dedication to volunteering and serving the homeless community. We are excited and honored to have more volunteers like Christopher involved in our community! Learn more about Christopher’s inspiring volunteer journey in our interview with him below.

Describe yourself, your role, and why you were motivated to work in the volunteer space.


I am retired from state service. Prior to retirement, I worked as a professional forester for CAL FIRE. There, I worked with the timber industry, served as the department’s environmental coordinator, managed the Cultural Resources Management Program, and acted as the department’s tribal liaison and historic preservation officer. Before that, I worked as a forester for small and large companies in California and Oregon, as well as the tribal forester for a confederation of Native American tribes in northern California. 

Over the years, I have participated in various volunteer efforts: working at a soup kitchen in San Francisco, teaching English to Spanish speakers at the Ukiah Public Library, serving on the board of directors of the non-profit California Licensed Forester’s Association, serving on the board of directors of the non-profit Get Well Foundation, working every year at the California Forest Foundation’s Forest Center at the California State Fair, representing the state and the forestry profession at State Scientist’s Day (an annual event at the Capitol), and representing the state and professional cultural resource managers at California Native American Day (an annual event at the Capitol).  


What are your mission and goals when volunteering? 


In the past, my reasons for volunteering varied:  

  • I was asked to do it 
  • I wanted to meet new people while doing valuable work 
  • I did it as part of a class assignment 
  • I wanted to contribute to the local or professional community, and 
  • I did it as a form of personal or professional networking.  

My reasons for joining the PIT Count were: [that I wanted to] begin to understand the issues related to those experiencing homelessness [and I wanted] to work with other like-minded folks in contributing to a solution. [Lastly], to find out about further, more regular volunteer opportunities related to the homeless response system in Sacramento. 

Can you tell us a success story of how volunteers have made a difference?


Prior to my most recent effort in Sacramento, volunteers formed the foundation of the work being performed at every place I have volunteered. At the soup kitchen, we did most of the (literal) heavy lifting, providing meals for people in need. At the Ukiah Public Library, volunteers taught English. Without them, English classes and tutoring did not occur. At the California Licensed Forester’s Association, volunteers worked to represent the common interests of professional foresters in California, to effect positive change in forestry-related regulatory and legislative areas, to track timber industry and forestry profession issues, and to organize and run educational workshops. At the Get Well Foundation, volunteers worked to educate the public and health care providers about natural and alternative therapies that complement Western medical practices. At California Native American Day, volunteers teach the public and California Native Americans about departmental cultural resource management efforts, tribal outreach, employment opportunities, etc.


I recently participated in the 2024 PIT Count. I worked both evenings with a team of four people tallying and interviewing unsheltered individuals. If not for the volunteers working under the direction of the professional local, state, and nonprofit planners and organizers, I do not believe the count would have been completed. It was completed thanks to all that participated. This biannual event’s success is largely due to local volunteers’ efforts.

Christopher Browder’s personal and professional life reflects a profound commitment to continuous civil service. He has shown us how volunteers make up the foundation and heart of service work being done to better communities around California and beyond. He also shared that he celebrates service by “participating.” Without volunteers like Christopher, events like the PIT Count would be difficult and almost impossible to carry out. 


By actively seeking opportunities to contribute, Christopher exemplifies how service extends beyond one’s career into impactful volunteer work. He showed up to the PIT Count with enthusiasm, being flexible and open-minded to participate however needed.  Once more, SSF is thankful for volunteers like Christopher who show up with dedicated hearts and a willingness to participate! 

July 8, 2024 | Published by Sacramento Steps Forward

The responses above reflect the views of the those interviewed and do not represent the opinions of SSF, the Sacramento Continuum of Care, or our partners. These interviews serve to highlight the diverse contributions of volunteers in the homelessness response system.