Library--Berryessa Branch

Virtual Volunteering - Letters to Strangers

Duties and Responsibilities:
Write a letter structured after the model created by Letters to Strangers. According to their website, letters to strangers are "anonymous heartfelt letters that aim to share... vulnerabilities and offer support for those who are fighting through difficult times." Each volunteer is allowed to submit 2 letters to me via email as an attachment. You may also feel free to submit that letter and more on the Letters to Strangers website to receive a letter written by somebody else. Please check the website for details.
Letters submitted to me must follow the guidelines set forth by Letters to Strangers. Additionally, they must be formatted for distribution on an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper through the Canva website or another design software of your choice. Additionally, submissions can be hand-designed, scanned, and emailed to me. Letters that are not properly formatted will not be accepted and hours may not be credited.
If you find the guidelines to be a bit confusing and overwhelming, another way to think about a letter to strangers is a personal essay that expresses vulnerability. Some of you will ask me how long this letter must be, and this is my response. Your letter must fit on an 8.5 x 11" piece of paper with design elements to make it look attractive. It should be easy to read without tools that enhance visual capability (magnifying glasses, etc.) If you are asking for a word count, number of sentences, or number of paragraphs, consider this a practice in personal essay writing, which asks you to think beyond the paragraph lengths and structures that are taught in classrooms. A personal essay is a short piece of writing on a personal subject and should feel complete. 
Support Available:
While I will try and give some of you feedback if your letter requires small edits to make it fit for distribution, I will not be able to give you all feedback on how to improve your essays. Some of you will only get an acknowledgement that I have received them, and whether we plan to distribute it.
I will accept submissions until December 1st or when I receive 10 letters that are suitable for distribution, whichever comes first. Letters that are suitable for distribution will be displayed in our teen room with copies that other teens can take when they visit, and therefore, it is important to read the guidelines on the Letters to Strangers website. Letters that are appropriate for distribution will result in 2 hours of volunteer credit, and letters that do not will be awarded hours on a case-by-case basis.
Additionally, there is no need to sign up for this activity, so no need to respond that you will be doing this. You can just email the letter when it is done. This is an opportunity that will remain open until I receive the amount of submissions that I stated before.

Policy for Requesting References and Letters of Recommendation:

As volunteers in this program will not receive a regular schedule, and accomplishments will vary, requests for employment references and letters of recommendation will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the sole discretion of the Teens Reach Coordinator: Shih Fa Kao.

Additionally, this opportunity is not structured in a way to help teens develop the leadership and teamwork skills that colleges desire, nor does it offer work experience. If you are interested in an opportunity where you can practice more leadership and teamwork skills, please sign up for our Active Teens Reach Opportunity: details below.

Expected Commitment:

You can write 2 letters per quarter.

Quarter Breakdown in any given year





Requirements for Onsite Volunteers:

  1. Review the  Volunteer Handbook, which will be emailed to you, and be aware of the following branch-specific policies.
    1. In some instances, you hours will be auto-logged, but it is still your responsibility to make sure that all hours that you have volunteered will be credited to you.
    2. The volunteer handbook says to contact your Coordinator of Volunteer Engagement if you will be late or absent, however, as you are a teen volunteer, I am you onsite supervisor, so you will contact me if you are going to be late or absent from a shift you sign up for.
    3. Do not use electronic devices if they will interfere with completing your assigned volunteer tasks.
    4. Do not visit with friends who are not volunteering with you.
    5. No eating or drinking on the public floor (bottled water is permissible). You may take a break to eat if volunteering for 4 hours or more in a day. Please inform me when you are taking a break.
    6. Do not bring a child/sibling you must supervise.
    7. While we will allow you to use onsite lockers to store valuables, please make sure to bring your own lock, and the library cannot be held responsible for lost or stolen items.
  2. Sign and submit the volunteer signature form: a link will be sent to you after you apply and answer some questions.
  3. Verify your vaccination status prior to beginning your volunteer assignment.
  4. Additionally, you will be required to attend an orientation before volunteering onsite if that is something that you want.

Other Volunteer Opportunities:

As volunteers are needed for other programs and services, we will email all volunteers. Please check your email regularly.

Additionally, if you are interested in taking a more active role in how programs and services are delivers to teens and the general public, please sign up to be an Active Teens Reach Member: only one application is necessary. Volunteers with our Teens Reach are required to attend meetings once a month. This is also a great way to meet other teens who are volunteering at the library.

Please only sign up for one library branch for this volunteer opportunity. 

What's Next?

This is the steps of our application process after you have completed an application:

1) You will receive 2 emails with questions regarding your vaccination status, goals for volunteering, and availability. Please answer these questions promptly, so that we can move forward with your application. Even if you have already selected and applied for a role, please still take the time to answer these questions, so that we can make sure that the role that you have selected will be appropriate for the goal that you want to meet.

2) After you have answered the 2 emails, you will be sent a list of recommended roles at the Berryessa Branch. Please choose 1 or more of these roles, and I will discuss with you how the schedule for that role will be set up. Please respond promptly to this email as you must certain roles by a certain date.

Thank you for your patience during this process. I usually send these questions out to you within a few days of submitting your application. If you are not getting these questions, please check your SPAM folder, and if you still cannot find them, please send me an email at

Qualifications Required

  • Age Must be at least 13+