Volunteers from major San Francisco companies clean up downtown

Volunteers from some of San Francisco's most recognized companies were outside on Thursday to help clean and beautify the downtown area.

Employees from The Gap, JP Morgan Chase, Levi Strauss, Visa and Wells Fargo announced the formation of a downtown volunteer coalition.

In doing so, they helped clean and beautify parks near the waterfront, collecting trash, weeding and clearing pathways.

Anna Walker, with Levi Strauss, said the aim was to leverage their employees and make a difference in the city where they live or work.

"What we're really excited about is that it's volunteering, but it's also being part of the community," said Walker. "It's engaging with the local businesses, the local nonprofits, learning more about the city and giving back."

Katy Fitzsimmons of Wells Fargo said she hopes other companies will follow in their footsteps.

"That's exactly the hope," said Fitzsimmons. "We have the first five companies, but we want this to grow. We want there to be tech companies, biotech, other financial institutions, other companies that call San Francisco home. We want them to join in. We love this city, and we want to show that love."

Vincent Yuen heads Refuse Refuse San Francisco, a grassroots organization that orchestrates neighborhood cleanups. 

He said his organization benefits from the volunteers.

"In addition to all the volunteers that they're able to bring out, just having them there to show the public face, and showing other companies that you can be involved and make a difference in your community and lead by example," said Yuen.

Park visitors said the cleanup and corporate partnership is a great idea. 

"For companies to come in and help with the community, it's only going to make things better for the people who live here and for the tourism that comes to San Francisco," Kathy Hammonds of Vallejo said. 

The companies have committed to meeting several times a year to work on projects, organizing a downtown First Thursday project, inspired, in part, by Oakland's First Friday events.