Volunteering this Holiday Season

“Hi, I’d like to volunteer to help serve food somewhere for the holiday.  How can I do that?”

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The Volunteer Center picks up the phone to hear this phrase MANY times during the months of November and December.  There is no doubt that the holiday season brings out the generosity in most people and nonprofits often experience an overabundance of volunteers…a nice problem to have.  But, it also means they have to turn willing hands away during the holiday season.

While most organizations already have their holiday opportunities filled (click here for our updated listing), here are some other ideas about ways you can give back to your community during this giving season or in the future!

Adapted from Youth Service America:

  1. Gather a group of friends and make holiday cards. Distribute the cards to nursing homes, hospitals or the VA Medical Center. (Contact your local nursing homes and hospitals to make sure they take holiday card donations.) You can also donate the cards to send to troops stationed overseas. www.redcross.org/holidaymail
  2. Host a food drive and donate nonperishable food items to a local food pantry. (Find a food bank near you and call to ask them what items they’re in need of.) A few local organizations accepting food donations:
    Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes
    Family & Children Services
    Ministry with Community
    Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
    The Salvation Army
    YWCA
    (YSA has a food drive lesson plan on our Go To Service-Learning site that educators can use. www.gotoservicelearning.org/print/30)
  3. Plan to cook and/or serve a meal at a shelter for the homeless AFTER the holidays.  Meals are needed 365 days of the year.  Make and bring table decorations, such as placemats or floral centerpieces (if allowed), to create a warm, cheerful environment for the guests.
  4. Clean out your closet and donate clothes and shoes that don’t fit you or you don’t wear any more to a family crisis center or homeless shelter. During cold months, places like this really need sweaters, coats, hats, and other winter weather gear.
  5. Sign-up to deliver meals to senior citizens through Meals on Wheels. If you’re not old enough to drive, ask your parents, guardians, older siblings, cousins, troop leader, or spiritual leader if they want to sign up and you can ride with them: Senior Services-Meals on Wheels.
  6. Turn off the lights! We use up a lot of energy during the winter season. Don’t forget to turn off the decorative lights during the day or whenever you leave your home.
  7. Organize a coat drive at your school or community center and donate your collection to a local organization:
    :::: Kalamazoo Deacons Conference
    :::: Ministry with Community
    :::: Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
    :::: The Salvation Army
    :::: YWCA
  8. Go Green! Host a present wrapping table at your local mall or wrap presents for seniors at a local senior center. Buy eco-friendly wrapping paper or reuse materials like newspaper or magazine posters to wrap gifts.
  9. Host holiday-themed story hour at a local library and read holiday classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Legend of Poinsettia (Mexican folktale).
  10. Start planning your Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service project in January 2014.  The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community. For information about Kalamazoo’s MLK Day efforts, visit our website to view updated listings or sign-up to volunteer now! Check back, as we are adding projects as we get closer to the event.

How do you plan to volunteer this Holiday Season?  Anything you are excited about doing?