“It’s better to give than to receive,” as the saying goes. This holiday season is about more than just presents under the tree and stuffing stockings with treats. It’s about giving time too. Finding time to volunteer this holiday season is a memorable way to give back to the community that has supported you and share love with those in need. If you’re interested in holiday volunteer opportunities and helping others, here are some ideas to get you going.
A great place to start your volunteering efforts is in your own community. Look for local chapters of national advocacy organizations to get involved and to get to know others who share your passion. If you’re not sure where to go or are looking for local holiday volunteer opportunities, there may be a Lotsa Open Community in your area or perhaps you want to create one with a group of friends to address needs in your community. From classrooms to children’s sports teams, nonprofit organizations to families in need, Open Communities give you an opportunity to connect with those in your area and offer real help to those who need it most. Bring meals, donate supplies, run errands, or deliver groceries. Sometimes small tasks can make a big difference right in your back yard.
Sometimes the best volunteering you can do is offering skills you do every day. Local organizations often have a list of needs, such as this one from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They are eager to match volunteers with tasks that fit their skill sets and time constraints. If you are an accountant or bookkeeper, you can offer to reconcile the books for your favorite non-profit. If you have administrative talent, office support might be ideal for you. Trainings, education, community development, and awareness are all programs that your local organizations likely need support for. Jump in with your own talents and bring much needed skill sets to your favorite organization.
If you or your loved ones have undergone certain medical procedures requiring blood transfusions, you know the life-saving benefits of giving blood. Even if you haven’t been touched personally, giving blood is a tangible way to volunteer this holiday season to ensure that blood banks are supplied with the levels they need to care for the community. You can find a local blood drive in your community or contact your local hospital to find an opportunity to give. If you are feeling more ambitious, you may want to organize a blood drive at your place of employment, worship center, neighborhood, or school. The American Red Cross offers many resources to get started organizing a blood drive, including everything you need to provide and everything that they will provide to make your event a success.
Helping an organization or local family cover their expenses is an impactful way to volunteer. If you know of a family struggling to cover medical expenses or drained by ongoing caregiving costs, a fundraiser on their behalf could make a huge difference this holiday season. If there is hospital, research group, advocacy organization, or other non-profit who has touched you or your family, you may want to choose them as the recipients of your fundraising efforts. Unique and personal fundraisers are a great place to start. Talk with a representative from the organization to find out if they have marketing restrictions or if they have certain fundraisers they prefer. They will likely be happy to partner with you. If you are pioneering your own, remember that this season is one of gift giving so selling baked goods, homemade crafts, and unique gifts is popular. For a quick, easy fundraiser, you could set up a gift-wrapping station. Ask your favorite department store or boutique if you can volunteer for a day to wrap! Bring your supplies and ask for donations, letting people know where their generous tips will go.
Support Other Caregivers
If you have been a caregiver, now is a great time to think of helping others on their caregiving journey. The Caregiver Action Network has a Caregiver Community Action Network which pairs caregiver volunteers with caregivers in the trenches, offering support and resources wherever they can. These volunteers act as advocates in the community, on behalf of caregivers everywhere. They also reach out to local caregivers and help them connect with the resources they need to care best for their loved ones. The volunteers are all caregivers themselves, or have been caregivers, making them personally aware of the needs of caregivers. If you have that passion to help others on their path, you can sign up with the Caregiver Action Network who will provide everything you need to get started.
Sometimes volunteering isn’t about signing up with an organization or officially doing work for another group. Sometimes volunteering is about giving your time to those around you. Knock on your elderly neighbor’s door and ask if you can pick up her groceries next time you are out. Deliver diapers to the new mom at school. Clean your office and dump your trash so the janitor has a little less work to do tonight. Hold the door open for the next person who walks into the post office after you. Random acts of kindness, large or small, are the unspoken and often forgotten volunteer efforts that make all the difference in a person’s life. Lightening the load, if just for today, can bring cheer and much needed reprieve this holiday season.