Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for many people, but for some people in need, it can be the most challenging time of the year. The holidays are a great time to give back to your community and your fellow man by volunteering of your time, talents, money, and resources to those less fortunate. Where can you volunteer this Christmas? We’re so glad you asked! Here’s a list of places that would be happy to have an extra pair of hands to help out during the busy holiday season:
- Local soup kitchens. When the weather outside is frightful, a hot bowl of soup can be so delightful! Many disadvantaged and at-risk people may not get many hot meals during the colder months and donating your time to a local soup kitchen is a great way to directly give back to your local community.
- Homeless shelters. Do you have items that are sitting in your closet, garage, or storage unit that you’re not using? Homeless shelters often need blankets, pillows, and other clean, usable bedding during the winter, not to mention hygiene items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, soap, toilet paper, and wet wipes. Check with a shelter near you and see if their “needs list” matches your “unused items” list and make a donation.
- Nursing homes. Older people in nursing homes often get very few visitors. In fact, more than half of the senior citizens in nursing homes never get any visitors. Call a nursing home near you and inquire about any residents who don’t get visitors. Find out as much as you can about the resident(s) and tailor a gift to their individual needs and/ or likes. Is there a history buff who loves to read? Choose an appropriate book or movie and bring it to that person. Spend some time getting to know them and consider making a visit to the nursing home a part of your regular schedule.
- Animal shelters. Just about every town and city in America has some kind of animal shelter. If you don’t know where they are in your town, check with a local veterinarian and find a shelter that could use your extra towels, blankets, food and water bowls, or spare pet kennel. Purchase food, leashes, toys, or other items the animals or staff would be pleased to receive. Get the kids involved and let them give, too. It’s a great way to teach what’s best about the holiday season – giving.
- Assisted living facilities. Similar to nursing homes, these facilities house more independent seniors, but they still often get few visitors. Check with a facility near you about the possibility of taking one or more residents for a field trip to a local restaurant, ice cream shop, or craft store. Make it a point to research one or more resident’s areas of interest and tailor your visit or gift to that person. Something as simple as taking the time to play a board game or work a puzzle with someone can make a person who doesn’t get out much any more feel special.
- Daycare centers. Do you have extra art supplies? Are you a whiz at charades? Do they call you the snack queen of the neighborhood? There are so many ways your local day care center could use an extra pair of hands during the holidays! Take an afternoon and volunteer to help make or wrap Christmas gifts, fix broken toys, or read to the kids at quiet time.
- Boys and Girls Club. If there’s a Boys and Girls Club in your town, see about volunteering to help during the holidays. These clubs give boys and girls who may have nowhere else to go a place where they can feel safe. Check with the administration about adopting a kid or two or the whole family this Christmas and spread some holiday happiness with those less fortunate.
- Community center. Many local community centers host free programs for their communities during the holidays. See if the community center in your area needs help putting on a concert, craft fair, or play. Can you make costumes? Help build a set? Serve refreshments? If you want to give, there is always a way!
One of the best ways to make the holidays special is to step out of your comfort zone and help someone else. There is always something to be thankful for, and there is always someone with a problem bigger than yours. Give yourself the best gift you could ever receive and give selflessly to someone else without any expectations. Volunteering this Christmas season will help make it truly the most wonderful time of the year.