Holidays Volunteering

December marks the beginning of those winter holidays and months when we often get together with friends and family, dress up in cozy sweaters, bust out seasonal music and enjoy a feast or two. Especially at this time of year, however, we should be mindful that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to join in such warm, festive occasions.

Let’s be more than just mindful. Here are several ways that we can volunteer and help so many in our communities in the holiday spirit of giving:

START AN INITIATIVE        

Packing Party

The Idea

A packing party is a get-together where volunteers build care packages for shelter occupants. Volunteers are asked to donate care package items or a small fee to cover the costs of purchased package items.

Steps

Pick a shelter where you will donate your packages.

Create a list of shelter items your care package will contain. Most shelters will provide a list that you can narrow down. If not, consider these easy and affordable items

  • toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  • lotion
  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • soaps
  • sanitary pads

Determine how many will attend the Party and the estimated number of parcels needed by the shelter, then buy items to be packaged and appropriate (perhaps festive) packaging materials*, besides accounting for inventory already donated and funds contributed or pledged for purchases in preparation for the Party. 

*packaging materials should be recycled and recyclable.

Volunteers Required 

You will need:

  • 1-2 volunteers to collect care package items.
  • 1-2 volunteers to donate and pack items.
NOTE: The capacity of your volunteer site will likely depend on your location and funding. You may want to put a lower and upper limit on your number of volunteers to assure you can afford the materials.
  • 1-2 volunteers to deliver the packages to the shelter.

Craft Circle

The Idea

A craft circle allows volunteers to craft items, based on interest, to donate to a charities or nonprofits. The process may include tutorial sessions or online instructions. These crafts can be done individually or in groups.

Steps

  • Pick a charity or nonprofit where you will donate your crafts.
  • Create a list of crafts you would like to create. Most charities or non-profits will provide a list that you can choose from. Sample crafts are:
  • knitting scarves or hats
  • no-knit scarves or hats
  • holiday cards for kids in hospitals
  • Allow participants to create crafts from their own homes or set up dates for group crafts.
  • Collect crafts.
  • Donate crafts to charities.

Volunteers Required 

You will need:

  • 1-2 volunteers managing each craft.
  • 1-2 volunteers to collect and donate items.

Food Drive

The Idea

A ‘food drive’ is an initiative by residents who collect non-perishable grocery items and deliver these to traditional ‘drop off’ locations (eg. churches, fire halls), food banks, and other charities.

A food drive is a setup that allows locals to drop off dry foods to donate to charity.

Steps

  • Decide on the charity you want to donate food items to.
  • Create a list of acceptable items. Most charities will provide a list.
  • Collect items over a chosen time period (between 1 week and 1 month).
  • Deliver food items to the charity.

Volunteers Required 

You will need:

  • 1-2 volunteers to set up the donation box.
  • 1-2 volunteers to check over the contents of the donation box and deliver the donations to the charity.

Item Swap

The Idea

Participants will have the opportunity to bring in items that they no longer need, and which are in good, working condition. When the items are delivered, the participants will receive tickets that are redeemable for other items in the Swap. Organizers will determine the time period for receipt of items and issue of tickets, and the date(s) on which, and a suitable central location where, ticket holders may engage in the actual Swap.

An item swap consists of three stages:

Collection Period: People donate items in exchange for tickets.

The Swap: People exchange their tickets for donated items.

Donation: Any unclaimed items are donated to charity or nonprofits.

Steps

  • Pick a charity or nonprofit where you will donate your items.
  • Decide on a ticket system: one-to-one or one-to-many.
TIP: try a digital ticket system for a greener approach.
  1. Create a list of items you will collect. Consider:
  • books and magazines
  • toys and games
  • clothes and accessories
  • decorative items and houseware
  1. Collect items over a chosen time period (between 1 week and 1 month).
  2. Dedicate one or two days to the actual swap.
  3. Donate any remaining items to a charity or nonprofit.
NOTE: some charities or nonprofits will pick up items at your location at no cost!

Volunteers Required 

You will need:

  1. 1-2 volunteers per collection shift.
  2. 2-4 volunteers on the day of the swap.
  3. 1-2 volunteers to deliver the leftover items to the charity or nonprofit.

Have you started any winter initiatives? Send us an email and tell us about your experience!  

Written By Florence Cao, Volunteer Content Writer