Ideas for volunteer work during the winter holidays

Social worker is visiting a senior woman

Here’s how you can give the gift of time this year by volunteering.

Looking for a way to feel holiday cheer? Try volunteering. In a study, 93% of people who volunteer say that doing so helps improve their mood. Volunteering not only makes you feel good, but it also helps to develop a sense of community pride and allows you to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Helping those in need during the holidays is one of the most powerful ways to spread the joy of the season. Here’s how you can give the gift of time this year by volunteering.

Veterans in need

Show your appreciation for those who have served our country by visiting them at a Veterans Affairs facility. As a Veteran Affairs Voluntary Service volunteer, you can assist staff in nursing homes, community-based programs, and veteran outreach centers. Learn more about specific volunteer opportunities through your local Voluntary Service office.

Independent seniors

5.5 million seniors in the U.S. struggle with hunger, many times because it’s hard to get to the grocery store. Meals on Wheels is a nationwide network of community-based, nonprofit programs committed to providing nutritious meals for homebound seniors. As a volunteer, you can help in the office or deliver meals. The job may seem simple, but you’re directly helping these seniors maintain their independence while providing them with a hot meal for the holidays (and a social outlet!).

Families of hospitalized children

The Ronald McDonald House of Charities (RMHC) helps provide housing, financial assistance, and basic medical and dental care to families with hospitalized children. RMHC aids millions of children and families each year, and they describe their volunteers as being “the heart” of their programs.

Help make a difference in the lives of the families they host by helping to cook, serving meals, greeting guests, assisting with projects or special events, or just lending an ear. Volunteer opportunities may vary depending on your local chapter, and there may be other organizations in your area with a similar mission, like Fisher House. Ask a friend or family member to tag along!

Shelter animals

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make a difference in an animal’s life — just a little tender loving care. Spread the holiday cheer and enjoy wagging tails by volunteering at your local animal shelter. While some of your time may be spent doing things like cleaning kennels, shelter animals also need play time, daily walks, and help with finding new homes. If you’re allergic but still want to get involved, ask how you can help with programs outside the shelter — such as community outreach, fundraising, and donation drives.

Opportunities abroad

Get yourself — and your family — out of the traditional routine for the holidays by volunteering in another community or country. Explore native cultures and broaden your worldview by working at an animal sanctuary in Thailand or a children’s hospital in Kenya. You may even learn a new language or foster a long-lasting friendship. Find a program that will work for you or your family through organizations like Projects Abroad.

Your actions, whether big or small, can have an impact on someone’s life. While there are many ways to be involved in the spirit of the holidays, remember that any time is a good time to lend a helping hand. Challenge yourself to be more involved in your community throughout the entire year.

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