We love tinsel and trappings as much as the next Elf on the Shelf devotees, but here at A Plus, we believe that true wintertime magic comes in the form of connection and human kindness. Over the next month, come back and join us in raising a glass to those who give — because what's December without a little holiday spirit?
In the midst of all the last-minute shopping and year-end deadlines, don't forget what the holidays are all about: giving. But it's not just about giving gifts; it's about giving love, attention, and time to your community, and to the people who need it most.
After all, not everyone has family, friends, and/or the means to celebrate the holidays how they wish. To help, there are numerous volunteer opportunities you can take part in.
Like the great Maya Angelou once said, "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." The greatest gift you could ever give someone is kindness.
So, if you're looking to give to those who truly need it this holiday season, take a look at these eight suggestions for volunteering.
1. Host a clothing drive.
Clothing is one of those essentials we typically take for granted. The winter season is especially harsh for homeless individuals who may not have a coat or warm clothes. A clothing drive can make a huge difference for people in need. You can host a drive on your own or work with with a bigger organization. If you're in the New York area, you can work with New York Cares to host a coat drive.
2. Visit the elderly at a nursing home.
Many people who reside in nursing homes do not have any family to visit them. You can help lift their spirits by simply spending time at a facility. Many nursing homes also offer activities that volunteers can participate in, but you can also reach out and give some ideas. You can do fun things like host a game night, perform music, or just be there to provide good conversation or to listen.
3. Fundraise for a local animal shelter.
Fundraising is one of the most challenging tasks for local or small organizations, especially animal rescue shelters and groups. There can never be too much help when it comes to raising awareness and money for resources. You can volunteer your time by helping with an animal shelter's fundraising efforts, or by donating via online crowdfunding on behalf of the organization.
4. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
Volunteering at a soup kitchen not only provides someone with a warm meal, but also a moment of dignity. Be sure to smile, make eye contact, and share some kind words. If you're not able to volunteer at a soup kitchen, you can still help feed the hungry through nonprofit organizations like Coalition For The Homeless.
5. Host a toy drive.
Unfortunately, Santa doesn't come through for every child. You can help make the holidays special by hosting a toy drive for kids in need. Contact your local shelter or hospital to find out how to go about sending donations. Also check out national organizations like Toys for Tots.
6. Mentor at-risk teens.
At-risk teenagers require constant support and guidance, yet they are usually forgotten when it comes to helping children in need. Sometimes it's not material things that will make someone's life better, it's presence. Mentorship programs, like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, are a great way to help support, inspire, and uplift young people who may not receive that type of care at home.
7. Volunteer for a neighborhood clean-up.
Keep your neighborhood beautiful by lending a helping hand. Neighborhood clean-up groups are great, especially in the winter holiday season. Even on your own, you can help make a difference. Something like shoveling snow for an elderly or ill neighbor can make their day.
8. Give care packages to the homeless.
If you want to get your friends and family involved in volunteering, do group activities like creating care packages for the homeless. There are many ways to do this, but just a ziplock bag of hygiene products, snacks and some socks goes a long way.
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