As the trees grow bare, and Halloween decorations are taken down, thoughts shift to winter, snow, and the holidays. It’s the time of year when many people start to worry about shopping. Some people begin arranging travel plans to see loved ones they may not have seen for months or years. For many, the holidays represent the most challenging time of year. They may not have a family or home, or they struggle to put food on the table.
November and December mark the time of year that agencies and organizations need extra help. They begin to organize hampers or prepare additional beds and organize space to help protect people from the winter weather. The holidays are also a time when seasonal reminders can trigger bouts of loneliness or depression, and many healthcare organizations need volunteers to help with efforts to mitigate mental health issues.
Volunteering during these months can be a rewarding experience. It’s a chance to give back to the community and help people during times of need. Some people have even made it a tradition to help out in a local soup kitchen, or spend time in a care home providing companionship for those who have none.
Here are five places that need volunteers the most through the holidays.
Volunteering to serve food can be one of the most rewarding ways to help. In fact, some people have made volunteering in a soup kitchen a family tradition. This is one of the most popular positions, but even so, there are organizations still in need of help. They will likely want to spend time training new volunteers before the holiday season begins. If this is a role that interests you, it’s best to contact your local organizations sooner than later.
A lot of people use the holidays as a time to adopt a new furry friend. Humane shelters are often busier than during the rest of the year and may need some extra help. Even though it might seem like a fun position there are some caveats. Many of the animals may not find their forever home, some were abandoned or abused, and some may be too much of a challenge to care for. This is a great role for volunteers who already have experience working with rescue animals or an interest in veterinary medicine.
The cold winter months can be hard on those who don’t have means to replace old clothing, put food on the table, or get a gift for their children. There are many great charities who take this time of year to organize drives to fill out food pantries, or collect winter coats, blankets and toys. Volunteering for them may see you picking up donations from homes or bins, putting together food hampers, or asking people to help on fundraising initiatives.
With the ongoing pandemic, healthcare organizations are more stressed than ever. Reach out to your local health authority or charity to inquire if they are accepting volunteers or if there are requirements that weren’t present in previous years. The roles you may help fill could be assisting with events in care homes, senior centres, and hospitals or providing companionship to elders who are spending the holidays alone. You’ll also have the additional benefit of helping take a load off of overstressed healthcare workers
The late fall and winter can be cruel months in Canada. It’s especially true for those who have nowhere to go, and when the temperatures plunge many need to find ways to keep warm and stay safe. Emergency shelters tend to increase their capacities this time of year and need volunteers to help with the influx of new people. Additionally, on the coldest days community centres and religious organizations often open their doors to help people avoid the dangerous weather.
The Season of Giving
It’s easy to take daily necessities and comforts for granted, and it’s important to remember there are those who are less fortunate. Some people who are unhoused or live alone spend this time going without some of the very basics in life, from food to companionship. The holidays are a season of giving, and volunteering for organizations that help those less fortunate can be one of the most selfless and rewarding acts of giving. It can also be a time to create bonds with people who may need it the most.