Every year as the holidays approach, I find myself getting stressed out and anxious. There are presents to buy, meals to cook, and friends and family gatherings to plan, organize, and attend. But when I find myself getting caught up in this frenzy, I try to pull back and reflect. What are the holidays really all about? Are they about parties and gifts—or are they about giving?
I think most of us would agree that the holidays are a time to revel in our many blessings. And with that comes gratitude for all that we have. However, it’s also a time to remember that not everyone is as blessed as we are. There are many families and individuals in the Greater Richmond area who are facing a holiday season of loneliness, anxiety, and even hunger.
With that in mind, we would like to highlight some of our favorite organizations that offer an opportunity to give back to those in need this holiday season. While many of these organizations are active throughout the year, they are especially valuable to underserved communities during the holidays, providing everything from warm clothing to special holiday meals to Christmas presents when there would be none otherwise.
We chose our favorite volunteer opportunities based on the following:
- Opportunities for the whole family to be involved
- Variety of services provided and/or needs met
- Opportunities to work directly in local communities
If you’re thinking of ways that you and your family can spread holiday love and cheer, volunteer this holiday season at one of these great organizations. Whether you have time, money, or other donations that you would like to give, we’re sure that the following organizations will be grateful for your help. But even more than that, we’re sure you’ll find that in giving, you receive the greatest gift of all!
We hope you’ll consider making volunteering part of your family’s holiday tradition now and in the future. If you already work with a special group or organization, especially during the holiday season, and would like to share it with us, we would love to hear about it! Feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Support Ones provides housing, around-the-clock care, and a variety of other services for adults in the Richmond area who suffer from intellectual disabilities. As you can imagine, for these individuals, as well as their families, the holidays can be a stressful time. While Support One accepts volunteers any time of the year and not only welcomes, but depends on, generous financial donations, the holidays present special opportunities. The Holiday Hero program allows individuals and/or groups to “adopt” one of Support One’s 25 residents for the holiday season. Each resident will create a “wish list” made up of much needed items and one special gift, which you and your family can then fulfill. By purchasing the items on the list, you can make the holiday a truly magical time for one of these special people.
Why we love them: While there are many ways to give directly to people in need through programs like the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, Support One provides a truly unique opportunity to impact lives in a very direct way. By becoming a Holiday Hero, you will be able to know that your gifts are going directly to the person you intended them for. And just as you experience joy on Christmas morning watching your loved ones open gifts, you can experience that same joy knowing that a deserving person is receiving your gifts with joy and gratitude. If you would like to take a more hands-on approach, be sure to contact Support One directly to learn about ways you and your family can help with home projects, group outings, and other valuable services.
How to get involved: To become a Holiday Hero, visit the Holiday Hero page at Hands On of Greater Richmond. Then just click the link at the bottom of the page to express your interest. For more information, or to learn about other volunteering opportunities at Support One, contact them using the information listed below.
Food pantries are obviously important all year round, not just at the holidays. And while it’s important to collect non-perishable items to donate to these local resources, there’s something special about being involved in an actual holiday meal—especially when you know the recipients might not have the same bounty otherwise. The Giving Heart is a Richmond-based non-profit that hosts an annual Community Thanksgiving Feast where they provide must more than just a meal. They also provide services like free haircuts and social service consultations, personal items, clothing, non-perishable food items, and more. Plus, they provide free transportation to the event, making it accessible to everyone in the Richmond Metropolitan area, including the elderly, disabled, homeless, and families in need. This Thanksgiving, you can be part of their incredible mission by volunteering at their annual feast. Or if you would prefer to donate goods rather than time, be sure to check out their lists of needed items, donation drop-off areas and projects ideas.
Why we love them: Held on Thanksgiving Day at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, this special event provides a place of community, fellowship and giving. It is an incredible opportunity for families to work together by donating items, hosting a table, making decorations and other crafts, helping with food prep and set-up, assisting in clean-up, helping to organize donated items, and much more. But most importantly, it provides a chance for you and your family to interact with the people you are donating your time, money, and/or goods to, allowing your children to see firsthand the impact of volunteering and experience the joy of giving.
How to get involved: If you would like to be part of The Giving Heart Community Thanksgiving Feast, take a look at their list of current volunteer opportunities, a number of which start the week before Thanksgiving. Be sure to note any age restrictions associated with the activities. Then, use any of the contact details below to learn more or sign up for volunteer spots here.
The Greater Richmond Convention Center
403 N 3rd Street
Richmond, VA 23219
The mission of Caring Clothes Closet is simple: to serve the Greater Richmond community by providing free clothing and/or comfort bags to families experiencing financial difficulties or crisis. Of course, with the holidays just around the corner, this service becomes even more powerful as families face the need for warm winter clothes and clothing for special events—after all, even school programs require special attire at times. Some families may even be struggling to find ways to put presents under the tree this year. The Caring Clothes Closet accepts new or gently used clothing and shoes in all sizes for men, women and children. However, they also accept personal items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair brushes, combs, fleece blankets, new or gently used stuffed animals, colored pencils or markers, small pads of paper, and writing pens to be used in their Bags4Kids program which provides “comfort bags” for children transitioning into foster care.
Why we love them: The Caring Clothes Closet provides valuable services to families in need, but they also make it easy for you and your family to get involved. Not only can your family work together to collect new and gently used clothing and personal items, but you can also participate as hands-on volunteers, sorting items and putting together bags. In fact, there are countless ways to volunteer, including making cards to go in bags for foster kids and hosting clothing drives at your school or church. Click here and scroll down to learn more about their programs. Plus, thanks to their easy-to-find location at Shady Grove United Methodist Church campus, you can make donations quickly and easily by dropping things off in bags or placing them in the baskets located on the front porch.
How to get involved: If you would like to volunteer with Caring Clothes Closet this holiday season, contact them at the number or email listed below. In the meantime, click here to see their current volunteer opportunities, or take a look at their current donation needs to plan your holiday giving. Be sure to ask about specific holiday activities, including making Holiday Winter Ready Kits, Activity Kits for Foster Kids, and Origami Kits.
Although the volunteers at Henrico Christmas Mother work throughout the year to keep their valuable services going, the Christmas season is where they really shine. Since 1942, this organization has been working tirelessly to provide food, new clothes, toys, books, gifts, and many other items to Henrico area households with children, seniors, and disabled family members. Through generous donations (both physical and monetary), Henrico Christmas Mother sets up a “Christmas Warehouse” every year, providing local families in need with a place to select gifts, all at no charge. Boxes of food are also given to recipient families to help them through the holiday season.
Why we love them: When there’s not much in the bank account, shopping for the holidays can be one of the most stressful experiences imaginable. Henrico Christmas Mother provides local families a chance to get gifts for their children and loved ones in an environment that promotes dignity, gives them choice, and relieves both emotional and financial stress. And it gives you a chance to be part of an amazing experience. But what we really love about Henrico Christmas Mother is the options they provide for involvement. You can choose to donate goods or money; you can volunteer at the warehouse; your kids can help to sponsor a food drive at their school; or your family can choose to sponsor a family or senior adult directly. No matter what you choose, being part of Henrico Christmas Mother is a truly incredible way to impact the lives of less fortunate families this holiday season.
How to get involved: To be part of the Henrico Christmas Mother program, visit them online, then click on the area or activity in which you would like to be involved. For more information, contact them using the information listed below.
361 Dabbs House Road
In the interest of keeping things, well … interesting … we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight the Joy Maker Challenge. Hosted by generationOn, an organization that provides resources, programs and tools to engage youth in volunteering, the Joy Maker Challenge will run from November 21 – December 23. With specific emphasis on children and teens, the challenge encourages kids to get out and be active in their own communities—especially during the holiday season. The Joy Maker site provides complete guides for projects such as creating “holiday hope chests,” decorating a nursing home, making care packages for service members, and so much more. Or, you can type in your zip code to find existing volunteer opportunities in your community. The bottom line is that no matter how you get involved, it’s easy to become a “Joy Maker” this holiday season.
Why we love them: While there are no shortage of ways to volunteer, it can be challenging finding organizations that have openings for kids and teens. A program like Joy Maker reminds us that we’re never too young (or too old!) to find ways to serve others. With kid-friendly ideas, project guides, lesson plans, a story wall to share projects and ideas, and so much more, the generationOn program and Joy Maker Challenge are an inspiration—not just during the holiday season, but all year round. But, to add a little incentive for the holidays, during the challenge (November 21 – December 23), Hasbro will donate a game or toy to Toys for Tots for every child or teen who signs up to volunteer through this program, up to a total of $1 million. Now that’s holiday spirit!
How to get involved: To be part of the Joy Maker Challenge, all you have to do is sign up, download DIY project guides, or look for existing local opportunities—then get out there and make a difference!
Visit www.joymaker.generationon.org to learn more.