Best Holiday Volunteer Opportunities for Families in Richmond

It’s about this time of year that most of us turn our thoughts to the upcoming holidays and start planning.  That could mean carefully planning our budgets to ensure that everyone on our Christmas list gets what they are wishing for. It could mean planning special special events or gatherings for friends and family. Or it could just mean stressing out about all the things that need to get done – and worrying about the small amount of time and money we seem to have available.

Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s the latter that seems to take up the most brain power. But what if we all just stopped for a moment and took time to reflect. What are the holidays really all about? They’re about counting our blessings, spending time with family, and enjoying the rewards that come with giving, not just receiving…right?

Most of us would agree that this is true. But for many families in the Richmond area, the joys of the holiday season are overshadowed by the fear and anxiety that comes with financial crisis, homelessness, and hunger. For others, including the elderly, the holidays are a time of loneliness. Others still face the nightmare of spending the holidays with a child or loved one who is facing a life-threatening illness.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by your own holiday stresses, sometimes the best thing you can do is turn your attention elsewhere. By spending less time and money on your own needs and wants, and instead, focusing on providing for others, you can add a new richness to your holiday season. Best of all, if you find opportunities to give that include your entire family, you can teach your children the joy of giving – a lesson they will take with them throughout their lives.

To help you find opportunities for volunteering and giving this holiday season, we took a look at the many organizations in Richmond dedicated to providing assistance to those in need and chose five of our favorites. To create our list, we looked for organizations that provided:

  • Flexible volunteering hours
  • Opportunities for youth, not just adults
  • A variety of options

Take a look at some of the amazing organziations listed below to find the one that offers the best opportunities for your family to give back this holiday season. And please keep in mind that even if you can’t volunteer time, many of these organizations are in need of monetary and physical donations now and in the coming months. Don’t hesitate to contact them to find out how you can help! Likewise, be sure to check out our 2017 list of Best Places to Volunteer During the Holiday Season for even more great opportunities.

In the meantime, if you know of great family volunteering opportunities that you would like us to know about, drop us a line anytime at cs@richmondmom.com and tell us about it! We would love to spread the word.

 

5. Little Sisters of the Poor – St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged

St Joseph's Holiday volunteer
via http://www.littlesistersofthepoorvirginia.org/

The holidays are a time for family visits, catching up with friends, and generally, spending time with loved ones. But there are many elderly Richmond residents who no longer have family or friends with whom to spend the holiday. Subsequently, the holidays tend to be a time of great loneliness for many of them.

About Little Sister of the Poor at St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged

The Little Sisters of the Poor is an international Roman Catholic organization founded in 1839. Today, they serve communities around the world, including the Richmond area. The St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged is located in Henrico and is designed to provide a safe, stable home for elderly residents in the Richmond area who need assisted living, but cannot afford comparable care at another facility. The Little Sisters provide residents with a loving environment, medical care, meals, and more. However, they need the community’s help to keep their programs strong. This could mean volunteering to help at the center, providing monetary and/or physical donations, and more. And for the residents?  One of the most valuable gifts you can provide is your time. They long for companionship and visits are especially rewarding.

How to get involved

If you and your family are interested in providing support to residents of the St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged during the holidays – or any time of the year – simply complete the online applications and contact volunteer coordinators at the center. Opportunities are available for Youth Volunteers, as well as Adult Volunteers.  If you are looking for opportunities that you can participate in as a family, consider the Youth Programs which include:

Junior Volunteers
Youth (male and female) can spend time with residents and participate in a number of activities from playing games, helping to serve meals, providing music and/or other entertainment, sponsoring special parties or events, and much more.

Hospitality Club
This program is for girls ages 12-17 and meets one Saturday each month from 10am – 3pm. Activities include attending mass with Little Sisters and residents, serving the noon meal, sharing the meal and visiting with residents, participating in activities following the meal, and helping with special events – including holiday events.

Volunteer ages: Ages 12 – Adult

Time commitment: Flexible

Time frame: Seasonal and year-round

Contact:
St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged
1503 Michaels Road
Henrico, VA 23229-4822
804-288-6245
www.littlesistersofthepoorVirginia.org

 

4. Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia

Make A Wish Holiday Volunteer
Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia / Facebook

As parents, we do everything in our power to make sure our kids’ wishes come true – especially around the holiday season. Whether it’s making sure that “Santa” brings that one special item on their list or it’s just spending more time together as a family, we do what we can to spread love, happiness, and holiday cheer. For kids suffering from life-threatening illness, wishes are a little harder to fulfill. For those children and their families, their greatest desire is health. However, if we cannot provide that, we can help provide them with as much joy as possible.

About Make-A-Wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is non-profit organization dedicated to granting the wishes of children facing critical illness. They are the largest wish-granting organization in the nation, granting thousands of wishes every year. Here in the Greater Richmond area, you and your family can get involved in a variety of ways. For kids, the Kids For Wish Kids program puts the power of fundraising in smaller hands. This program enables your children to take charge, create their own fundraising programs and ideas, then work with the help of parents, teacher or advisers. This opportunity allows your kids to see first-hand how they can make a difference in another’s child’s life.

How to get involved:

To learn more about the Greater Virginia chapter of Make-A-Wish, visit them online and select the opportunities that work for you and your family. Select Ways to Help for existing volunteer opportunities, upcoming events, or find out how you and your kids can start your own fundraising efforts. This is an especially great activity to start around the holidays as it gives kids a chance to get creative with their fundraising, doing everything from planning fundraising parties at home, school, or church to requesting donations in lieu of gifts for themselves.

Volunteer ages: School-age to adult

Time commitment: Flexible

Time frame: Seasonal and/or year-round

Contact:
Make-A-Wish® Greater Virginia
2810 N. Parham Road, Suite 302
Richmond, VA 23294
(804) 217-9474
Toll Free (800) 234-9474

 

3. Salvation Army Angel Tree

Angel Tree holiday volunteer
The Salvation Army Central Virginia / Facebook

The holidays can add financial strain to any family. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure that we give our kids the best Christmas possible, travel adds to the budget drain, and a number of other unexpected expenses tend to pop up during this time of year, as well. Many of us are able to manage these added financial burdens – but for some families, it’s simply too much. Right here in Richmond, there are families struggling to make ends meet throughout the year, and there’s very little, if any, left to spare for Christmas.

About Salvation Army’s Angel Trees

Angel Trees can be found at local shopping centers throughout Richmond during the holiday shopping season. These trees hold “ornaments” that represent children ages 0-14 and include a list of their needs and wishes for the holiday season. By taking an ornament from one of these trees, you are committing to fulfill the list and ensure that children in the area have a Christmas to remember. Whether you choose to take one ornament for your whole family, or you’re able to let each member of your family take an ornament (perhaps letting your children find a child of their own age to shop for), Angel Trees give everyone a chance to feel the reward of giving to a child who might otherwise go without.

How to get involved

Participating in the Angel Tree program couldn’t be easier. Simply select an ornament from any Angel Tree in your area, shop for the items listed, then return the gifts (unwrapped) to the location where you selected the ornament. Gifts will be distributed to the corresponding families before Christmas. For more information, check out these helpful FAQs.

Here are participating Angel Tree locations in the Greater Richmond Area for 2018:

  • Chesterfield Towne Center (near Santa’s Village)
  • Duck Donuts Short Pump
  • Marcos Pizza
  • Regency Square Mall (near Santa’s Village)
  • Short Pump Towne Center (second level, above Pottery Barn, between Hollister and Journey’s)
  • Stony Point Mall (Concierge Area)
  • Virginia Center Commons (near Burlington)
  • Southpark Mall (near Santa’s Village)
  • Wegmans (near Customer Service)

For even more ways to give with the Salvation Army during the holiday season, be sure to check out their complete list of Christmas Giving opportunities.

Volunteer ages: All ages

Time commitment: A few hours to include shopping and drop-off

Time frame: Now until the beginning of December. Check with your local Angel Tree location for exact drop-off deadlines.

Contact:
Angel Trees are provided by the Salvation Army in partnership with NBC12. To learn more, contact either organization at:

Salvation Army Central Virginia
The Salvation Army Central Virginia Area Command
2 West Grace Street
Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 225-7470

NBC12
5710 Midlothian Turnpike
Richmond, VA 23225
(804) 230-1212

 

2. Ronald McDonald House Charities – Richmond

RMHC holiday volunteer
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond / Facebook

Having a child in long-term hospital care is a nightmare none of us even wants to consider. But for many families, it’s a reality. To make matters worse, oftentimes, the best care isn’t necessarily in their hometown. Even if the hospital is only an hour or two away, the time, cost, and stress of traveling back and forth – not to mention trying to find affordable lodging nearby—just adds to a parent’s worry and strain. As you can imagine, the holidays don’t help. That’s where Ronald McDonald House Charities comes in.

About Ronald McDonald House Charities

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) provides a home-like environment, lodging, meals, and support for families who have children or other loved ones in a local hospital. These families are often from out-of-town and would not be able to be as close to their loved ones without the support of RMHC. And while it’s hard enough having a sick child any time of the year, the holidays add an extra level of emotional, financial, and physical strain. By offering affordable lodging and other support services, RMHC helps keep families together – especially during the holidays. But they can’t do it without the help and support of local volunteers. From financial donations to physical volunteer hours, they rely on members of the community to keep their mission going.

How to get involved

While volunteer opportunities like House Volunteer or Sibling Center Assistant have age restrictions, families can get involved by making meals at the Richmond Ronald McDonald House. This hands-on opportunity is great for family groups (ideally 10 or less, and no more than 6 for Lunch and Cookies). To get started, fill out an online Family/Group Interest Form and visit the Meals Calendar to see which slots are open. Meals are needed daily for dinner and breakfast, lunch, and a “cookie hour” are offered on select days. Click here for more information.

During the holidays (and other times, as well), volunteers are also needed for decorating the house and buying supplies for and assembling Grab-n-Go Bags, Activity Packs, and Toiletry Kits. Get guidelines and details under “Group Volunteers.”

Last but not least, If you’re looking for opportunities that can extend beyond the holidays, consider starting a Raise Love fundraiser. You and your family can start by raising funds during the holiday season, but continue on throughout the year.

Volunteer ages: child to adult (some activities have age restriction so be sure to contact RMHC for specific requirements)

Time commitment: Flexible

Time frame: Seasonal and/or year-round

Contact:
RMHC Richmond Chapter
2330 Monument Avenue
Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 355-6517

 

1. Housing Families First

Housing Families First Holiday Volunteer
Housing Families First / Facebook

Housing insecurity is a terrifying thought…but it’s a reality for many Richmond families, including children. During the winter months, not having a stable home makes life all the more precarious for families in need. Fortunately, there are programs in the Richmond area designed to help families in need – during the winter and throughout the year.

About Housing Families First

For nearly two decades, Housing Families First has worked to provide families experiencing homelessness with the tools, education, and resources they need to reach their goal of housing stability. For families in immediate need, Housing Families First provides emergency shelter and assistance in finding permanent housing. During the holiday months, the needs of these families become even more pronounced as they struggle to provide a stable environment for their children. Thankfully, volunteers like you and your family can help.

How to get involved

There are number of ways that you can help families facing homelessness during the holiday season. One way that you can be involved as a family is on Wednesday nights from 6:30pm – 8pm.  During this time, the residents have classes, during which the children in the house need supervision. Volunteers, including youth volunteers, can help with everything from crafts and games, to homework help, to changing diapers, to just hanging out. Other opportunities might include cleaning rooms for incoming families and/or sorting and organizing donated items. To sign up for a Wednesday night slot, click here.

Other ways you can volunteer as a family include:

Evening Supper Program
Prepare a meal for up to 30 people (about 10 adults and 20 children), and additional food for the volunteers in your group. During the week, volunteers arrive at 5:00pm to set the table and prepare to serve dinner at 5:30pm. Sign up here.

DIY Volunteering: Welcome Snack Bags  
This is a great opportunity for families to do at home. New families are welcomed to Housing Families First with decorated snack bags. All you need to participate in this activity brown or white paper lunch bags, art supplies, and contents for the bag, including a drink and individually packaged snacks. You and your kids can decorate the bags with uplifting messages, drawings, stickers, etc. then fill them with goodies.

Donate Items
With hundreds of families needing assistance each year, supplies and household goods are in constant demand. If you’re looking for ways to teach your children about giving, particularly during the holiday season, consider providing essential items – and maybe even some holiday extras – for less fortunate families in our community. To see a complete list of items needed, see the Housing Families First “Wish List.”

Be sure to click here for more information about making donations, volunteering for special Thanksgiving and/or Christmas events, and more.

Volunteer ages: DIY activities and donations – all ages. On-site volunteering – Ages 8+ with an adult.

Time commitment: Flexible

Time frame: Seasonal and year-round

Contact:
Housing Families First
3900 Nine Mile Road
Henrico, VA 23223
804-236-5800
terri@housingfamiliesfirst.org

For even more family-friendly events, activities, and resources in the Richmond area, be sure to visit our entire Best of Richmond series!