A list of volunteer opportunities to brighten up the winter holidays
Baby, it's cold outside, and there's nothing more tempting than trudging home to a hot meal and a warm, inviting bed on the last day of school before winter break. It's easy to focus on holiday celebrations, nights out with friends, Netflix and Disney+ shows to binge-watch in bed and all the presents waiting to be opened.
While these things do sound incredibly appealing, the holiday season is meant for much more than gift-giving. As Dr. Seuss’ infamous Grinch finds out at the end of his story, the holiday season is centered around community and gratitude. Let us then try to reach out into our community this winter break like he did, "It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
Montgomery Parks has a wide variety of winter opportunities, from taking care of plant life to cleaning bodies of water. Specifically, the parks' Weed Warriors group needs volunteers to help them remove invasive vines and non-native plants from forests around the county to maintain the diverse flora and fauna native to Montgomery County.
Check out your local soup kitchens and food pantries for volunteering opportunities that benefit the homeless and struggling families throughout Montgomery County. A hot meal can work wonders on sick bodies and cold days.
Manna Food Center has volunteering opportunities in multiple locations across the county where students can pack lunch boxes, interact with clients, load up food into trucks or sort and maintain warehouses with non-perishable donations. Lunchboxes and other food donations are given to soup kitchens, food pantries and emergency shelters.
Shepherd's Table is an example of a soup kitchen that supports the homeless and those in poverty by providing hot meals and other necessities. Volunteer to work in the kitchen to make and serve meals, or sort through clothing donations — both tasks are extremely important in keeping people warm during the frigid months ahead.
Community Support Services, Inc. focuses on supporting children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. They need volunteers to help decorate, serve food and support their members in upcoming holiday events.
Click here for more food pantries and soup kitchen volunteering opportunities.
Support for the Elderly
Brighten up rooms at resident homes, hospitals, and assisted-living facilities during the holiday by paying visits to residents that are spending their holiday season there. Kensington Park Senior Living and Marian Assisted Living, for example, are looking for musically-inclined volunteers and groups to sing and play for their residents. Volunteers for The Holiday Project can also visit various homes around the metropolitan area to sing carols and give gifts for the holidays.
Difference Makers, a non-profit organization and club that recently extended into Blair, hosts an annual Snow Angels event where students volunteer to shovel snow off of lawns for older residents and others who cannot clear the snow on their own. Sign up to shovel here, and make sure to visit the official Difference Makers page to find a list of shovelling locations.
The holidays are always tinged with the sweet nostalgia of receiving toys and other gifts from friends and family as a child. Join organizations in helping to spread this warm feeling to other children who otherwise may never get the opportunity to open any presents.
The Montgomery Housing Partnership (MHP) holds an annual Angels and Children drive with the Wheaton & Kensington Chamber of Commerce and Wheaton Fire & Rescue Squad. Donate gifts for children in MHP's Wheaton households, or even better, get out of the house to help sort and wrap over 1,000 donations.
Speaking of wrapping presents, the Holiday Giving Project, Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, Living Independently for Everyone Inc and Montgomery Village Kiwanis Club are examples of organizations who need volunteers to help them wrap gifts to donate to the less fortunate residents of Montgomery County.
Junior Yichi Zhang is a leader of the Blair chapter of Paper Bridges, a nonprofit focused on sending letters to orphans around the world. Zhang states that her fellow club members are holding a letter writing workshop over winter break to spread their abundant holiday cheer to orphanages. "During the holiday season, we have friends and family sending cards to us, but these kids probably don't, so we are sharing our holiday wishes and bringing them the joy we feel during the holiday season," Zhang says. The workshop will be held at Wheaton Mall this Saturday (Dec. 28) outside of the lower-level Macy's.
From gifting to working in the kitchen, these volunteering opportunities only skim the surface of the ways we can show compassion. If the Grinch's heart can grow three sizes during the holidays, so can ours.
Yuri Kim. Hey, I'm Yuri and I'm a senior :) When I'm not on SCO, I'm listening to music, overusing emojis, and/or working on another strange arts-and-crafts project. More »