10 Holiday Volunteering Ideas
For Families

  1. Clothes and Toy Clean Out: When December rolls around, have your kids go through their toys and clothes and find some that they can donate to Goodwill or a homeless shelter. Explain that, for many parents, buying gifts for friends and family may be difficult, so this is a way to help these families out. If you encounter resistance, the “make room for new presents” strategy can be very persuasive. You can also make a “giving box.” Have the kids decorate a large box to serve as a collection box throughout the season or the year. Every time they outgrow an item, they can toss it in the box. When the box is full, take it to a charity or schedule a pickup at your house.
  2. Make Greeting Cards: You can go to Hugs and Hope or Send Kids the World to find information about sick children who are eager for “happy mail.” There are even photos of the kids, which makes it a more personal experience. Or, you can deliver cards to a local nursing or veteran’s home. In addition to greeting cards, you can make holiday decorations like paper chains or snowflakes, which are a great way to brighten what may be an otherwise dreary environment for people.
  3. Adopt A Soldier: The Adopt A Soldier program is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children about the sacrifices that military service members make for our country. You can sign up for a one-time commitment, and assemble a holiday care package to send.
  4. Help the Animals: If your kids aren’t quite old enough to volunteer at a shelter, you can make treats and toys to drop off. There are lots of great ideas online: for example, you can make toys using mateless socks; just put a tennis ball or two in the sock, tie a knot at the top, and the kids decorate the socks with non-toxic markers. Find a local animal shelter here. You could also make bird feeders out of pine cones, peanut butter, and bird seed.
  5. Help the Hungry: Donate food to a food bank this holiday season. Some families buy the same ingredients that they use for their holiday dinner and donate them to a food bank, which can make the experience more meaningful for a child. Better yet…when you drop off the donations, stay for a while and help pack boxes and sort food. To find a food bank near you, go to Feeding America.
  6. Party Ideas: There’s an organization called Joy of Sox that collects new socks for the homeless. Many cities have what they call “sock drawers” or collection sites, or you can mail the socks to the organization’s headquarters. If you’re hosting a holiday party or gathering, you can ask people to bring a new pair of socks. Or you can ask people to bring an unwrapped toy and deliver them to Toys for Tots.
  7. Acts of Kindness: A service project doesn’t have to be a formal event organized through an established nonprofit. It’s just about helping. If you have an elderly neighbor, shovel their driveway for them. Bring cookies and thank-you cards to your volunteer firemen, police, or librarians. Make care kits for the homeless that include a granola bar, and a $5 gift card to a local pharmacy. Leave change at a vending machine with a note that says: “Please Enjoy This Random Act of Kindness. Happy Holidays!”
  8. Give Gifts That Give Back: Do an online search for “gifts that give back”, and you’ll find hundreds of wonderful ideas. You can, for example, sponsor a holiday party at St. Jude in your loved ones’ names. One idea is to donate the money to sponsor the party and purchase ornaments with the St. Jude logo. Then, on Christmas Day, give the ornaments with a note attached explaining that this very day, a holiday party is being given in their name at St. Jude’s. Want to help a local group? See if your town hosts an alternative gift fair.
  9. Sponsor a Family: Often you can find giving trees at churches or malls, where you can pick a tag off the tree and buy a gift that has been requested. One year, my kids were really moved by a child who had requested socks and Tupperware for his mom. If there’s no giving tree near you or you want to do more for a family, check out The Box Project.
  10. Make Blankets: This is a wonderful family activity. And there’s absolutely no sewing involved! You take two pieces of fleece and cut fringe around the edges. Then you knot the fringes to make a nice, plush blanket. For instructions, visit Project Linus. These blankets can be dropped off at animal shelters, homeless shelters, pregnancy centers, etc. Project Linus also has drop-off information for local chapters on their website.