The holidays are all about the fuzzy family feels — but they’re also about helping those in need. Still, if you’ve never volunteered in an official capacity before, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Do you serve up meals to homeless people, or paint pictures with seniors? So. Many. Options. If you’re looking to spread some holiday cheer beyond your home this year, you can look to these places to volunteer on Christmas Eve.
Before you put on your volunteering hat, you should have an idea of how you’d like to serve your community. Do you want to be on the frontlines and work one-on-one with homeless families, or are you more of a
behind-the-scenes food prep kind of person? Do you prefer working with older adults, or is playing board games with little kids who are spending Christmas Eve in the hospital more your thing?
No matter what type of volunteering you choose to do on Christmas Eve, your efforts will most definitely be appreciated. So think beyond that classic image of someone spooning a ladle of soup into a bowl for a less fortunate person and look for ways to pitch in that would be perfect for your personality. That way, you might find that you walk away from your volunteering efforts with even bigger blessings than you ever expected.
1 Women’s shelter
If you’re looking for a way to help moms (and women in general) in need on Christmas Eve, you can always volunteer at a women’s shelter. You might be manning the phones or helping to prepare and serve meals. Before you go, though, you might want to collect items that are always in need at a women’s shelter, like cleaning supplies, children’s kits (that include crayons, activity books, and clothing), and women’s kits (underwear and a sports bra, shampoo, and conditioner, for example) that can be placed in large Ziplock bags for easy distribution.
2 On the street Richard Baker/In Pictures/Getty Images
Sadly, not every person has a home to call their own on Christmas. When shelters get full, homeless people might find themselves sleeping on sidewalks or the steps of a building. If you know a specific spot where you might find homeless men and women, bundle up and head out with some good warm food and emergency kits (packed with clothing, ready-to-eat foods like peanut butter, crackers, canned soup, first aid items and toiletries) that will help them.
3 Your own home
Sometimes you don’t have to go too far to help those in need. If you know a family that is struggling to make ends meet or is going through a tough time, you can invite them to your home for an old-fashioned Christmas. Deck the halls so that it feels festive and fun and be sure that St. Nick leaves something for
all of the kids under the tree. And when the family asks what they can bring to your home, tell them one thing: themselves. 4 Library
Call ahead to see if your local library is open on Christmas Eve. If it is, you might find yourself returning books back to the shelves, helping kids sign up for their very first library card, or even reading to emerging readers. You might want to host a book drive before volunteering so that your library has some fresh new books for patrons to borrow in the New Year.
While you probably won’t be able to volunteer inside the supermarket, outside is another matter entirely. You can do a food drive to collect items for families in need and bag the non-perishable cans and boxes to make an entire meal. With the store’s permission, you can set up a table outside and give the bagged meals out to families who might need a little extra help this holiday.
People who are in hospice need love, care, and support, now more than ever. You can focus your Christmas volunteering by lending a hand at a hospice.
As a hospice volunteer, you might be asked to do anything from spending time with patients (reading to them, writing letters, or even sharing your musical gifts), to providing support for family members to working with the bereavement support team, the Hospice Foundation of America reported. It might be very emotional, but chances are you’ll come out of your hospice volunteer experience with a newfound appreciation for life. 7 Firehouse or police station Tim Kitchen/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Sure, you could become a volunteer firefighter — or you could just feed those who work to protect both property and you from personal harm. On Christmas Eve, visit your local firehouse armed with treats to thank those who are on call and can’t spend the holiday with their families. While firefighters are known to be killer cooks, you can still bring some brownies and (non-spiked) eggnog to fill their bellies before braving a blazing inferno — or just cooking up some 5 Bean Chili.
8 Detention center
It might not seem like the most likely choice to offer up your Christmas volunteering efforts, but helping out at your local incarceration facility can be inspirational. You might be asked to pitch in with programs, activities, and services to those who are in custody. By
offering religious, social, educational, and recreational services to inmates, you can help them establish a connection to their community and help them in their own personal development, according to the Department of Corrections. To volunteer, you’ll need to pass a background investigation and (ahem), not be on active parole or probation yourself — or have a clean criminal record for at least the last three years. 9 Homeless shelter
On Christmas Eve, you can donate your time to helping at a homeless shelter. You might be responsible for serving up meals, cooking and preparing food, to helping those new to the shelter understand what services are offered.
10 Soup kitchen
If you want to feed someone’s body (and soul), volunteer at a soup kitchen on Christmas Eve. Since this is a very popular way to volunteer, you should call ahead to your local kitchen to know if they need extra hands. If you do spend time there, you might sort and package food for delivery, stack boxes, or prep and serve meals to those less fortunate.
11 Local hospitals Liverpool FC - Handout/Liverpool FC/Getty Images
Hospitals are always looking for volunteers to lend a helping hand or two. You might need to submit an online application, so be sure to do that sooner rather than later so you can be a bonafide volunteer come Christmas Eve. But there are
so many tasks to be done at a hospital, including assisting hospital staff, doing admin duties, welcoming visitors, delivering treats to patients, or even reading to the elderly and small children, too, according to Volunteering Solutions. 12 Houses of worship
As you can imagine, Christmas Eve is exceptionally busy for houses of worship. You might be needed to help greet and seat families, run the bake table, set up (and take down) special holiday displays, organize supplies, and corral the kiddos during the services.
13 Salvation Army
If you sign up with
Salvation Army, you might find yourself doing anything from helping victims from natural disasters to talking with teens from the LGBTQ+ community, teaching children, or writing a resume for someone looking for employment. Contact your local Salvation Army to find out how you can meet the needs of your community — and the world. 14 Nursing homes
If you’re looking to really make a positive impact upon others, why not
volunteer at a nursing home on Christmas Eve? Sadly, some seniors don’t get many visitors, so pitching in at a nursing home can be a ray of light for them. You might be asked to do food prep (or even help feed a senior or two), but most likely, what’s really needed is for volunteers to spend some quality one-on-one time with the patients. 15 Senior centers
Many senior centers have operating hours on Christmas Eve. Contact one that is close to home and see where your efforts can make a difference. While you might get a holiday meal together for the seniors, your skills are what really count! So if you sing, paint, draw, or bake a mean gingerbread cookie, bring your talents to share with the seniors.
16 Volunteer abroad
If you thought that you couldn’t volunteer just because you’re going on vacay, think again. Depending on the location, you can contact the local homeless shelters or religious institutions in that area to find out about ground-level volunteering opportunities. It might be to bring food to a family in need, help empower women at a women’s shelter, or feed stray animals.
17 Meals On Wheels
If you’ve got a car and a desire to feed those in need,
Meals on Wheels can use your assistance. The organization helps deliver meals to seniors and those with disabilities on a daily basis. You can either work in the kitchen to help prepare nutritious meals, or bring them to those in your area. Best part: you can do the deliveries as a family. 18 Animal shelter David Bohrer/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
So often volunteer efforts are directed towards adults in need. But what about dogs and cats? On Christmas Eve, head on over to your local animal shelter and donate your time to a doggie or a kitty. Grab a leash and take a dog for a walk. You never know — you just might walk home with a furry forever four-legged friend.
19 Host a soldier
There are many soldiers stationed throughout the world who find themselves far from home on Christmas Eve. While they can stay on their base, you might be able to bring a service member home for a home-cooked meal. Contact your local military base to find out about their
Adopt a Service Member program, and help spread a little holiday cheer to those who serve. 20 In your neighborhood
Sometimes, you don’t have to go too far to find ways to help those in need. In fact, you might find that your neighbor could use some assistance this holiday season. Whether it’s shoveling the snow from an elderly neighbor’s porch, bringing the new mom down the street a care package filled with goodies, or stringing some extra holiday lights for a neighbor who’s recovering from surgery, there are probably many opportunities for you to help out that are right on your very own block.
There are many ways to volunteer on Christmas Eve, and you might be able to include your children in on some of them for a truly happy holiday.
This article was originally published on
Dec. 14, 2019