10 Holiday and Christmas Volunteer Opportunities for Students

Students can participate in holiday volunteer opportunities to expand their network and make an impact on their communities.
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  • Volunteering over the holidays allows college students to help communities in need.
  • Through volunteering, students can expand their networks and gain real-world experience.
  • Students should follow all pandemic-related regulations to stay safe and protect others.

The holiday break from classes gives college students the opportunity to donate their time and talents to organizations that serve their communities. Many students care deeply about issues such as poverty, domestic violence, and animal rights. Instead of getting caught up in season-related stress, students might volunteer to create more meaningful holiday memories.

Some students may spend their time volunteering over the holidays in areas experiencing high rates of COVID-19 infection. In these cases, students should follow all mandates and guidelines regarding masking, social distancing, and other measures organizations use to maintain public safety.

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What Are the Benefits of Holiday and Christmas Volunteering?

Time off from school allows students to give back to their communities and help others in need. Besides making an impact, volunteering during winter break can provide several personal and professional benefits.

  • You Can Gain Real-World Work Experience: Many Christmas volunteer opportunities allow students to develop their communication, leadership, and time-management skills in real-life situations. These and other in-demand soft skills can translate well to professional settings.
  • You Can Expand Your Network: Holiday volunteer opportunities place individuals in contact with professionals from nonprofits, businesses, and other organizations. Volunteering can connect students with managers and decision-makers who can provide valuable mentorship and expose them to future job prospects.
  • You Can Build Your Resume: Students lacking work history can add volunteer experiences to their resumes. Holiday and Christmas volunteering can expand students' employment prospects after graduation. Hiring managers sometimes overlook employment gaps if an applicant has volunteer experience.
  • You Get to Give Back to Your Community: Donating time to a charitable cause can positively impact communities in need. Independent Sector estimates that one hour of volunteer time translates to over $25 in value.

Get Involved With Your Local Community

Various charitable organizations exist to provide nutritional, monetary, medical, and other support to families and communities. You can choose from many different causes depending on your interests, schedule, and location.

1. Soup Kitchen

People experiencing homelessness often rely on soup kitchens that offer free meals. Volunteers play an essential role in ensuring these organizations can provide nutritional assistance to those in need.

Students interested in volunteering at a soup kitchen should find out what requirements they might need to meet, such as age and availability. They should also determine which soup kitchens in their area need volunteers the most.

To find soup kitchens near you, check with the Homeless Shelter Directory.

2. Food Bank

Food banks and pantries help people experiencing food insecurity, that is, the lack of consistent access to the amount and type of food that helps people maintain positive health.

Food pantries assist people dealing with both temporary and long-term food insecurity. Feeding America reports that 51% of food pantries in the U.S. rely entirely on volunteer efforts.

College students who want to help combat food insecurity can do an online search for food banks in their communities.

3. Local Hospital

Hospital volunteers serve various roles, including working in the gift shop, doing clerical work, sending appointment reminders, cleaning rooms, and providing tech support. Some student volunteers may enjoy assisting patients with medical disabilities or working in a daycare facility.

Holiday volunteer opportunities at hospitals depend a great deal on availability and departmental needs. Prospective volunteers typically need to undergo training, a background check, and a health screening before getting approved to volunteer.

4. Women's Shelter

Shelters across the U.S. offer emergency havens and support for women and children fleeing domestic abuse and violence. Many of these shelters help victims of domestic violence of all genders.

These organizations typically operate 24-hour, toll-free hotlines and collect clothing and toiletry donations. In addition, they provide food and clothing, transitional housing, crisis intervention, survivor support, and court advocacy.

Shelters also engage in outreach efforts through prevention classes and campaigns to educate communities about domestic abuse and promote families' health.

5. Nursing Home

Most nursing care facilities rely on volunteers to provide residents with interaction and companionship. Students might spend their volunteer holidays organizing Christmas caroling, activities, and entertainment to nursing care residents.

Volunteering at a nursing facility can also provide experience for students considering going into healthcare. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the healthcare sector will see some of the fastest job growth between 2020 and 2030.

6. Animal Shelter

Students who are passionate about the interests and well-being of animals can volunteer at local animal shelters over the holidays.

The Humane Society advocates for animals' rights and works to prevent and end animal cruelty. The organization welcomes volunteers to do phone banking, bathe or walk animals, perform pro bono veterinary work, serve in leadership roles, and support staff at various levels.

The Humane Society and other such organizations also offer internship opportunities.

Get Involved With Organizations

Students searching for holiday and Christmas volunteer opportunities can look at national organizations in addition to local groups. These entities generally include state and local chapters that can directly meet their communities' needs and provide more accessible ways to volunteer.

7. Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels America supports almost 2.4 million people aged 60 and over throughout the U.S. by delivering nutritious meals.

Students can spend their winter break bringing food to clients and spending time with them. They might also find a local senior center or nutrition site where they can visit with clients who meet and socialize. Prospective volunteers can sign up online or find a local Meals on Wheels chapter.

8. The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army helps families and individuals throughout the year — not just during the holidays. This organization offers shelters, disaster relief, job training, spiritual healing, rehabilitation services, and other forms of assistance.

In the weeks before Christmas, the organization works with various local groups to help families in need enjoy a Christmas they might not otherwise experience. Many students spend part of their Christmas volunteering at their local Salvation Army locations by preparing or serving food or dropping off clothing, gifts, and other donations.

9. Red Cross

Perhaps one of the most recognizable charitable organizations in the world, the American Red Cross provides disaster relief and helps people in crisis. Its various chapters support military families, facilitate blood drives, and offer CPR and first-aid certification and training.

Students wishing to volunteer for the Red Cross should learn what training they need before applying. They should also do research to learn about the most urgent volunteer opportunities available.

10. Toys for Tots

In collaboration with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Toys for Tots collects and distributes toys to children and their families in time for the holidays. Students can assist by donating money, volunteering their time, organizing local toy drives, and spreading the word to increase awareness of their services.

Those wanting to donate unwrapped items can find local drop-off locations. If you're interested in volunteering at Toys for Tots, you must submit an online application.

Featured Image: mixetto / E+ / Getty Images

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