The holiday season is a time of year when many families follow rooted traditions or start new ones of their own. And no matter what holiday you celebrate — if you celebrate a holiday at all — there’s one activity that’s a time-honored tradition in many households during the month of December: helping those less fortunate than oneself.
The East Bay has several options for individuals or families with the volunteering spirit this time of year. If you’re looking to expand your reach by giving back, one of these opportunities might be a fit!
People need food all year round, not just during the holiday season — so if this volunteer opportunity ends up being something you enjoy, you can certainly continue for as long as you like. The Alameda County Community Food Bank uses volunteers to sort food in warehouses, answer phones, help in the office and contribute any special skills they might have to the organization. They also look to members of the community who host their own non-perishable food drives to gather donations.
The rescue mission is busy this time of year, giving you an array of choices when it comes to volunteering. The mission needs help with community food bag giveaways and the Christmas Week of Meals in addition to gift-wrapping events and children’s Christmas celebrations. (And the mission also accepts volunteers throughout the year if you enjoy your time there and want to do more in January!)
It’s no surprise that some people find the holiday season incredibly difficult for one reason or another. Bridgewatch Angels is a volunteer-run organization that engages solo walkers on the Bay Bridge to help intercept and dissuade anyone who might be considering self-harm. Volunteers are welcome all year long.
Meal prep and dinner services for both the women’s shelter and the men’s shelter are big needs for this group working to support people who are homeless or who are living on the verge of homelessness. With an array of shifts and positions involving everything from food prep to setup to serving to cleanup, it’s an excellent way to give back to your local community.
“We believe that no one should feel forgotten during the holidays,” proclaims Family Giving Tree, and to that end, the organization works to meet the wishes (and needs) of low-income families and children in the Bay Area. Family Giving Tree not only needs donations but also people to organize and lead gift drives, plus volunteers to wrap, sort, and prepare the “wishes” for distribution to kids.
Seniors, people with disabilities, and seniors who are facing financial hardship all get something for the holidays from JFCS — a bag of festive food to show them that someone is thinking about them. JFCS needs help assembling the bags, and that’s where volunteers come in: packing up the gifts for distribution with love.
Prepare and/or deliver meals to homebound seniors throughout the East Bay. Stay to visit, sing Christmas carols, or just be a friendly momentary visitor. For some you may be the only other person they see all day. There are currently over five East Bay locations.
Whether you want to simply spend the holidays giving back, or start a new holiday tradition that is the start of a year-long volunteer commitment, there are numerous opportunities to get involved. VolunteerMatch.org is one website, specific to neighborhoods and targeted interests, where everyone is sure to find something that fits their schedule and volunteer needs.