Want To Volunteer This Holiday Season? Call Now!

By Steve McLean 12/2/10 | www.samaritanmag.com

Food Bank

Have you ever suddenly decided to volunteer at Christmas time at a shelter or food bank and been told they're fully booked?  Have you been asked to come down on Christmas Eve to serve dinner to the homeless, but there are so many volunteers that you're just in the way? Well, call now!

This is, of course, the time when people are busy buying presents and planning their own Christmas activities, then get all warm and fuzzy as they dive into the season and want to give back — but it may be too late.  While people go hungry year-round, food banks often see a spike in volunteers in December.

The Daily Bread Food Bank is the largest provider of emergency food relief in the Greater Toronto Area. It supports more than 170 member agencies in running different kinds of food relief programs that see a monthly average of 73,000 client visits.

Sarah Anderson, Daily Bread’s senior manager of communications, canvassed four of the food bank’s staff members who regularly work with volunteers and asked them for feedback on what people who want to help during the holiday season should know. Here are their 10 tips:

1. Find an organization whose work you believe in and support. What charities do you already support? That’s a great place to start. Take a look at their websites and find out more about them. Most will have information on volunteering and volunteer opportunities.

2. Still not sure? Check out a website like www.CharityVillage.com, where charities regularly list volunteer opportunities.

3. Figure out before how much time you actually have to volunteer. Do you want to volunteer regularly once a week or once a month? Some organizations also have one-time volunteer opportunities with special events that may fit your schedule better, especially during the holiday season.

4. Call ahead. Every organization has a different process for volunteers and different opportunities. Some have a registration process or may want to talk to you about what kind of volunteer opportunity you’re looking for.

5. Once you commit, don’t cancel at the last second. Organizations rely on your help.

6. Drag your friends in – the more the merrier. You’ll have more fun and the organization will benefit with more volunteers.

7. Be prepared to work.

8. Be flexible with your expectations of what work you want to do and what work is available to do. Keep in mind that every job is important and needs to get done.

9. Remember what the end result is. You may not see the impact you’re making, but your work is vital in helping others.

10. The holiday season is generally the most popular time of year for people looking to volunteer. Some charities may not need you right away, but don’t forget that we need your help as much in June as we do in December.

Visit the Daily Bread Food Bank’s website at www.dailybread.ca to learn more about how to volunteer or donate money or food to the cause.


* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.