There is a gift that actually does keep on giving: volunteering. When you pledge your time, effort and resources to help others, everyone benefits. Christmas is a season of contrasts when some people enjoy food and gifts in the company of their loved ones, while others need a helping hand and some compassion. The benefits of volunteering are numerous: it’s an opportunity to learn a new skill, meet new people, and most of all get to know your community. If volunteering is something you’ve thought about doing, it may be easiest to start with a friend or someone you know who’s already involved. If you want to find something on your own, organizations like Volunteer Hamilton can steer you in the most meaningful direction where your skills and interests will make the most difference.
Volunteering is also a great way for families to spend time together. Many grandparents volunteer with their grandchildren in some way, and parents also use this time of year to teach their children the importance of giving back to others. This is a great opportunity for parents to demonstrate gratitude and teach young kids how fortunate they are, by asking them to help others in need. In an ideal world of course, the best way to give back is to volunteer year round. If you find a volunteer placement you enjoy, that could very well become a 365-day a year endeavour.
Keeping fed and clothed is a basic necessity, especially as it gets colder. Hats, mitts, scarves and winter coats are a major need as we move into the winter months. In terms of donations, consider giving brand new items of clothing with the tags still on (minus the price tags). Recognizing that our community is more culturally diverse is also important when donating to food banks and other services. Not everybody eats turkey at Christmas; not everybody’s going to celebrate the same way. Include some diverse choices when making food donations.
Volunteering is give and take: you give your time to a cause or program, and what you take back is fulfillment, awareness and new life skills.There’s a lot of learning and education that happens when you get out and get involved. Without volunteers, a community would implode.
How to Get Involved
Here are just a few ways to get started in your community:
Mission Services: Christmas Care
Each December the Good Food Centre is decorated for the holidays, and there is fresh food and toys to share the joy of the season with all families in Hamilton. Over 1,000 families are served during this time of year, including more than 1,500 children. Young children each receive a new toy and young adults are given gift cards. mission-services.com/about-our-work/christmas-care
City of Hamilton: Christmas Registry
Co-ordinated by the City of Hamilton, Hamilton Food Share and TheEmergency Food Network is where you’ll find a list of volunteer opportunities and a range of support systems available to those in need, so that as many people in the community as possible can enjoy the holiday season. hamilton.ca/social-services/support-programs/christmas-registry
City of Hamilton: Snow Angel Program
Be a volunteer Snow Angel. Volunteers are needed to provide snow removal service for residents that are low income, or for eligible seniors and persons with disabilities. Volunteers must be 14 years of age or older, reliable and in good physical health. hamilton.ca/social-services/support-programs/snow-angels
Volunteer Hamilton will connect volunteers with prospective opportunities with member organizations who need assistance to achieve their mission. The database is full of over 500 unique positions ranging from one-time event volunteers to permanent board positions. volunteerhamilton.on.ca
Good Shepherd Centres: Christmas Programs
In addition to its annual Christmas Dinner & Wonderland event (December 17), the food bank is transformed into a Christmas store, where more than 3,000 families can collect a Christmas hamper containing special seasonal groceries. Plus, every child receives a gift. Information about registration is available online. Sponsorship opportunities are also available through the provision of gifts to brighten a struggling family’s Christmas.
Written by BECKY DUMAIS