The holiday season will be soon upon us, which is synonymous with celebrations that joyfully include food, families, and friends. The holidays are also known to bring a sense of community that people express by spend time helping others. Many become aware of how fortunate they really are and wish to give thanks for all the things they have by giving of themselves in return. These feelings of goodwill make the holidays one of the most popular times of year to volunteer. Often during such times, nonprofits receive so many calls from potential volunteers that they cannot accommodate the volume.
The National Hunger Hotline normally starts fielding calls from people across the country wanting to volunteer at a soup kitchen during Thanksgiving. However, as the calendar nears to the holiday, opportunities for people to volunteer at food pantries lessen. It is always heartwarming to hear from people who want to give time to help others. It is appreciated, and we try our best to lead callers to where they can volunteer. If I had one wish, it would be to help spread the message that volunteers are needed the whole year round.
Pantries, shelters, and schools need workers constantly. They prize any volunteers in these trying times so if you want to volunteer consider a different time of the year. Try using January 1 as the kickoff date. Plan food drives for St. Patrick's Day, collect toys for the summer, work at a shelter for Labor Day.
Volunteers are an important resource for nonprofits. They provide needed support because these organizations are underfunded and understaffed. Volunteer jobs range from the highly specialized to the simple. Without them, some jobs would simply not get done at all. This is why it is impossible to put a price on volunteers. Their value is defined by their willingness to get tasks done with no financial compensation.
When considering volunteering your time, ask yourself a few questions. What skills could you offer to an organization? Do you enjoy talking on the phone? Maybe you could work with a hotline. Are you a knitter? Knitting for newborns might be worthwhile. What do you want to learn or benefit from a volunteer experience? A sense of service can be a major motivator in the beginning; however, later you may find yourself more satisfied if you are gaining skills or personal fulfillment from the experience.
How much time are you able to commit? Remember, it doesn't have to take a lot to volunteer successfully. Do you work best alone or in a group? This can have a huge impact on what type of opportunity in which you would be happy. Meeting people is one reason many people become involved in volunteering, but volunteering is valuable even if you do it independently.
With all of this said, remember that any time you choose to volunteer is always welcome. However if volunteer opportunities become limited in your area around the holidays, be creative and think of things you start on your own. Collect nutritious foods from your friends and donate the food to a local food pantry. Ask your neighbors to pitch in a few dollars to donate to a local charity. Invite your neighbor who may be struggling this year over for Thanksgiving dinner. Buy an extra turkey and donate it to a local food pantry or soup kitchen.
For information on places to volunteer in your area or where you can make donations, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-800 3 HUNGRY. You can also visit www.idealist.org <http://www.idealist.org/> or www.volunteermatch.org http://www.volunteermatch.org/.
Patricia Rojas is the volunteer coordinator for World Hunger Year's National Hunger Hotline. Founded in 1975, WHY is a leader in the fight against hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. www.worldhungeryear.org