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Give the Gift of Your Time

The Ronald McDonald House's Chef Program lets locals cook meals for those families to enjoy.
Give the Gift of Your Time
"Your family’s purchase of a warm blanket could help somebody get through a long, cold night."

There may be no other time of the year when folks feel so naturally drawn to donating gifts, money, and time. But what often happens is that the burst of charitable feelings that come in November and December often dissipate come January and February.

But as I shared in a previous post, community service not only provides rewards to those receiving your help, but the rewards that come from contributing something good into an often-difficult and even frightening world are enormous.

My family and I had let the habit fall away, and as it did, my anxiety about the state of the world has grown. So when the folks behind Just the Positive asked me to write about my family’s year of service project, over a year after I’d first shared the story, and put out a call for suggestions for volunteer opportunities, I took that as a sign. There’s no shortage of opportunities, and the holiday season feels like the perfect time to jump in with both feet—though there’s no one season for need. It exists year round. The suggestions we received are shared below, but it’s by no means exhaustive. If you know of others, please share them.

Community Service Opportunities for Families

  • The whole family is welcome to pitch in to sort food at the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.
  • Find angel trees or holiday adopt-a-family projects at local schools and workplaces.
  • Talk to your church or find organizations who serve food to the homeless. These organizations always need help, not just around the holidays.
  • Your local animal shelter may be happy to have volunteers walk dogs, play with cats, give cuddles, or clean cages.
  • Research organizations that raise funds for developing countries. As one contributor shared, it “reminds me and the kids that all humans are in this together!”
  • Look for opportunities all around you, which may not necessarily be through official charitable organizations. Is there an elderly person who could use help with yard work? Is there an agency helping the poor or mentally ill that you could support. Could you and your family purchase groceries to take to a local food pantry? Could you clean a local park? Start a community garden?
  • One contributor does an ongoing drive for socks and feminine products to take to local homeless shelters. Talk to people working in these organizations who know where the acute needs are, and think about ways your family can help meet them.
  • The Ronald McDonald House offers a home away from home for parents whose children are hospitalized in Reno. These families experience high levels of anxiety and spend hours each day by their children’s sides. Through the house’s Chef Program, locals can cook meals in the fully equipped kitchen that those families can enjoy. Imagine the comfort of returning from a day at the hospital to a home-cooked meal. A gesture like that can mean a lot, and offers a great way for families to work together to give of themselves.
  • Urban Roots opens for drop-in volunteer hours every Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to noon, with special hours available for larger groups. The teaching farm can always use help with special projects, regular farm maintenance, or administrative work. And with a new teaching kitchen, the organization is sure to need even more help.
  • Look no further than your children’s school. Many have families in need. Talk to your school’s counselor about how you can support these families through donations of food, clothing, hygiene items, or gifts and experiences for those families to enjoy.
  • Help Merry War Theatre Group with its annual Harvest of Hope Thanksgiving program. The group provides 1,500 meals and kindness kits to Reno’s homeless each year.
  • Support the Reno Fire Department’s annual Christmas party for children experiencing homelessness, or the Sam Saibini Food Basket program, which provides baskets of food to families in need over the holidays.
  • The Sparks Kiwanis need help getting reconditioned bikes ready for kids in the community. Typically, the Kiwanis has more than 300 bikes to donate to such programs as the Salvation Army Angel Tree, the Reno Fire Dept.’s homeless children’s holiday party, schools, and more. But the club’s recent move has put them behind their goal and could use your help!
  • The Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality (RISE) is a wonderful organization that feeds those experiencing homelessness on a weekly basis, and it always needs help from local volunteers to prepare and serve food.   
  • The Grateful Give Project was started by a 14-year-old named Ian who wanted to collect and distribute new warm, cozy blankets to the homeless on Christmas Day. He asked his parents to kick off his wish by using the money they would have spent on his Christmas presents to buy blankets. Your family’s purchase of a warm blanket could help somebody get through a long, cold night.

As one contributor wisely pointed out, if you don’t know what to buy or do, donate money. It’s not a copout to give to a trusted nonprofit, which has the ability to stretch that dollar and use it to buy what’s most needed, which may be feminine products, diapers, food, clothing, or something else altogether.

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