Volunteering for the holidays and beyond


Last month, I wrote an article about volunteering opportunities in the Twin Cities for the Thanksgiving Holiday. I listed several opportunities that I found on volunteering Web sites such as volunteermatch.org for people who wanted to volunteer for Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the information quite right, and Tashia Weisenburger from Aeon called the Twin Cities Daily Planet saying that though they had volunteer opportunities for the week of Thanksgiving, there were none for the actual day of Thanksgiving. I spoke to Weisenburger briefly on the phone, and she said that there is a large demand for volunteering opportunities related to the holidays, but less so for the rest of the year.

It turns out other volunteer coordinators in the Twin Cities are in the same predicament. Lindsay Tiede, from People Serving People, said that while she usually gets 60 or so calls a month about volunteering, she received 160 in the month of November. Tiede said she won’t have many opportunities for extra people until about February. “In the summer, I usually don’t have enough volunteers,” said Tiede.

Tiede said that if there is no job available for an interested volunteer, she will usually refer them to the United Way or Hands On Twin Cities, websites where she posts notices about People Serving People volunteers. She will also encourage people to organize a donation drive, for diapers or food.

Tiede said that while there are some one-day volunteering events, she is also looking for long-term volunteers, to tutor children, or to help out with ongoing activities. For the long-term positions, applicants go through a background check and typically make a three month commitment.

Julie Huck, the manager of volunteer programs at Project for Pride in Living (PPL), a nonprofit organization that helps people transition out of homelessness, said that while the organization typically gets 1000 volunteers in a year, she had 200 requests in the last month. She said that the increase was both due to the holidays, and people being out of work, so they have more free time to volunteer.

Huck said that companies, schools, families, and individuals are looking for a holiday volunteering activity. She usually doesn’t turn volunteers away, unless it’s a very large group that wants to volunteer on a particular day.

Like People Serving People, PPL has one day volunteering events and long-term opportunities. School mentors, for example, commit to the program for a school year, and go through an application process, a screening and a background check. Though it is not the norm, Huck said she does occasionally turn people away for the long-term volunteering positions, if their skills don’t match the position.

So, the moral of the story is: your volunteering endeavors need not be limited to the giving season of the holidays. While there are certainly some opportunities to volunteer at this time of year, think about how you’re going to give back to your community after the holidays, and throughout the year. For more information about finding the right place for you to volunteer, check out www.volunteermatch.org, www.handsontwincities.org, www.unitedtwincities.org, or think of an organization that interests you and see how you can get involved.

Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.