Service Opportunities this Holiday Season
As the season starts changing and the winter chill is in the air, so begins my excitement for the holiday season! The start of November marks the start of the holidays for me and the two months of the year where my husband barely tolerates my zeal for all things holiday, tradition, and family.
Decorations come out of their boxes, holiday music is playing on our speakers, food preparations are constant (as is shopping), and family events take up the calendar. While my enthusiasm for the holidays is palpable, I am also keenly aware of how hard this season is for many people. My husband grew up in poverty and felt so much guilt as a child as the holiday season started, knowing that asking for a gift would be a huge burden on his single-mother. These feelings are unfortunately all too common for so many during the holiday season and is one of the many reasons why my family chooses to spend the holidays giving to others through service during this time of the year.
The holidays can bring so much stress to many, but it also brings so much kindness out of people-that fills my heart with joy. This time of year also brings about many opportunities to serve as individuals and as families that are not always available during the rest of the year. Whatever holiday you celebrate, this time of the year brings about an opportunity to bring joy and share the love with others. And that, to me, is what the holidays are about.
We’ve put together a list of several amazing area organizations that have volunteer opportunities for you and your family this holiday season. Please note that due to COVID-19 Restrictions, in-person service opportunities may be limited, but all of these organizations are deserving of your help!
Many charitable groups require kids to be at least 13 years of age (sometimes 17) before they can officially volunteer, so be sure to check ahead of time if you plan to bring your younger children to an organized service opportunity. Of course, there are several possibilities listed below that are perfect for families with kids of all ages!
Milwaukee-Area Service Opportunities-
Milwaukee Diaper Mission– 1 in 3 Milwaukee families struggle with diaper need. Some have to choose between buying diapers and food on a weekly basis. Some have reported rinsing and reusing dirty disposable diapers. No family should have to make these choices. The co-founders of Milwaukee Diaper Mission decided to launch Milwaukee’s first freestanding nonprofit diaper bank to meet these needs.
Journey House – Journey House empowers families on Milwaukee’s near Southside to move out of poverty by offering adult education, youth development, workforce readiness, and family engagement. Adopt a family, child, or teen for the holidays, and you’ll get a wish list to help them make it a holiday to remember.
The Guest House – Our team had the opportunity to see firsthand what this fantastic Milwaukee resource is all about, and we were incredibly impressed. The Guest House has been helping people overcome homelessness for over 30 years. How can you help? Contact them about volunteer opportunities, or shop their Amazon wishlist for items like men’s shirts, basic toiletries, and more necessities that help to support the guests.
Milwaukee Rescue Mission – This organization seeks to rescue people from poverty and homelessness in Milwaukee and support them through programs like Joy House, Safe Harbor, Cross Trainers Academy, and more. Every year MRM provides hundreds of food baskets to graduates of their programs, families of our students, and other members of the community. Additionally, caring people give hundreds of toys, games, and stuffed animals to children who live (or used to live) in Joy House and students who attend Cross Trainers. MRM needs new, unwrapped gifts – $15 value – for hundreds of children (infants through teens), plus new hats, gloves, and scarves to give to men, women, and children. Items can be dropped off at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission.
Sunbeam Kids – The perfect way to introduce your young child to serving! Sunbeam Kids, Inc. is an all-volunteer-driven 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to providing resources and organizing community service projects for kids and families. They offer family-friendly volunteer projects that benefit people & organizations in the Milwaukee Area and beyond. Sunbeam Kids updates their projects page as new opportunities to serve become available.
Hunger Task Force – The Hunger Task Force works to prevent hunger and malnutrition by providing food to people in need today and by promoting social policies to achieve a hunger-free community tomorrow. They have multiple opportunities to volunteer by sorting food, taking part in special events, helping with their stock boxes, assisting in their warehouse, and more!
Kids Impact Community – Formerly known as Toddlers and Kids on a Mission, Kids Impact Community offers monthly opportunities to volunteer with your child, model acts of kindness, and make new friends throughout our Milwaukee community. Upcoming opportunities to serve as a family are updated frequently on their page.
Ronald McDonald House – Provides a home away from home for families with children getting treatment at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. There are many ways to get involved, including providing a meal or snack for families, hosting a fundraising event, serving as a house volunteer, and more. Kids age 14-17 can apply to be an Associate Volunteer. For more information on volunteer opportunities, click HERE.
Milwaukee Women’s Center Emergency Shelter – Dedicated to ending the cycle of domestic violence, abuse, and addiction. The shelter has a wish list of items that includes: toiletries, pampering items, clothing, winter weather items, toys, and more.
The Salvation Army – What would the holidays be without the iconic bell ringers at the red kettle? Volunteering with The Salvation Army goes far beyond the bell, however. Check out the Prison Toy Program, Coats for Kids, or donate to their Toy Shop, just to name a few.
Angel Tree – The Angel Tree program allows you to purchase a gift for a single child or children whose parents are incarcerated during the holidays. Beginning in November, Angel Tags are available at several area churches. You can also sign up your church, group, or organization to be a part of the Angel Tree.
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin – The holidays can be very hard on families when a child is sick, so this is a wonderful time of year to pursue volunteering at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Contact their volunteer office at (414) 266-2180 to ask about how you can help brighten the season for patients and their families.
Hope House of Milwaukee – Hope House is a non-profit emergency homeless shelter and rapid rehousing facility and a true community center located in the near south side of Milwaukee. Hope House hosts special events such as neighborhood clean-ups, an annual street fair, and holiday gift and food drives throughout the year.
Next Door Foundation – Next Door promotes school readiness and success in life for young Milwaukee children and families through exceptional early childhood programming and whole-family support services. The Holiday Giving Program at Next Door assist hundreds of families each year, lessening their stress and financial burden, while providing them with a memorable holiday season. Each sponsor who adopts a family will receive a ‘wish list’ to shop from. Since families of various sizes are available for adoption, this is a great opportunity for organizations, or groups of individuals, to work together in support of a needy family.
We do it unofficially. After meeting a boy and his aunt 5 years ago volunteering to bowl with foster families, we found they really needed help with their Thanksgiving meal. We bring them everything they need every year since. My son also has been spending time with the boy on many occasions and he has slept at our house. I also visit with his aunt on occasion. Hopefully we are bringing some comfort to them. I know they matter to us. -Milwaukee Mom Reader
Full Circle Healing – Full Circle Healing is a non-profit working in the Milwaukee community to provide healing of mind, body, and spirit. They are involved in multiple community efforts, including sponsoring the “Peace Place” at North Division Community High School. Families have the opportunity to serve this winter by making care packages and dropping them off at Full Circle to be given to those individuals experiencing homelessness. Contact Amy at fullcirclehealingmke.org to set up your own care packages.
Street Angels – The Street Angels head out into the community three nights a week to offer food, clothing, blankets, hygiene items, and more to those experiencing homelessness in Milwaukee. Volunteers are needed to help sort donations, make hot meals and lunches and travel with volunteers during the night to meet the needs of those living on the streets.
Love + Lift – A non-profit organization that grew out of a buy, sell, trade site. They aim to strengthen the bonds within our local communities by making it the societal norm to do something kind or selfless for no other reason than to lift someone else. There are multiple opportunities to get involved, including dropping off items to love + lift families experiencing hardships, welcoming new families to the area, and providing items for new babies and children through foster care. You can also serve by preparing a meal through their Stella’s Shooting Stars program. This volunteer program connects individuals with families receiving in-patient care at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Capuchin Community Services – This Capuchin organization has two locations, the House of Peace and St. Ben’s Community Meal. They provide multiple opportunities to serve through their meal site, clothing closet, legal clinic, health services, and more. They also have multiple special drives including their holiday food box programs and holiday toy drive.
Giving Tree and Donation Opportunities-
There are many organizations in the Milwaukee Community that are collecting gifts for families for the holidays. If you and your family are interested in buying gifts for an individual or family in need, check out the Angel Trees, Giving Trees, and wish lists from these amazing organizations:
United Way of Greater Milwaukee – Giving Tree
Project Hope Youth Program – Adopt a Family
Christmas Clearing Council – Sponsor a Family
Lutheran Social Services – Wish List
Neu Life Community Development Program – Wish List
The Cathedral Center – Wish List
Operation Christmas Child – Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization They provide shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies and ship these simple gifts outside the United States to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease; and to children living on Native American reservations in the U.S.
World Vision – There is just something special about giving a gift with a purpose and World Vision provides the opportunity for you to select a unique gift like a goat, chickens, ducks or a fishing kit to provide vital nutrition to feed children and give families a way to make an income. Check out the World Vision gift catalog for more choices that can impact children locally and around the world.
Sponsor a Child – There are multiple organizations that do a fantastic job of providing food, medicine, clothing, and education for children in marginalized nations through child sponsorship. Compassion International has a high reputation of integrity for their child sponsorships, scoring an A from Charity Watch. Another good option is World Vision, which scored an A- from Charity watch. Child sponsorship can become a very profound, personal relationship for your family and your kids. Encourage your kids to write letters to your sponsor child and enclose photographs. Get them involved financially by encouraging them to donate a portion of their chore money or allowance toward the sponsorship fee.
No one ever said you have to go through a volunteer organization to love the people around you. With a little creativity, you will be amazed at all the opportunities you will see right in your own neighborhood to serve and spread joy. Here are just a couple ideas from our readers:
- Blessing Bag – Have a gently used handbag in your closet you don’t use anymore? Bring your kids to Target and shop for toiletry & hygiene items, non-perishable food items (KIND bars, bottled water, nuts, etc), socks, winter clothing, maybe a good book. Fill the purse and stash it in your vehicle. The next time you come across a homeless woman as you go about the city, give her the purse! Area homeless shelters would also love to accept care packages. Find a directory of area shelters HERE.
- The Simple Stuff – Serving others doesn’t have to be complicated. After a big snowfall, give the kids some shovels and help clear the neighbor’s sidewalk. Scraping off your windshield in the parking lot? Clean off the car next to yours too. Buy the coffee for the person behind you in the Starbucks drive-thru. Pick up a couple extra Target gift cards the next time you are there and give one to the next mom you see who just looks tired or to that mom you always run into at school drop-off. Look for opportunities in your regular routine to bless those around you!
- The Big Tip – Chances are, if you can do it safely, you will go out to eat in a restaurant at some point this holiday season. Put it in the budget and plan ahead to randomly bless your server with an obnoxiously large tip, for no other reason than to give. Foodservice workers are often stuck missing out on family holiday gatherings to work and serve other people, so this kind of random generosity can have a monumental effect on the heart of your server. And you’ll feel pretty great as you drive home, I promise.
- DONATE BLOOD! –Both the Red Cross and Versiti (formerly known as the BloodCenter of Wisconsin) are in dire need of more blood for our area hospitals! Heightened cleaning and safety procedures have made it so you can do it safely. Sign up today, and make sure to book your second visit when you attend the first!
We would LOVE to add to this list with your favorite ways to serve others in your community over the holidays. Please share in the comments or on our Facebook page about how you like to give back!