In the last few weeks, BACC members from across both sides of the Bay have organized various community service efforts to provide options and opportunities for the less fortunate during the holiday season. The efforts ranged from being fairly involved outreach activities, to simple enough events that can be done in the home with friends or family.
Since you may be looking for some last minute opportunities to get involved in your local community, we thought we’d share some of their stories to give you some inspiration to exercise your good will.
1. Holiday dinner basket (effort level: low)
ShelterNetwork, a terrific volunteering hub that recently partnered with InnVision, is a Bay Area nonprofit that focuses on fighting hunger and homelessness. They offer numerous ways to get involved in helping the less fortunate over the holidays, including activities like setting up holiday parties, or just giving a flat donation.
One great way to contribute is to take advantage of their Holiday Dinner Basket program. BACC members have already held several events which consist of meeting together at a home, taking a trip to the grocery store and purchasing an assortment of goods together in order to assemble a meal which will be transported to families who would otherwise have nothing to eat during Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. Shelter Network even provides a list of items to acquire for the basket, making the shopping experience fairly effortless. After purchasing the goods, the BACC members assembled the baskets together and then delivered them to local shelters, the locations of which are provided by Shelter Network.
Check out Shelter Network and InnVision’s holiday giving page for more information on how to get started. Dinner baskets cost roughly $40 after purchasing all the items.
2. Coat and food drives (effort level: medium)
The Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC) also offer several ways to get involved over the next couple of weeks. One program of theirs that has been popular among BACC members has been their coat drive. This activity involves gathering as many coats as possible from family, friends, neighbors and even strangers to donate to the homeless. The effort here is mostly in arranging for the collection of the coats, so if you plan on heading up one of these activities, make sure to arrange for a place to store the coats for the duration of your drive.
The PJCC also runs a food drive, which operates in a similar fashion. Visit PJCC’s giving page to learn more about how to get involved.
3. Dinner party for local youth (effort level: high)
In East Palo Alto, some BACC members organized a Holiday Dinner for members of the EPA Academy’s basketball teams, both boys and girls. Remi Sobomehin, head coach and community crusader, arranged to use the school’s library to host the event. Of all the ideas presented in this article, this one involves probably the most work, just because there’s a fair amount of things to organize, including:
- Coordinating with school or youth organization administration
- Planning food and decoration arrangements
- Ensuring buy in and support from parents
But the work is definitely worth it. Seeing the look on kids’ faces when they receive something they were not expecting is irreplaceable.
Try contacting local schools or foster homes in your area to get an idea for how you can get started in your community.
4. Adopt-a-family (effort level: low)
Another great way to put a smile on some faces this year is to adopt a family. The idea is similar to the Dinner Baskets idea mentioned earlier, but this one allows you to make a personal connection with the people that your giving is supporting. The basic premise is, you work with an organization like Shelter Network to learn about different families in need and, after hearing more about who they are and what they need, contribute something that will help make their holiday season a little brighter.
In some cases you’re able to meet the families, giving your donations in person and establishing a relationship. In others they’d prefer to remain anonymous. Either way, it’s great being able to see the fruits of your giving, and is sure to encourage future social contributions from everyone involved.
5. Volunteer Match (effort level: variable)
For those that would like to give but are still unsure as to how or where to go about doing so, look no further than VolunteerMatch.org. Volunteer Match is a rich listing site with countless opportunities available across all ends of the volunteering spectrum. Just about anyone can search for a way to get involved in their community, as the service allows you to search for serving opportunities by location and by need. The activities involved are incredibly diverse; BACC members have used it this season to participate in everything from homeless shelter volunteering to web design for low budget nonprofits.
So if you’re still stuck even after reading these suggestions, take some time combing through Volunteer Match and you’ll very likely end up finding a way to give back that you didn’t know existed.