by Laura R.
*This guide has been updated November 2017
Looking for ideas to volunteer with your family around Kalamazoo this holiday season?
We’ve rounded up some options for you to carve out some family time for service to the community as an added holiday bonus, family memories and traditions will be made while volunteering together and are guaranteed to last long after the ‘must have’ toy has passed into the recycle bin.
Here are 10 ways to give back in our community during this time of the year and even all year round.
Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes | 901 Portage St., Kalamazoo (269) 488-2617
Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes is a local food bank with the goal to promote a hunger-free community. During the holidays and throughout the whole year, Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes will accept food donations. Due to the large amount of food drives throughout the holiday season, families with children eight years old and older can volunteer to help with food sorting. This involves sorting the food that comes in from the holiday drives in order to be distributed to the community.
Another great way to support Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes would be to volunteer for the upcoming fundraiser, Run Through the Lights, on December 7th. Hosted by Gazelle Sports, this race is in need of volunteer course marshals (age 18+) to help guide the runners. Younger children are encouraged to join the course marshals to cheer on the runners.
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission | 448 N. Burdick, Kalamazoo (269) 345-2974
The Kalamazoo Gospel Mission website has a list of volunteer opportunities and wishlist items. Different volunteer positions have different age requirements (8 years old is the minimum age).The kitchen has ongoing opportunities and is open 365 days a year. There are a few spots left to to serve the Christmas dinner during the 2:30 pm -6:00 pm shift. The Kalamazoo Gospel Mission is currently accepting donations of canned vegetables, canned fruit, ground beef, disposable cups, and tomato paste/sauce.
Photo courtesy of The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army of Kalamazoo (Bell Ringing)
Bell ringing is a wonderful way for a family to work together and raise money for the Salvation Army. Ringing the bell is as easy as signing up for a two-hour shift (Monday through Saturday) and showing up ready to spread cheer! All ages are welcome, however youth ages 14 and under will require adult supervision while volunteering. The last day for ringing is December 23rd. With locations all over West Michigan, it will be easy to find one close to home. For more information on bell ringing, contact Penny Allen (269) 743-0834 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Toys for Tots | Battle Creek and Kalamazoo
Every year the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve host the Toys for Tots campaign. The goal is to collect new, unwrapped gifts to benefit less fortunate children in the community. There are numerous drop off locations in the Kalamazoo area.
Drop by the Stuff the Bus Event on December 8, 9 and 10 (9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily) at the Toys R Us parking lot on South Westnedge Avenue for the largest event of the season. This three-day event is a great chance for children to see the bus full of toys. There will be military trucks on display for kids to climb on and take pictures.
Pretty Lake Camp | 9123 Q Avenue, Mattawan (269) 375-1950
Pretty Lake Camp is an organization that provides a cost-free summer camp experience to the at-risk youth of Kalamazoo County. During each child’s stay, they are provided with all of their needs, including clothing. Volunteer opportunities are available for groundskeeping and other maintenance work. Although volunteer opportunities tend to be scarce during the winter season, the camp is always seeking donations – especially underwear and socks in adult sizes. Donations can be dropped off Monday – Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, year round, at the camp location.
Hospital Hospitality House | 527 W. South St., Kalamazoo (269) 341-7811
The Hospital Hospitality Houses in Kalamazoo support families who have love ones receiving medical care by providing them a place to stay along with home-like amenities. Visit the link above to review volunteer options and fill out a form. The Hospital Hospitality House is currently in need of snack food donations – specifically individual, single-serve packaged snack foods for their guests. These and other wish list items can be dropped off at the business office house location above or the other house, located at 1800 Henson Ave., Kalamazoo.
RELATED: Where to Donate Clothes
Portage Community Center | 325 E. Centre Avenue, Portage (269) 323-1942
The Portage Community Center provides emergency assistance and offers programs for youth development. For the holiday season, the Portage Community Center is seeking donations for these programs: new winter hats, gloves and mittens, new children’s winter coats, new toys for ages 2-10, non-perishable food items, wrapping paper, laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo, deodorant, and bath soap. For volunteering throughout the year, call 269-323-1942 and the Center will put you in touch with the proper staff to match a volunteer opportunity.
Photo courtesy Power Up Packs
Power Up Packs | Radiant Church, Romence Road, Portage
The Power Up Packs was developed to send home kid-friendly meals with students in the Portage Public School District, elementary through high school, for weekends and summer break. Weekly, Power Up Packs sends almost 400 backpack meals to students. Power Up Packs is looking for volunteers to transport food to and from the schools and pick up food donation orders from local establishments. The Power Up Pack program is also always seeking individually packaged meals and snacks to include in each child’s pack for the weekend. For more information, visit the Facebook page or contact Sarah Allen email@example.com or 269-929-0055.
Wreaths Across America | Fort Custer National Cemetery, Augusta
Families are invited to be a part of this year’s event at Fort Custer National Cemetery as we Honor and Remember our fallen. Individuals can donate a wreath in memory or honor of a family member/friend. Talons Out Honor Flight, Inc. will receive $5 for every wreath donated. Also, individuals/families are invited to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony to be held on 12/16/2017 at noon. Follow the link and click the “volunteer” button.
Santa’s Workshop, presented by The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, is in need of Santa’s helpers (elves) to help Santa keep his workshop running smoothly. Elves must be at least 16 years old and will assist children with various activities such as writing letters to Santa, overseeing the crafts and snacks, assisting children to the stage, and crowd maintenance. Santa’s workshop is open now through Sunday, December 24th with a number of volunteer shifts available. Follow the link above to sign up for a shift, or for questions contact Sue Huggett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OTHER WAYS TO GIVE BACK ANYTIME
- Shovel the driveway of an elderly neighbor this winter.
- Offer to help a person who may have a hard time grocery shopping by reaching for things on the top shelf for them.
- Bake a tray of cookies and deliver them to residents in a nursing home who don’t get many visitors.
- Clean the snow off a random stranger’s car.
- Go through the house collecting toys that aren’t being played with and donate them to your favorite children’s charity.
- Save the unused hotel toiletries from a recent trip to drop off to a homeless shelter.
- Write a thank you note to veterans or active military personnel thanking them for their service!
- Plan a simple, inexpensive meal at home and use the money saved to purchase food for a local food bank.
- Ask your child if there’s a kid at school that doesn’t have many friends. Encourage them to go out of their way to talk to them or play together at recess.
- Sit down at the computer and browse some different charities and organizations that might be of interest to your child. Do they like animals? How about a charity that helps children with cancer? Once they find a cause that excites them, challenge them to do extra chores around the house to earn money to donate. Every little bit helps!
There are so many worthy causes and organizations locally in need of volunteers and donations. You might just find that it’s your kids and yourself who reap the benefits of the life lessons you will learn!
Please be sure to comment and share your volunteer experiences with us!