It’s that time of year again. The time of year when people think about what they’re thankful for and consider the best way to spread holiday cheer to those less fortunate. Of course, since so many people are driven to the same activities, the most popular volunteer opportunities quickly fill up. In fact, food pantries and soup kitchens are usually entirely booked with volunteers for Thanksgiving and Christmas up to a year in advance. Plus, many of these prefer not to spend the holiday season training volunteers who want to do their good deed on a holiday (so they can feel good about themselves) never to return.
It can be particularly difficult for an RVer to find meaningful ways to contribute when they may be new to an area or just passing through. Take heart! There is a variety of ways to volunteer your time or donate funds; it really depends on your preferences. These are all worthwhile options on which to bestow your gifts around the holidays.
Related Read: How to Support a Local Economy When You Travel
Since the space in a motorhome or travel trailer is fairly limited, it’s a great time of year to lighten your own load, as well. Take stock of any clothing you are carrying around with you. If you haven’t worn it in a while (and it’s in good shape) donate it to a clothing drive, a church, or a homeless shelter to be distributed to those in need.
There are also several organizations, such as the Warm Coats Warm Hearts Drive and the Pajama Program, that specifically collect new and gently-used items for these purposes.
There are several ways that you can put your efforts or your dollars toward providing a meal, ingredients, or even holiday treats to others. Consider contributing to, or even organizing a food drive to benefit the nearest food pantry. You could even do a pet food drive to benefit the local no-kill animal rescue shelter.
Another option is to make some baked goods and consider dropping them by places where people are bound to be living or working around the holidays. A few options include animal shelters, day cares and senior centers, police and fire departments, as well as hospitals, nursing homes, and the V.A. It may be a good idea to call and ask first, as there may be specific legal guidelines, visiting hours, or food restrictions. Plus, you could always deliver baked goods to the other campers.
Every year, many families are unable to provide the quality of Christmas for their children that they would like. Many churches help put “Secret Santas” in touch with needy families and to help buy gifts. Through organizations like Family-to-Family you can sponsor a family and help put food on the table.
Another option is to inquire with the local hospital as to the number of children are in the pediatric unit at that time, as well as when and how you should make a delivery. Then buy or make enough holiday cards to ensure each child gets one. Perhaps do the same for the residents of the local jail or nearest prison. Be sure to be sensitive to the various cultures and beliefs that may be represented at the chosen establishment.
There are lots of ways to volunteer and experience—as well as spread holiday cheer—without spending a dime. Visit someone. There are many people who experience a rather sheltered life out of circumstance, not choice. For example, many nursing home residents and those in hospice rarely get visitors. The faculty of most know which individuals would benefit most from a visit.
You could also contact the local USO, V.A. or VFW and find out if there are any activities with which you can assist. Perhaps you could deliver meals on wheels.
If you prefer four-legged family members, consider volunteering at a nearby animal shelter. Animals that receive love and attention are far more likely to be adopted, even around the holiday season.
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This is just a small fraction of the many opportunities available to volunteer around the holidays. Be mindful, though, that some of these activities and organizations may require certain security measures, such as background checks be provided. Volunteering can make the season more meaningful for you, but it should most importantly always be of benefit to those you are trying to help. Happy Holidays!
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