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Holiday Volunteer Opportunities

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The 16th annual Helpings from the Heart Thanksgiving Meal servers more than 20,000 meals on Thanksgiving Day at the Salvation Army in Orlando, Florida, Thursday, November 25,2010. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

By Gary Manier – Collegiate Staff

With the holiday season now officially upon us, this is the perfect time to get involved and lend a helping hand. Those looking to do so can volunteer or donate to a charity or spend some quality time with a community-based organization. The Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University released a study in 2012 that found Kent County’s charitable giving, nearly $950 million outpaces the national average.

“November through January, we receive approximately 70% of our donations,” said Roger Snider, Public Relations & Communications Director of Salvation Army Grand Rapids. “The donations are of course used at Christmas but are also used to support programs and services throughout the year.”

The Salvation Army of Grand Rapids is looking for help unloading and organizing product for the food pantry, and volunteer bell ringers for over 50 locations throughout Kent County from Nov. 13 through Dec. 24. Bell ringing shifts are available 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

“There are a number of local colleges and universities that do a ‘community day of service’ where specific tasks are identified in advance for students to do. Not a lot of individual students, rather groups are more common,” Snider said. “Volunteers are always needed for a variety of assignments at The Salvation Army.”

Degage Ministries has many volunteering opportunities for those looking to get involved this holiday season. They need help in the kitchen with coffee and breakfast duties from 7-8:15 a.m. and 8:15-10:30 a.m. Substitute evening meal helpers are also needed. Evening meal volunteers will be placed on a list and called when assistance is needed. Anyone interested should fill out a volunteer form.

Toys for Tots boxes can be found at any Toys “R” Us outlet and many other department store chains in Grand Rapids as the holidays approach. There is also a donation tab on their website.

Fill a need at Mel Trotter by donating essentials. There’s a constant need for toiletries, clothing, and clinical goods for men, women and children. Mel Trotter is also accepting donations for boxed and canned nonperishable foods. For a complete list check out their donations website. Mel Trotter is also looking for volunteers. There are opportunities in administration, food service, programs, clinic, retail and ministry.

For more volunteer options, the Grand Rapids Community College department of Experiential Learning recommends visiting the Heart of West Michigan United Way’s website.