Volunteer outside of the holidays

When we think of volunteering, we picture crowded food pantries and homeless shelters  filled with towering stacks of cans waiting to be distributed. People are packing boxes of food and scruffy men wait patiently with blankets draped around their shoulders. 

While this image might be accurate, it is not the case year round. The holiday season is a time of goodwill and kindness where people are more encouraged to help those in need. As great as it is to donate food or help in a shelter during this period, people need help all year, not just during the month of December.

Organizations see a flood of volunteers and donations during the holidays, but the numbers decrease as the months go by. The Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership reported a 200% increase of help during fall and winter months, compared to spring and summer in 2017. 

People deserve hot food and a warm place to stay all year, not just when it is most convenient for you to donate forgotten food in your pantry. If you really want to help people, help them when they need it instead of jumping on a peppermint-fueled bandwagon.

Food drives are an easy and useful fundraiser that can be done year round. There are a number of places that collect meals for people in need throughout the year. For example, all Seminole County Public Schools have food pantries that are always in need of donations. Some students rely on the food given to them at school because of instability at home, so schools send students home with food for their families. 

 Other organizations that do not have holiday affiliations need volunteers, too. After winter break animal shelters need help due to the influx of unwanted animals that were given as gifts. Summer camps, libraries and even petting zoos always need assistance with daily needs.

People often volunteer to fill a requirement for Bright Futures or honor societies, but it would be nice if people pitched in because they wanted to aid others that would truly show holiday spirit. We live life doing things for ourselves-it is refreshing when you get to do things for the community. 

Helping out can be fun and benefit the volunteer, too. Inviting friends can turn projects into a party, and packing chicken noodle soup to Michael Jackson is always a good time. Plus you get to meet a bunch of new people, who you know are good folks because they are spending their Saturday night folding paper napkins into rabbits for a charity event.