Once schools release students for winter break, everyone’s schedules tend to have a lot more free time. Your plans might include working a few shifts back at home for extra money or getting ahead on your spring semester by reading upcoming assignments. In addition to these plans, winter break is a good time to give back to your community. It's often hard to find time to volunteer between classes and jobs during the semester, but while you're out of school, how can you give your time and energy to brighten others’ lives around the holidays?
Consider your options
Research the volunteer options in your hometown to see what you have to choose from, and tailor your choices to your personality so you can throw your heart into the work. With a little extra thought, you'll find a great way to give back before the spring semester begins. Here are seven volunteer opportunities to consider:
1. Participate in food drives
Most grocery stores, churches, and community centers hold food drives through the month of December to provide food for people in need. This is an easy way to give back, since you can buy canned goods and non-perishable items without spending a ton of money. You can even start giving back before you leave for home. Encourage your dorm hall or roommates to get some food and put it in a shared box to take to a food drive on your way home for break. You'll all make a difference in a way that doesn't break the bank.
Related: An Easy How-to Guide to Start Volunteering as a Student
2. Give back at soup kitchens
Volunteering at a soup kitchen is a classic way to give back to those in need. There are many jobs to fill, like prepping food, setting up tables, serving food when people show up, or cleaning up after everyone leaves. Soup kitchens may also have extra programs going on, like giving out gifts after they serve meals. Soup kitchens always want helping hands, especially around the holidays, so find a few in your hometown and schedule a couple of shifts. You'll love the sense of community and pride that comes from helping others.
3. Volunteer at your local animal shelter
People often think donating to a gift drive or volunteering at soup kitchens are the best ways to give back, but animal shelters need help too. They can be forgotten during the holidays, when people turn their attention to giving gifts and traveling. Volunteer to help feed animals or walk dogs in your free time. You can also donate various pet supplies like dry food or toys.
Related: 5 Ways to Give Back During Spring Break
4. Help out at a professional conference
Setting yourself up for professional success is a top priority for college students. Volunteering builds your résumé without requiring as much time as a part-time job, which is why so many students do it. Tailor your volunteering to your future career by helping at a professional conference related to your projected work field. Conferences need volunteers for setting up, parking assistance, and greeting guests. Engaging with your community and career professionals provides many volunteering benefits, like interacting with team members and getting production experience. Volunteering should primarily be about helping others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from it too.
5. Try virtual volunteering
Some students may head home to small, rural towns where there are minimal volunteering opportunities. If that's your situation, try virtual volunteer opportunities like editing proposals or translating documents. Virtually volunteering provides you more opportunities that may not be available at places like food drives and animal shelters. For instance, you can use your academic talents in a certain subject by becoming an online tutor.
Related: 7 Great Opportunities for Students to Volunteer Online
6. Host a gift-wrap drive
You might wish you had more money to simply donate to your favorite charity, so why not use your winter break to make that happen? Plan a gift-wrap drive and let your friends, neighbors, and community know when it’s happening. They can bring their gifts to you and pay a small fee for you to wrap them. It saves them time, and when your drive finishes, you can donate the proceeds to a charity you’re passionate about.
7. Visit a nursing home
Members of your local nursing home might not get to see their family during the holidays, and most likely they miss the ones who aren't around anymore. Stop by a nursing home to volunteer. You can play games with the residents, hang holiday decorations, help pass out meals, or listen to stories they have of holidays past. It's always uplifting to be there for those who might be lonely during the holidays.
Did you know volunteering can help you win scholarships? Use our Scholarship Search tool to find them!