The ethos of the holidays can take a disheartening turn this time of year, as deal-seeking shoppers seem to overwhelm do-gooders. The Philly Post’s Christine Speer explored such a phenomenon in a recent article in the aftermath of this year’s Black Friday. She wrote, “Sometime between the moment that the video of that woman pepper-spraying a whole bunch of people at Walmart went viral and the moment that CNN covered an all-out riot over a pile of inexpensive waffle irons, I felt a sort of sea change.”
Indeed, when consumerism begins to supersede the meaning of the holidays, we all tend to acknowledge the need to correct course. The Philly Post story takes a stab at reframing the holidays by offering a list of charities in Philadelphia that could use some volunteer help this season.
If you live outside of Philadelphia but see the value of a volunteerism as an antidote to the materialism that can dominate the holiday season, you may want to check out a few tools available online. In recent years, several nonprofit websites have launched with the intention of matching volunteers and causes all over the country.
Volunteer Match, for example, lists nearly 70,000 opportunities on its website and allows users to search by zip code, specific organization or general interest, including education, homelessness and hunger. Search is also available by age range, and you can find more than 1,300 volunteer opportunities tagged as teen-friendly. Activities range from mentoring teens in Atlanta to promoting community garden charities in Seattle to recording the oral histories of seniors in San Francisco.
If you’re exclusively interested in kid-friendly options, you may want to check out Generation On, the youth division of the Points of Light Institute. The organization acknowledges that young children might not understand serious issues like homelessness or hunger (or be allowed into shelters to volunteer), so they offer families ideas for more independent projects. A “Pick Your Project” section lets families search by area of interest, such as animals, environment, seniors and healing, and it delivers creative ideas for kids to get involved in their communities.
If you’re someone who likes to give donations in addition to your time during the holidays, Network for Good allows you to search for both giving and volunteer opportunities by zip code, age of volunteer and interest or charity name. The network has distributed $575 million in donations to date through services like the “Good Card,” a holiday charity gift card that is sent to your cause or organization of choice.
What’s your take on charitable giving during the holidays – via donations or volunteer hours? What will you do this season to tip the scales toward do-gooders?