Give the gift of time and service this season


photo courtesy of Dhamaraj Raghavan

The holidays aren’t all about new sweaters and toys. They are about charity, too.

By Emiliana Cardinale and Eugenia Cardinale

As the weather becomes chillier and everyone is filled with holiday cheer, let’s not forget that this is the best time of year to give back and volunteer.

“The spirit of the season is to do things for other people,” SSL coordinator Wendy Tilles said. “Giving back is a great way to bring the holiday spirit into your own personal life.”

1. Gift wrapping at Barnes and Noble and Barston’s Child’s Play
Enjoy wrapping gifts? Love books? Put that passion to good use! Volunteers are needed to wrap gifts at Barnes & Noble and at Barston’s Child’s Play, both in Rockville. Donations will go to the Literary Council of Montgomery County (LCMC) which is running the event. Sixteen volunteers are needed on Dec. 19 and Dec. 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The age requirement for this event is 15 years old. However, this opportunity is not SSL pre-approved. For more information students can contact LCMC Communications Director Shelley Block at [email protected].

“The Literacy Council is a nonprofit organization that relies on donations to support our services,” Block said. “With a small staff and limited budget, volunteers are essential to our operation. Students who volunteer to wrap packages during the holiday season are filling a critical need.”

2. Holiday gift wrapping at Montgomery Mall
Here’s another opportunity for students with gift-wrapping skills. Volunteers are needed to wrap gifts for donations at Montgomery Mall near Santa’s Workshop Dec. 19 through 24, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The funds raised will be donated to Friends of Patients at the NIH and Special Love/Camp Fantastic. These organizations help patients through financial emergencies and help kids with cancer through camps and weekend retreats. Six volunteers are needed for each day. Volunteers must be 16 years or older. This opportunity is SSL pre-approved. For more information students can contact Friends of Patients at the NIH representative Therese Draddy at [email protected].

“Any student who knows how to wrap gifts or organize packages is encouraged to volunteer,” Draddy said. “I believe people focus on giving back during the holiday season because it’s a time of giving gifts to family and friends.”

3. Holiday Season Sandwich and Toy drive
The D.C. Metro Sai Samsthan, a non-profit organization that has organized several food and clothes drives in the past, is holding a holiday sandwich and toy drive at Fox Chapel Elementary School. Sandwiches from the drive will be going to Sheppard’s Food Table, and toys will be going to D.C. Children’s hospital. Volunteers can come and help run the drive Dec 20. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you cannot stay and volunteer, you can donate clothes or food to the drive instead. Sixty volunteers are needed. Volunteers must be 12 years or older. This opportunity is SSL pre-approved. For more information students can contact Samsthan Board Director Dharmaraj Raghavan at [email protected].

“Many of us have a good time during the holiday season, and we feel that we should give a similar experience to other people as well,” Raghavan said. “We feel that giving toys to the child is the least we can do to put a smile on their face.”

4. Winter Solstice Celebration, Brookside Nature Center
Students who are interested in nature can volunteer at the Brookside Nature Center’s winter solstice celebration. On Dec. 21, from noon to 5:30 p.m., 35 volunteers are needed to help greet and check guests in, tend to the campfires, work on crafts, make lanterns and more. Students must be 14 years or older to participate if not accompanied by an adult. This opportunity is SSL pre-approved. For more information students can contact Montgomery parks volunteer services and partnerships coordinator Lynn Vismara at [email protected].

“We encourage students to volunteer at this type of event as we love the energy that students bring to our nature center festivals,” Vismara said. “The changing of the seasons is very important to the natural world, and we want to share our excitement and joy about it with others.”

5. Distributing Christmas Gifts
Always dreamed of being Santa’s little helper? This could be the perfect opportunity. Catholic Charities is holding a gift distributing event in Silver Spring, and volunteers are needed to help distribute gifts for children of up to 400 households. Up to 10 volunteers at a time are needed to check IDs to ensure the person is on the sign up list and assist residents in “shopping” for Christmas gifts Dec. 22 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Two volunteers are needed to distribute gifts to 100 households Dec. 23 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

6. CKA/Wolverine Holiday Classic
Students who are passionate about helping local sports teams can volunteer to work at the CKA SAVE Project Holiday Basketball Tournament at Watkins Mill High School December 26 and 27. Volunteers will need to work the concession stand as well as hosting the teams. CKA SAVE Project, a non-profit organization aimed at helping students and those who work with them through educational and professional development, is also looking for students and adults who have experience working the game clock and announcing. Five to 10 volunteers are needed for both days from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Volunteers must be 16 years or older. This opportunity is SSL pre-approved. For more information students can contact CKA SAVE Project President Keith Adams at [email protected].

“We try to provide students an opportunity to work in the world of athletics and business so they can get a taste of experiential learning, which we believe, can assist them in the future,” Adams said.