Every year, as soon as a chill hits the air, the Christmas decorations start popping up in stores and we start pulling out the winter gear, I get this feeling of nostalgia. You see, fall and winter is such a magical time for me. Little kids in their cutie Halloween costumes, the holidays, Thanksgiving with the family, cutting down our Christmas tree, toasty nights spent by the fire, sweaters, hot chocolate, snuggling up with the dogs watching The Grinch. I love all of it, everything about it, always have. There's just something about this time of year that's beautiful. I love the dreamy, sparkly jazz music that they start playing in all the stores, I love a good peppermint mocha to sooth the soul, I love the huge crinkly, red velvet bows and mistletoe that line the rows and the glowing white lights that twinkle 9 months out of the year, even after the holidays when people forget to take them down. I'm an equal opportunity holiday decoration enthusiast. I love the Jewish star, the Kwanza songs and the multi-cultural holidays we embrace as Americans.
But that being said, every year, without fail my heart breaks a little every time for those who aren't as lucky. For those who didn't grow up fostering the same magic in their hearts that my parents instilled in mine. For those who've lost someone who made the holidays what they were. For those who have no warm clothes, no fireplace to warm their feet, no place to call home. And there are so many out there.
So I do my best to be generous in any way I can. I give a little more when I see people on the streets who need it, Maryland winters can be so brutal, and I try (consciously try) to be kinder. To open my heart a little more, to be more accepting and less judgmental and to give without expecting anything in return. Because truly that's what the holidays are about right? That's what they are supposed to be about.
And so, I wanted to share that same mentality with you especially, in honor of September 11 and Hunger Action Month! Here are some ways that you can give back too!
1.) Beans and Bread - A soup kitchen in Southpoint Baltimore • 410-732-1892 Volunteer opportunities include: Meal prepping and service including casserole baking or bag lunch making, youth and family activities i.e. arts & crafts, movie night, monthly birthday bash, family fun nights and more, after school tutors, greeters and client engagement volunteers, office assistants, camp counselors, professional and adult education volunteers, translators, career help, head start teachers, interns, event volunteers and community outreach and fundraising.
2.) Elizabeth House - A soup kitchen operated by FISH of Laurel Inc. • 301-776-9296 Volunteer opportunities include helping to stock and organize the food pantry, donating fresh veggies, helping to bag lunches, meal preparation and student community service hours are also provided. A list of non-perishable food items you can donate include: dry pasta, tuna, jiffy cornbread mix, assorted crackers, peanut butter, jam or jelly, canned diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, canned fruit in real fruit juice, cereal, condensed soup and green peas.
3.) Franciscan Center - A soup kitchen in Baltimore • 410-467-5340 Volunteer opportunities include helping with the daily lunch program through meal preparation and assembly, greeting guests, assisting with clean up and sharing conversation with those in need, helping to stock the food pantry shelves, package emergency food bags and distribute them, donating and packaging clothing and toiletries, restocking clothing racks, assisting in the office, Tuesday night chopping up fresh produce and assisting with food distribution events.
4.) Manna House - A soup kitchen and drop-in center in Baltimore • 410-889-3001 Volunteer opportunities include helping to operate the food kitchen, filling orders in the clothing room or helping to clean, package hygiene products and toiletries, data entry and more.
5.) Shepherd's Table - A soup kitchen in Silver Spring • 301-585-6463 Volunteer opportunities include helping with meal prep, dining, greeting guests and clean up. For donated supplies drivers are always needed for food pick up, clothing sorting/distribution, and assistance in the resource center. The eye clinic always appreciates help with greeting clients, filing and completing paperwork and more. Otherwise other opportunities include administrative help, assisting on the board of directors and its committees or being a part of the standing committee.
6.) BARCS - Animal care and rescue facility in Baltimore, animals need your help too! • 410-396-4695 Volunteer opportunities fall under five different categories:
--> a.) Animal Care - socializing and playing with dogs and cats, transporting animals, helping to clean cages, training dogs, taking care of animals off-site at events, participate in play group or even foster an animal.
--> b.) Customer Service Volunteer - Greeting and informing customers, matchmaking, adoption counseling, office assisting, intake and pet locating.
--> c.) Community Programs Volunteer - Get involved in events, fundraising and outreach, help with the low-cost vaccination clinic and marketing.
--> d.) Other - Help with laundry, dishes, decorating, writing, graphic design and photography.
--> e.) Special Projects - Physical chores are needed as well such as landscaping, painting and general cleaning/organization.
1.) Capital Area Food Bank - A food bank and so much more! • 571-482-4770 Volunteer opportunities include hosting a digital food drive and helping to sort and pack thousands of pounds of food that will be distributed to the neighboring community.
2.) The Nature Conservancy - Make a difference out in nature, better the earth. • 703-841-5300Join volunteers of all ages for the annual cleanup of Lake Accotink in Fairfax County, VA, and at eight other Fairfax County parks in a kickoff to Earth Month. This event is.one of the Nature Conservancy's single biggest yearly volunteer opportunities for folks in Northern VA/DC, typically occurring in the spring.
3.) Feed More - A hunger-relief organization that distributes healthy meals to neighbors who face hunger across 34 cities and counties in Central Virginia. • 804-521-2500 Volunteer and donation opportunities include meal prepping, serving and distribution and donations.
4.) Arlington Food Assistance Center - Helping Arlington residents with food and groceries. • 703-845-8486 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org Volunteer opportunities include bagging, cooking, distributing and picking up or delivering food. You can also get involved in gardening, gleaning crops at various farms around the area, joining farmers market teams to connect with local families, participating in food drives and health education.
5.) Loudon Hunger Relief - A small food pantry in Loudoun County. In comparison to traditional food banks, food pantries are smaller, hyper-local organizations that directly serve the community with groceries. • 703-777-5911 Help Loudon Hunger Relief through monetary donations, food donations, hosting a food drive and volunteering your time.
6.) Animal Welfare League of Alexandria - Full service animal shelter and rescue. • 703-746-4774 Volunteer opportunities include help with everything from dog walking and cat socializing to wildlife transport and even gardening.
1.) Thrive DC - An organization that provides a safety net for people experiencing homelessness, unemployment, housing instability, and food insecurity. • 202-737-9311 Volunteer opportunities include serving breakfast and dinner to the homeless, providing groceries to hungry families, volunteering at the free farmers market, helping customers find employment and providing administrative support.
2.) DC Central Kitchen - A soup kitchen, volunteer organization and more. • email@example.com Volunteer opportunities include helping to chop, cut, peel and prep food in the kitchen and provide balanced meals for members of the community.
3.) Miriam's Kitchen - provides short-term assistance like healthy meals and social services to homeless individuals in D.C. This organization also links clients to permanent housing and advocates for a long-term solution to homelessness in the city. Volunteers can help prepare meals or serve clients on a monthly basis. They can also provide services like giving haircuts and manicures, and editing resumes.. • 202-452-8926
4.) Capital Area Food Bank - A food bank and so much more! • 202-644-9800 Volunteer opportunities include hosting a digital food drive and helping to sort and pack thousands of pounds of food that will be distributed to the neighboring community.
5.) So Others Might Eat - An interfaith community that helps to feed the homeless and poor, tutor children and serve vulnerable elderly. • 202-797-8806 Volunteer opportunities include helping in the dining room, volunteering to help youth in the community, help with family services, holiday opportunities and SOME Volunteer Corps, a year-long residential program for individuals looking to make a significant social justice impact in the lives of the less fortunate.
So go out there and do something you'll feel good about as we head into the fall and winter months!