How to Volunteer in Dallas This Holiday Season

Do your part.

As 2020 nears its conclusion, however slowly, giving back to the community has taken on a greater importance than any time in recent memory. This holiday season, so many lives can be impacted simply by giving a little of yourself. Sure, many traditional volunteering opportunities have been put on hold due to pandemic-related risks, but we’ve rounded up several organizations that desperately need your time and talents to help make a positive impact across Dallas-Fort Worth. Of course, monetary donations can always be put to great use and the folks over at North Texas Giving Day and Great Nonprofits have made it easy to search through thousands of local nonprofits to find a cause that’s near and dear to your heart. You may also discover volunteer opportunities not covered in the categories below, so think of it as a treasure hunt fueled by kindness.

Ways to help children

A happy holiday season for kids starts with making them feel safe and loved. Bryan’s House offers numerous ways people can get involved to brighten the lives of children. Current needs include everything from hosting a donation drive for wish list items and posting about the organization on social media to helping work events such as Cookies with Santa. The Family Place offers support to battered women and their children, with needs ranging from behind-the-scenes administrative work to helping clients directly through child development initiatives and volunteering at the shelter. The Warm Place works with children experiencing grief and needs help staffing curbside activity pickups and drive-thru family night events. And for anyone hoping to put a big smile on a kid’s face, the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree has gone virtual this year, making it easy and safe to make dreams come true for thousands across North Texas. And the 119-year-old ChildCareGroup, which now provides childcare and early education to families at or below the poverty line in online and socially distanced ways, needs elves to stuff stockings with essential supplies and toys, as well as help wrap gifts in Santa’s Workshop (also socially distanced).

Ways to help those facing homelessness & food insecurity

While most North Texans are fortunate enough to have roofs over their heads and food on the table, the pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in those seeking shelter, especially heading into the winter months and unpredictable Texas weather. Over at Austin Street Center, Dallas’ largest low-barrier shelter, volunteers are needed to work meal service, provide haircuts, and work at the welcome center, among other opportunities. The Samaritan Inn home for the homeless requires 44 volunteers per day to operate with help making sack lunches, assisting with donation intake, and many behind-the-scenes functions. Meanwhile, the Dallas Life Homeless Recovery Center seeks volunteers to assemble holiday food baskets for both homeless people and those who are food insecure. Aunt Bette's Community Pantry at St. Philip’s School and Community Center in south Dallas has modified their operations to offer a low-touch, socially distant system in place for unpacking boxes, assembling groceries, and distributing them to clients. Volunteers are needed to work both inside the food pantry as well as outside to load pre-packaged grocery boxes into clients’ cars. Meanwhile, the North Texas Food Bank is looking for volunteers in a number of capacities, including working food drives and the pandemic mobile pantry, washing vehicles, and writing greeting cards to spread cheer.

Dallas Animal Services

Ways to help animals

With most in-person volunteering being put on hold except for volunteers already in the system at local animal shelters and rescue groups, one of the biggest current needs is households to foster dogs, cats, and other pets. Dallas Animal Services, Dallas Pets Alive, DFW Rescue Me, EARS Texas, SPCA of Texas, and Take Me Home Pet Rescue all need fosters to take in pets at this time. Some of these groups also need help transporting pets to other cities and states, as well as staffing adoption events, so check with each organization to see what’s available as things continue to shift. 

Ways to help seniors

The elderly are particularly vulnerable during this time. Through nonprofit The Senior Source, you can become a virtual visitor to an older adult while in-person visitation is limited or temporarily paused. To do this, create video messages or send greeting cards, letters, and drawings to seniors. Donations of playing cards, board games, coloring books, and pre-packaged snacks are also in high demand during isolation. The Visiting Nurse Association needs people to provide friendly visits, help with errands, and put up and take down holiday decorations. Their Meals on Wheels program also needs volunteers to deliver food and a big smile to seniors.

Ways to help women

In-person concerts may be on hold, but you can support both the arts and women in Dallas through volunteer roles at The Women’s Chorus of Dallas. They are always seeking volunteers to help behind the scenes, as well as work events when it is safe again to do so. Over at New Friends New Life, an organization dedicated to empowering former trafficked girls and sexually exploited women and children, they need volunteers to assist members with Thanksgiving meals, holiday wish list fulfilment and other needs as they arise. Genesis Women’s Shelter has specific holiday initiatives, including a gift card drive and the option for businesses and groups to host an angel tree to help get children gifts this season.

Ways to help the LGBTQIA+ community

PFLAG-Fort Worth needs help preparing and serving meals to approximately 50 residents at Samaritan House, a facility that helps people overcome addiction, homelessness, and HIV infection. Prism Health North Texas seeks volunteers to put together ready-to-eat meals for homeless patients, organize the community closet, and assemble snack and hygiene kits. They’re also hosting a food, toy, and warmth drive (blankets, sock, coats) for families affected by HIV/AIDS. Resource Center has opportunities within the Hot Meals program Monday through Thursday mornings, assisting in the kitchen to prep meals then pack them up to-go for client pickup. Help Center for LGBT Wellness needs help assembling condom packets, as well as volunteer greeters for people coming into the clinic for testing.

Ways to make communities better

In South Dallas, Bonton Farms is an urban farm and market with a mission to restore lives, jobs, and hope to a once-neglected neighborhood. Volunteer opportunities include true hands-on experiences, from milking goats and plant harvesting to cleaning out chicken coops and feeding animals. Friends of Oak Cliff Parks hosts groups of no more than 10 people at a time to help maintain gardens and facilities at four different parks in the Oak Cliff neighborhood. Groundwork Dallas works for a safer, cleaner, and healthier environment, especially in the urban forest, and regularly needs cleanup volunteers on Saturdays for both individuals, businesses, and groups. Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve needs help with its Conservation in Action Work Days, held the third Saturday of each month.

No matter your interests, you can help make a positive impact on Dallas in so many ways. Whether you choose an opportunity from the organizations on this list or find a completely different way to help out your fellow human (or four-legged friend), you’ll soon experience the incomparable joy of doing good.

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Steven Lindsey is a Thrillist contributor.