19 Ways to Give Back in Philadelphia This Holiday Season

Deliver hot meals, help puppies find homes, and make Philly a better place.

It’s the season for giving and Philadelphians know there’s no better way to show your love than to lend a hand. If you’re in a philanthropic mood, there are innumerable organizations and causes to rally behind in order to help make the city a better place. Whether you want to help with furry friends or aid in the fight against hunger, here are a few places where you can lend a hand in Philadelphia this holiday season.


Join the fight to end hunger

Philabundance feeds more than 135,000 people each week—and they need volunteers to help fulfill their mission of combating hunger in the city. Individuals and groups can sign up to pack and sort donated food at their Hunger Relief Center in South Philly, prepare meals, and distribute packages to those experiencing food insecurity.

Ensuring delicious and nutritious food for all, the Food Trust is also in search of volunteers to help out with farmers markets, community events, and in-office tasks.

Promote health and safety in communities affected by drug use and poverty

Since its founding in 1991, Prevention Point Philadelphia has worked to ensure the safe exchange of syringes, and provides case management, medical care, overdose prevention education, medication assisted treatment, and naloxone distribution. Volunteers can lend a hand with syringe services, wound care, overdose prevention, community cleanup, and more.

Fairmount Park Conservancy
Love Your Park | Fairmount Park Conservancy

Keep Philly’s parks clean and safe

Philly is home to dozens of parks and green spaces in need of your green thumb. Twice a year, Love Your Park hosts mass service events where volunteers clean, weed, and beautify local parks. Every second Saturday throughout the year, the organization hosts cleanup events at a different park each month for you to spread the good vibes.

Mentor underprivileged youth in a “big” way

Volunteering as a “big” with Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence means getting to bond with a kid who needs inspiration and guidance—and making a huge difference in shaping his/her future. You’ll be matched with a “little” to spend one-on-one quality time with on a regular basis, with opportunities to join group activities and explore the community together.

PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society)
PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society)

Save homeless animals

Join the Philly Paws animal-loving community, which helps to save the lives of the city’s animals in need. All four locations need volunteers to walk dogs, cuddle with kitties, clean cages, and work off-site adoption events—whether you have time to give a few days a week or just once a month.

The shelter ACCT Philly is in need of volunteers to spend time with animals (dogs, cats, and exotic pets, too!), transport animals leaving the shelter, and assist with clerical tasks.

The nonprofit organization Saved Me works to improve the lives of thousands of Philly’s homeless pets—and they need your help. Volunteers can assist with grooming, taking and posting pictures to adoption sites, and meeting with potential adopters. Think of all those happy wags and purrs of appreciation!

Be a reading coach for the city’s K-3 youth

Calling all bookworms! Share your love of the written word with Philadelphia’s youth by joining Philly Reading Coaches. The initiative pairs trained volunteers with young students, offering them early reading support and access to books. Even just an hour a week of one-on-one reading time can help kids’ reading comprehension, paving the way to becoming more confident and motivated readers.

MANNA (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance)
MANNA (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance)

Deliver meals to those battling illness

Sometimes healthy food is the best medicine. MANNA is a service that provides fresh, medically tailored meals and nutrition education to those living with life-threatening illnesses (at no cost to the recipients). The organization relies on volunteers to prepare, cook, package, and deliver the meals—and you’ll feel nourished as well, knowing you’re improving the health of your neighbors in need.

Teach and help further adult education

The Center For Literacy offers a wide variety of literacy services for a diverse group of adults, including programs that focus on reading, writing, math, technology, and ESL. Volunteer CFL tutors are trained (in two orientation sessions) to teach students English, basic tech needs, college application process, job search skills, and more, changing their lives and preparing them for the workforce, college, and life in general.

Black Lives Matter Philly
Black Lives Matter Philly

Fight for racial and social justice

The city is home to a robust network of mutual aid and racial justice organizations worthy of your manpower. Black Lives Matter Philly is working to build local Black power and to dismantle racist policies through grassroots organizing, political education, youth development, and coalition building. Sign up to become a member and attend virtual meetings to learn about upcoming community engagements. Meetings are for Black-identifying folks only; non-Black allies can get involved through BLM Philly Mobilizing Force.

Volunteering at Uhuru Furniture Philly helps support the local Black community through community outreach, social media, marketing, and more.

West Philly-based Bunny Hop provides free food to neighbors at various events throughout the month and at community fridges citywide. The group always needs extra hands stocking and organizing fridges and setting up, breaking down, and distributing food at events.

Support sexual violence survivors in crisis

WOAR relies on committed and compassionate people to provide crucial support to survivors of sexual assault and abuse. WOAR’s direct service volunteer team runs the organization’s 24-hour crisis hotline and meets with survivors at the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center (PSARC). Note, though, that volunteers must complete 40 hours of in-depth training and agree to a one-year commitment.

Help the refugee and immigrant community

HIAS Pennsylvania offers support and services to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from all over who are in the process of integrating into American society. As a volunteer, you can lend a helping hand by picking up newly arrived refugees at the airport, partnering with a family to help them practice English, working with kids on homework, working as a pro bono attorney on asylum cases, and more.

Mighty Writers
Mighty Writers

Mentor a local student in writing

Mighty Writers pairs volunteers with area students to help foster their creative writing muscles—helping young scribes generate ideas, organize their thoughts, and offering constructive criticism.

Help inform the community about sexual health

Founded in 1985 to address the HIV/AIDS crisis among communities of color, Bebashi now provides HIV/AIDS education services, health education, and social services. The nonprofit is often in need of volunteers to help with community outreach, events, food pantry support, and more.

Build girls’ confidence through physical activity

If you’ve ever felt the coaching spirit, volunteer at Girls On The Run, a physical-activity based youth program, aimed at helping girls build confidence, learn team-building skills, and help nurture a love for movement. When you sign up to be a coach, you lead local girls through an eight-week program comprising two practices a week, leading up to a 5K run at the end of the program.

Project HOME
Project HOME

Work to end poverty and homelessness in Philadelphia

Since 1989, Project HOME has provided services to those experiencing homelessness and working to alleviate the causes of poverty through housing programs, workforce development, and kids programs. Volunteers can take part in community-wide service projects, like sorting donations, serving coffee to residents at safe havens, and helping with laundry.

Operating under the mantra “radical hospitality,” alternative worship community Broad Street Ministry offers Philadelphians living in poverty meals and social services. Volunteer opportunities include mail sorting, helping guests select items from the clothing closet, and serving lunch. You can sign up for a slot online.

Using fitness and community as a way to combat homelessness, Back On My Feet volunteers lead morning walks and jogs with unhoused or persons with addiction, mentor those members, lead professional development workshops, and more.

Deliver food to those in need

Food Connect accepts surplus food donations from restaurants to donate to local meal sites, food pantries, food banks, or community shelters. As a volunteer, you can choose to be a driver and distribute food to food shelters or share your skills and help out in other ways.

Lead hikes and care for animals

Get outdoors and get involved with the nonprofit Briar Bush Nature Center, located directly on the northern fringe of Philly. As a volunteer, you’ll get the chance to lead hikes for school groups, care for the animals, lead information tables at community events, and do other excellent outdoor stuff that benefits the center.

Volunteering Untapped PHL
Volunteering Untapped PHL

Spread the love to a different organization every month

Every month, Volunteering Untapped PHL hosts a different service project supporting a local organization. Projects have included packaging meals with MANNA and sorting through fabric swatches to be saved from landfills. Afterward, rub shoulders with other volunteers over drinks and bites at a nearby bar.

Lift up those with chronic illness

Action Wellness provides assistance and healthcare support to Philadelphians living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic conditions. Volunteers can partner with a person with a chronic illness to provide emotional support and companionship through Action Wellness’ buddy program, or you can dedicate your time to office support or working events.

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Allie Volpe is a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn't slept in days. Follow her on Twitter: @allieevolpe.