How to Volunteer in Boston This Holiday Season

This holiday season, you might find yourself adding onto a seasonal bucket list filled with ice skating, perusing the city with hot chocolate in hand, or enjoying quality time sitting a safe distance away from your fireplace. What’s important, however, is finding moments and ways to show your appreciation for Boston and the individuals you happen to pass on a daily basis. The community has plenty of outlets for volunteering and charities that deserve some love so we’ve rounded up a variety of opportunities to consider this season -- and all year round.

Help feed neighbors in your community 

According to the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), one in 11 Massachusetts residents struggles with hunger. If that fact hits home, you can make a difference by signing up to volunteer at several local organizations including the aforementioned GBFB and Rosie’s Place both located in the South End, New England Center and Home For Veterans located downtown, Women’s Lunch Place on Newbury Street, Community Servings in Jamaica Plain and Haley House in Roxbury. 

Or visit these local shelters that also need your assistance 

During the holiday season, you might want to take a moment and dedicate time out of your week to visit one of the many shelters around Boston. Whether you’d like to volunteer as an individual or assemble a group, organizations like Pine Street Inn in the South End, downtown’s Boston Rescue Mission, St. Francis House in Chinatown, and Friends of Boston’s Homeless in Jamaica Plain are worth finding time for on your calendar. Tasks range from serving meals to delivering food to helping clean the centers. At Friends of Boston’s Homeless, you can use your skills to help individuals with their resume and interview preparation. The organization also has opportunities to assist with tutoring, life skills workshops, and fitness classes.

Make time for your furry friends in need

It’s often said that we don’t deserve animals -- which, really, we don’t. To show some appreciation, consider volunteering at Jamaica Plain’s MSPCA-Angell or Back Bay’s Animal Rescue League of Boston. You can support the animals through walks, play time, cleaning up the facilities, and helping find forever homes for those looking for a loving family. 

Don’t forget about your friends that prefer water over land 

If you enjoy spending time at the New England Aquarium, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can actually get behind the glass and gain some hands-on experience. Get up close and personal with the sea creatures, with the chance to feed the animals, conduct research, and capture photos at special events.

Give back to Boston’s youth

If you’re looking for mentoring opportunities, look no further. The Boys & Girls Club of Boston downtown helps children reach their full potential with openings for dedicated role models. Between helping with homework and assisting on educational programs, you’ll probably learn a thing or two yourself, and set a good example along the way.

Help those children less fortunate

Boston has organizations specifically focused on homelessness and poverty experienced by children. You can visit Cradles to Crayons’ The Giving Factory in Brighton and help process and sort through donated items or volunteer as a Playspace Activity Leader through Horizons for Homeless Children in Roxbury. Christmas in the City Boston is another great organization, with an annual party on Sunday, December 22 that benefits over 6,000 kids and their families. Although spots fill up fast, you can sign up to be on their waiting list to distribute toys, set up, and help with check-in the day of the bash.

Show your support in one of the most important fights 

The American Cancer Society in Massachusetts is driven by the strength of patients and the support of volunteers. To continue to put up a fight, you can volunteer at local Relay for Life events, transport patients and help enact laws and policies through advocacy efforts. 

Volunteer at one of the many hospitals 

If you have an interest in the medical field, share a personal connection, or would just like to make a patient’s day, several top-notch hospitals welcome volunteers to apply to on-site programs, fundraisers, and events. Boston Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital volunteers can spend quality time with patients, finding ways to engage in their day-to-day activities through reading, playing games, and more.

Make time for your elders

Helping reduce social isolation within the elder community, FriendshipWorks has a variety of programs to accompany elders, helping them gain a friend through their PetPals, Walking Buddies, MusicWorks, and Friendly Visitors programs. With the same goals in mind, Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly - Boston encourages and coordinates individuals to deliver flowers to older adults. What better gift can you give this season? 

Support refugees in your area

The Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center near Roxbury Crossing offers volunteering on an as-needed basis, with opportunities arising for translation assistance, accompanying groups on family fun activities, and transportation services this holiday season. 

Test out your tour guide skills

Do you have a passion for public speaking? Why not turn that passion into a way of giving back to the community? The Boston Public Library and WGBH both offer tour guide opportunities for those that have an interest in the arts and media, respectively

Sign up for Operation Santa

Boston is one of 15 participating cities in the United States Post Office’s Operation Santa, where you can adopt a letter online, respond, and send a special gift back to a child near you. The program, which began in 1912, has expanded digitally, with the goal of spreading as much cheer as possible. 

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Jillian Hammell is a contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.