Give back to local families, people in need

While high-tech gadgets, new cars and trendy clothes top many holiday wish lists, often the best gift you can give is your time. Volunteering captures the true spirit of the season and helps local families and communities enjoy the holidays.

Visit stores

Shopping malls and seasonal stores are especially busy after Thanksgiving and throughout the month of December. Simply grab a group of friends and donate time to help raise funds for a local organization or church in need.

“During the holidays, North Grand Mall supports various community-focused organizations, including Toys for Tots Youth and Shelter Services and Kiwanis gift wrapping,” said Lori Bosley, general manager of North Grand Mall.

Care and support shelters

Many women and children’s programs need assistance during the cold months and holiday seasons. Donate your time by baby-sitting for busy mothers, playing with children after school or even transporting women to complete their shopping. Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support of Story County offers different volunteer opportunities on its website.

Food bank

The holidays also are a busy time for food banks and soup kitchens. Contribute a few hours to help inspect and sort donations, serve hot meals or educate families on nutrition and healthy meal options.

Mid-Iowa Community Action provides direct services such as dental service and meals to Story County families.

“From helping supply nonperishable items to answering phones, we’re always looking for volunteers. It’s nice to have people help out a couple days a month, or even half-days,” said Clarissa Thompson, of MICA.

Animal shelter

Don’t forget the furry, four-legged community members. Many animal shelters are looking for volunteers to walk and play with animals, help with fundraising events or teach workshops on pet ownership.

When you extend a helping hand, you also are rewarding yourself. Gain self-worth, discover new interests and have fun meeting new friends along the way. Whether it’s a “thank-you,” a smile or simply a wagging tail, the returns of volunteering are gratifying.

Contact these businesses or organizations for more information on ways to volunteer and give back.