Holidays are a valued time for friends and families, as we all come together to form or reinforce relationships through sharing time and new experiences. The holidays also serve a special purpose in celebrating traditions, those we’ve grown up with and those we’ve created with our own families, adapting along the way with new arrivals and ever-changing circumstances.
“In seeking happiness for others, you find it for yourself.”
As I began my holiday shopping after Thanksgiving, I gave a lot of thought to these traditions, asking myself when they were established and why we have them every year. I also thought of the traditions I loved as a kid, but somewhere down the road we stopped doing them. One of my favorite holiday traditions was when we’d pile in my grandparent’s van and drive for what seemed like hours, looking at all the incredible holiday decorations put on display. It may seem small and unimportant to some, but this was one of the holiday activities I looked forward to most as a kid. Now that my family has grown and we all enter the holidays with our own schedules and requirements, a lot of those prior traditions have been eliminated or replaced.
It’s not that my holiday traditions are less important now as an adult, but for some reason they don’t seem as exciting, as innocent, even as genuine. As I was spending way too much money on people that really have all they need, it became clear that my focus on the holidays became too much about buying the perfect, most sought after gift for someone, instead of giving to the people that really are in need.
Thankfully, a lot of my family members agreed that the importance of giving during the holiday season became overshadowed with the growing demand of the iPad 2 or the
never-been-better Easy Bake Oven. So, this year, we decided to adopt a family for the holidays, and spend our time and our money giving to those who truly are in need. We went through St. Vincent de Paul and adopted a family of three, a single mother and two boys, and have together purchased items for the family they both want and need. It was a great feeling to get my family together and do something positive for someone else over the holidays, and I regret that we haven’t established this tradition earlier.
There are many ways to celebrate the real meaning of “the season of giving”, and it doesn’t have to end with the family and it definitely doesn’t have to cost money. I wanted to share this story with you to hopefully inspire a little twist in your holiday traditions so we can spread the joy of the season even farther than before.
Listed below are some holiday volunteering opportunities in the area. Please comment below and share your family’s holiday traditions. Also, please comment and add to the list of volunteer opportunities with anything I’ve missed.
We look forward to hearing your stories.
- Pendulum Dates: October – December (513) 894-4222 Contact Name: Karen Dishon Location: Hamilton Decorating project. Help older adults get in the holiday spirit by decorating the facility. Be a companion. Socialize with clients, do craft projects or go for a walk with clients. Minimum age – N/A
- Beech Acres Dates: November – December (513) 231-6630 or [email protected] Contact Name: Diane Kleinfelter Location: Greater Cincinnati Wish Tree Elves. Help with holiday “Wish Tree” activities such as gift tag preparation, pick-up, drop-off or sorting and distribution of donations. You set the volunteer hours. Minimum age – N/A
- HCR Manor Care Dates: November – December (513) 561-4111 Contact Name: Michelle Barnes Location: Madeira Gift-wrapping. Help wrap and/or pass out gifts. Dates to be announced. Be a companion. Visit clients during the holidays. Visits can be scheduled individually. Christmas carols. Bring the holiday spirit to residents by singing Christmas carols. Minimum age – 13
- Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Greater Cincinnati, Inc. Dates: November – December (513) 281-4450 Contact Name: Belinda King Location: call for location Decorating project. Decorate the facility for the holidays. Minimum age – 16
- St. John (Mercy Franciscan at St. John) Dates: November – December (513) 241-2186 or [email protected] Contact Name: Stephanie Brown Location: Kenwood Towne Center, Greater Cincinnati area St. John Christmas Program. Help clients with registration for the program in November and early December and assist with distributing gifts in December. Minimum age – 13 (unless accompanied by an adult)
- Miracle Center. Staff the donation drop-off site and the gift-wrap booth at Kenwood Towne Center. Minimum age – 18
- The Salvation Army of Greater Cincinnati Dates: November 11 – December 24 (513) 762-8618 or [email protected] Contact Name: Denise Dalton Location: Throughout Greater Cincinnati 2002 Christmas Red Kettle Campaign. Stand at the kettles at various Kroger, Biggs, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, K-Mart, Target, and Johnny’s Toys stores. Several two-hour shifts are available, Monday – Sunday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Minimum age – N/A
- Boys Hope Girls Hope Dates: December (513) 721-3380 Contact Name: Susan Schiller Location: Finneytown and East Walnut Hills Santa event. Be a Secret Santa for children 9 to 18 years of age. Call for details. Minimum age – N/A
- Families FORWARD Date: December (513) 721-7044 Contact Name: Julie Theodore Location: Parham School, Bond Hill Academy, Withrow University High School Adopt-a-family. Sponsor a family or child for Christmas. Minimum age – 16
- Harrison House Dates: December (date to be confirmed) (513) 389-4527 Contact Name: Jeri Montag Location: Westside Holiday lunch. Help serve the meal and eat lunch with the residents. Minimum age – 12
- St. Margaret Hall Dates: December (513) 751-5880 Contact Name: Jaqueline Parrott Location: O’Bryonville Cookie assistant. Have fun while baking cookies and preparing other holiday items with the residents. Minimum age – N/A
- Memorial Community Center, Inc. Dates: December (date to be confirmed) (513) 621-3032, ext. 22117 or [email protected] Contact Name: Etta Massingill Location: Over-The-Rhine Breakfast and Santa Event. Participate in the event by serving breakfast, busing tables, providing entertainment, helping distribute gifts or cleaning-up. Minimum age – N/A
- North Fairmount Community Center Date: December (date to be confirmed) (513) 921-5842 Contact Name: Lois Boerman Location: North Fairmount Adopt-A-Family. Wrap donated items for the holiday season. Call for location and times. Minimum age – N/A
- Wesley Education Center for Children and Families Date: December (date to be confirmed) (513) 861-9865 or [email protected] Contact Name: Monica Faison Location: Avondale Christmas party. Help is needed with setting-up this event. You can also assist with activity tables. Minimum age – 16
- Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses East End Date: December 1 – 20 (513) 321-7520 Contact Name: Evelyn Thompson Location: East End Christmas Store. Help collect socks, gloves and personal hygiene items for the agency’s Christmas Store Giveaway Program. Help is also needed with setting-up the store December 2 – 19 and with the store on December 20, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. (two shifts are available, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 1 – 4 p.m.). Lunch is provided. Minimum age – N/A
- The Salvation Army of Greater Cincinnati Dates: December 18 – 20 (513) 762-8613 or [email protected] Contact Name: Ginny Tripp Location: Downtown Adopt-A-Family. Adopt a family for Christmas with your employer, club or group. Help make it an unforgettable holiday by collecting or donating toys, food, necessities, household items or decorations for a family. The Salvation Army will provide donors with the number of people in the family, their ages, sizes and requested items. Help is also needed with sponsor drop-off, Wednesday, December 18. On Thursday, December 19 you can assist with the distribution of donated items to families and on Friday, December 20 help with clean-up. Minimum age – N/A
- People Working Cooperatively Date: December 21 (513) 351-7921 Contact Name: Kathy Campbell Location: Greater Cincinnati area Home Improvement Saturday. Provide simple home maintenance for very low-income homeowners in Greater Cincinnati. Volunteers meet at 8:30 a.m. at the People Working Cooperatively location on Paddock Road to get their assignments. Minimum age – 18 (unless accompanied by an adult)
- Little Brothers, Friends Of The Elderly Date: December 24 (513) 542-7555 or [email protected] Contact Name: Yogi Weiss Location: Mt. Airy Christmas Eve Luncheon. Socialize and have lunch with older adults. Donations for the luncheon and drivers are needed as well. Minimum age – 16 (unless accompanied by an adult)
- Little Brothers, Friends Of The Elderly Date: December 25 (513) 542-7555 or [email protected] Contact Name: Yogi Weiss Location: Mt. Airy Christmas Day Celebration. Make visits to older adults. Minimum age – 16 (unless accompanied by an adult)
- OUR DAILY BREAD 1730 Race Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202 Phone: (513) 621-6364 www.ourdailybread.us Contact: Kathy Ray or Joan Thompson, Volunteer Coordinators at (513) 621-6364
- OVER-THE-RHINE SOUP KITCHEN 1620 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202 Phone (513) 961-1983 ext. #2, 513.241.5121 Manager – David Angevine www.overtherhinekitchen.org
- WALNUT HILLS SOUP KITCHEN 2631 Gilbert Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45202 Phone: (513) 961-1983 ext. #2 Manager – Melody Byrom www.walnuthillskitchen.org
- WALNUT HILLS PANTRY 2631 Gilbert Avenue Phone: (513) 961-1983 ext.
- #2, or (513) 221-8555 Manager – Melody Byrom www.walnuthillspantry.org
- INTERFAITH HOSPALITY NETWORK (IHN) Contact: Betsy Wones, Volunteer Coordinator, at (513) 471-1100 or email [email protected]
- PROJECT CONNECT AND FACES WITHOUT PLACES Contact: Trish Fries: (513) 363-3303 or [email protected]
- LIGHTHOUSE YOUTH SERVICES www.lys.org
- PEASLEE NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER Contact: [email protected] or (513) 621-5514
- CHURCHES ACTIVE IN NORTHSIDE (CAIN) Contact: (513) 591-2246 www.cainministry.org