During the holiday season, maybe you enjoy a meal with close friends, attend a service at a place of worship, go shopping on Black Friday, take a drive to see lights, or open gifts with grandparents. For many families, this time of year is also about lifting up the spirit of giving back through volunteering. 

That's why United Way of Central Iowa developed Holiday Helping Hand. This guide offers more than 130 volunteer and giving opportunities with central Iowa nonprofits serving those in need in central Iowa. 

Explore the Guide

Making volunteering a part of your holiday traditions nowand year-roundcan have a lasting impact. Research shows that youth are not only more likely to volunteer if their entire family is involved in the effort, but the shared experience can result in strengthened familial bonds (Corporation for National and Community Service, 2010). 

Among those who volunteer as adults, two-thirds began volunteering when they were young. (Troppe and Michel, 2002).

Here are five ideas to volunteer as a family over the next month. 

1. Make a meal and serve to families in need.

Connect with one of the nonprofits seeking volunteers to prepare and serve a feast during the holidays and ask them what their needs are. Then, spend an afternoon cooking as a family before delivering and helping serve your meal. 

2. Collect books and toys to donate.

Help your child identify gently used toys and books they are willing to donate, or as you complete your holiday shopping, pick out a few gifts that you will give. Spend time talking about the importance of giving to others while writing and decorating notes of encouragement to the children who will receive your gifts. Then deliver to one of several nonprofits collecting these items throughout the holiday season. Click here to participate in United Way's book drive. 

3. Make tie blankets

Many organizations need blankets to give to those they serve, especially during the cold winter months. Purchase two pieces of fleece per blanket and then follow the nonprofit's instructions on putting the blankets together at home. Then deliver your gifts as a family to the organization. 

4. Host a food or clothing drive.

Identify items a nonprofit is collecting during the holidays and ask your friends and family to donate those items to your drive. Brainstorm creative ways to get others involved in donating to your drive. Offer to pick up items and spend time as a family organizing the items before dropping them off at the nonprofit. Join United Way's food drive.

5. Don't forget about family and friends.

An elderly relative, a lonely neighbor, or a struggling parent could benefit from your generosity. Make and deliver a fresh meal or spend an afternoon catching up. These small acts of kindness for those you know makes a huge difference to their health and well-being—and yours!

Make volunteering a year-round activity

These are just a handful of ideas to get your family started. If your calendar is already filled to the max, consider how you can make volunteering a part of how your family spends time together year-round. Browse opportunities under the "family friendly" filter on our Get Connected site: 

Browse Opportunities

 For questions about any of these ideas, please contact Ramona (Moni) Gaukel

TAGS: Volunteer

Shirley Burgess

About The Author: Shirley Burgess

Shirley Burgess is the former Volunteer Engagement Officer for United Way of Central Iowa.