Throughout the holiday season, people feel a stronger sense of family, community, and gratitude for where they live – especially when they live here in central Iowa. Naturally, many want to find ways that they can give back some of the good that they’ve received this year – and United Way is always here to help!

As the end of the year draws near, we hear more from our donors and volunteers that they want to give back to our community. Throughout the holiday season, with a heightened focus on family, holiday traditions, reflecting on the year, as well as giving and receiving gifts – we are so grateful to those who want to take this time to share some good with their neighbors and have a desire to improve our community.

To help you help our community, United Way of Central Iowa cultivates the Holiday Helping Hand Guide every year to connect community volunteers with the current and urgent needs of local nonprofits throughout this busy and often stressful season. This guide is a resource to find ways that work for you to give back, like a donation drive, serving meals, or spending time supporting clients at an organization.

Another way United Way invites our community give back is through our annual HOPE for the Holidays event, a donation drive and volunteer opportunity supporting HOPE for Stable Families. During this year’s event, families of volunteers assembled nearly 50 Household Necessities Gift Baskets: laundry baskets filled with cleaning supplies, family board games, paper products, and gift cards to local retailers. With these essentials, the HOPE for Stable Families clients are able to have the products they need to create a healthy home for the holidays.

“I love how the United Way team educated us on why the types of supplies we're talking about are not things that food stamps and other types of income and support can provide,” said Janelle, a HOPE for the Holidays volunteer. “The baskets are filling a gap for these families. We took part because I think it's really important for families, not just adults, to understand the needs of our neighbors and our community.”

We were excited to host 30 volunteers for HOPE for the Holidays. With the current value of a volunteer hour at $28.54, the few hours we spent together on a Saturday morning had a total value of $1,712.40. Volunteers assembled 48 baskets for families, filled with a total of 494 items. These baskets were valued at $75 each, for a total value of $3,600, and will serve 192 total individuals, consisting of 135 kids and 57 adults.

If you are looking to give back, the best place to look for volunteering opportunities is through our Central Iowa Volunteer Hub at From there, you can find opportunities that align with your interests and passions – allowing you to create an impact in a way that is meaningful and valuable for you.

Volunteering gets you engaged in the work and empowers you as you physically make an impact on our community. When you give your time, you are supporting the 5 Elements of a Thriving Community, which are Essential Needs, Early Childhood Success, Education Success, Economic Opportunity, and Health & Well-Being. All five elements are connected, so no matter which one you choose to influence, you're benefiting all areas – you’re UNITED in creating a THRIVING community. Whatever way you’re choosing to share your time, talents and gifts, thank you for caring about every central Iowan this season.

Topics: Volunteer, Essential Needs, Economic Opportunity, holidays

Anna Schaber

Written by Anna Schaber

Anna Schaber is the former Volunteer Engagement Specialist for United Way of Central Iowa.