Where to Volunteer in Washington This Holiday Season

From food banks to animal shelters, these local organizations can use your help.

By: Zoha Arshad

The holiday season isn’t just about gifts and parties. Give back by volunteering your time to a wide array of good causes and charities in the region. Check out the options below.

Martha’s Table
Donate to the Toy Wish List, and bring in new, unwrapped toys or children’s winter clothing to keep the chill away. You can also volunteer at the day care facility by helping little tots with their homework.

This organization is Dave Eggers’s baby and runs hundreds of educational centers across the country. Join the Unnaturalist Society in true Eggers style by donating money, or give your time to help children and teenagers develop their writing and math skills.

Maryland Food Bank
Marylanders miss 78 million meals a year. Win the fight against hunger by donating money, or buying groceries for a family through the organization’s virtual grocery store. If you have bags and cans of food, drop them off at 2200 Halethorpe Farms Road in Baltimore.

Bethesda Cares
Specifically geared toward meeting the needs of the homeless, this organization accepts money and goods donations. They also need volunteers who can help in administrative work, teach English as a second language, and serve lunch and other meals during the course of the day, including Christmas Day.

Central Union Mission
Donate to the Annual Christmas Campaign and feed a family of ten for $20. The Mission also serves as a rehabilitation center for drug addicts and criminal offenders as well as the homeless. This holiday season, volunteer to become a children’s camp coordinator, teach English and math, or run food drives.

Community for Creative Non-Violence
This organization helps the homeless and the poor get back on its feet, and could always use an extra pair of hands. Volunteer your fundraising skills to raise money for good causes, help paint the walls and wax the floors, or serve food. The holiday donations drive is accepting everything from toilet paper to cars.

Feed More
This food bank serves more than 31 counties and five cities in Virginia, and needs an additional 50 volunteers each workday to keep running smoothly. Volunteer your driving skills for the Meals on Wheels program, or lend a hand in the kitchen. If you have time, they have something for you to do! Organize a neighborhood food drive on their behalf, or donate money online.

Arlington Food Assistance Center
Get your friends and neighbors together and hold a Gimme Some Sugar! drive for the Center before December 15, 2012. Other options include donating money or volunteering your services organizing donated food and cans.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington
This organization runs a large array of programs, giving you a plethora of volunteering options to choose from. Apart from the usual volunteer options of bagging food and serving lunch, you can provide emotional counseling and teach English to newly arrived immigrants, or choose from an extensive list services.

Homeward Trails
This animal shelter specifically serves the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region, and helps stray and rescued dogs and cats find loving homes. Sign up to drive them to and from adoption agencies, or open your home temporarily for one lucky dog or cat till it finds a permanent home. You can also donate to the center’s medical fund.

Know of another organization that could use some help this holiday season? Leave details in the comments or e-mail zarshad@washingtonian.com.