What happens to Volunteerism during the Holidays?

Taylyn Cogswell | staff writer | [email protected]

The holiday season, with all of its festivities and emphasis on giving, seems to offer more volunteer opportunities throughout local communities, Boise included. With toy and food drives around every corner, one starts to wonder if the organizations who get such a massive influx of volunteers over the holidays can sustain the number of people they need to keep extending aid year-round. The holidays can be an especially hard time for individuals and families already struggling with illness, finances and other outstanding circumstances, thankfully, there are resources to take advantage of and innumerable ways to get involved, no matter what time of year it is.

The Women’s and Children’s Alliance (WCA), Boise

The WCA offers myriad volunteer opportunities for those who are accepted via the organization’s volunteer application. The process for becoming a volunteer for the Women’s and Children’s Alliance begins with attending their one-hour onsite facility tour, “If These Walls Could Talk,” after which applicants will be interviewed.

Due to the manner in which WCA has set up their programs for volunteers, its rates for volunteerism are steady year-round and require a level of professionalism and commitment that is needed to aid families before—and long after—the holiday season is over.

The WCA does, however, hold a total of three holiday programs that offer direct aid to families and increase donations from the community during the season. These programs include the organization’s sponsorship program, in which donors have the opportunity to sponsor individual client families, making the holiday cheerful and helping to alleviate any stresses that come with it. This, in addition to the WCA’s Giving Tree Program at the Boise Grove Plaza and their City Santa event, bring in substantial help and donations that the organization requires to keep individuals and families safe and cared for year-round.

“During our City Santa event, we work with the D.L. Evans Bank and the Downtown Boise Association. They provide us with a professional Santa and we have volunteers that help people get their photos taken with Santa for donations,” said Jennifer Spencer, events coordinator for the WCA.

Spencer noted that, due to these events the organization holds during the holiday season, volunteerism experiences a slight increase. But due to the application process and commitment of its volunteers,especially its weekly “core volunteers,” the WCA maintains a steady amount of help throughout the year.

The Ronald McDonald House of Idaho

The Ronald McDonald House, or RMDH Idaho, accepts volunteers throughout the year and is incredibly grateful for the hard work volunteers put towards cooking, cleaning and maintaining the house, making it a welcoming and comfortable place for families to stay during their child’s visit in the St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital.

Micaela de Loyola-Carkin, volunteer coordinator at the RMDH Idaho, remarked that, though volunteerism is steady throughout the year, the holidays usually bring in many new people wanting to help. Volunteers have the opportunity to cook and bake in the facility’s kitchen with an appointment scheduled with Loyola-Carkin as well perform various upkeep duties in the house.

“During the holidays people start thinking of ways they can give back and get involved in their community so I receive a lot more calls and emails from people who have not volunteered at the House before,” Loyola-Carkin said.

No matter what time of year it is, Ronald McDonald Houses throughout the United States aim to “Keep Families Close,” by offering families a comforting place to stay, free of charge, with the meals and accommodations necessary for the duration of their stay.

“When we hear back from families they are always grateful for the meals and readily available baked goods,” Loyola-Carkin said. “Families also mention how clean and welcoming the House is and that wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers who clean, organize and sanitize.”

During the holidays, many businesses and organizations provide RMDH Idaho with extra aid. The Brown Bus Company holds a yearly food drive for RMDH that constantly stocks the house and guest pantry and Lamb Weston bins filled with food for families annually as well.

The Idaho Food Bank

The Idaho Food Bank is an excellent choice for many individuals looking to volunteer year-round. The need for food and alleviating food insecurity in the nation is an issue that requires constant attention from the community. However, at this time, the organization is currently holding their “Hope For the Holidays” program, requiring a greater number of volunteers, which will donate 2.7 million meals this December alone.

Volunteers with the Idaho Food Bank can expect to help package and distribute food packages at their facility. Volunteers are an integral part of this process, making it possible for food insecure Idahoans to receive the assistance they are in need of.

Underneath the Idaho Food Bank’s volunteer page is a quote from food recipient and volunteer, Darlene Trefry, “The community needs help. But if the volunteers weren’t there, the food wouldn’t be either.” said Trefry.

Though the holidays often spark a desire to give back to the community and participate in the programs that give aid to the families in need, it is important that this altruism is maintained throughout the year, ensuring that the organizations that assist individuals and families in need during their festive holiday programs are supported throughout the entire year, especially in our local communities.