Volunteer and spread holiday cheer

Local organizations express the extended need for help during the holiday season.

With the joy and bustle of the holiday season for one family comes the financial struggle and heartbreak for another. Holidays are meant to be a time of celebration and communion, but for some it can be a time of stress, anxiety and loneliness. This is especially true for those struggling to buy gifts for their children, wondering where their next meal is coming from or searching for shelter in the cold.  

Virginia Wesleyan University’s Wesleyan Engaged program provides students with a number of volunteer opportunities throughout the school year. Wesleyan Engaged partners with numerous local civic organizations to assist and encourage students who are looking to make an impact close to home. 

The most recent on-campus event hosted by Wesleyan Engaged was the Holiday Gift Wrapping event, which took place on Dec. 1 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Jane P. Batten Student Center. The event, sponsored by the nonprofit organization United Way, allowed students to stop by and wrap a gift on their way to class. The wrapped gifts were then donated to four local families in need.

“It’s a great way to give back because as much as I’d love to go out into the community, everyone’s so busy, and we’re not really here during the holidays,” Director of Wesleyan Engaged Bethany Tsiaras said. Setting up quick, stop-by wrapping stations enabled students to make a lasting impact on their way to class.

For some people, the act of giving back is just as important, if not more, than receiving gifts this holiday season. Junior Jomaira Rosado, a Wesleyan Engaged member, is someone who enjoys giving more than receiving.

“I like to see people smile; I like to see what I can give back and feel like I can help in any way I can. And I don’t necessarily want anything from it, I just enjoy being able to give it,” Rosado said. 

Senior Jennaphur Nixon, also a member of Wesleyan Engaged, has a sentiment similar to that of Rosado.

“If I were in a position where I needed help, I would want to know that there are people that would willingly volunteer to do something that would help me,” Nixon said. “If I had the means to be that person for somebody else then I would want to be it.”

Rosado and Nixon both helped in the organization of the wrapping event.

For those wanting to make a larger commitment to giving back, local organizations like Union Mission Ministries, Potomac’s Salvation Army and the Norfolk Animal Care & Adoption Center are also searching for volunteers during the holiday season. Each organization has various opportunities for volunteering.

“We are always working on finding more ways to engage with college-aged and young professionals,” Union Mission Ministries Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Christina Geisler said. While Union Mission Ministries requires volunteers to complete a training session before serving, the organization is always open to donations. Those interested in learning more should visit their website, www.unionmissionministries.org/volunteer

Students who are hoping to do more hands-on projects should volunteer with another local organization, the Salvation Army of Potomac. The Salvation Army provides volunteers with an abundance of opportunities, from bell-ringing for the Red Kettle fundraising campaign to buying gifts for an individual child through the Angel Tree program. For more information about the Salvation Army and how you can register to volunteer, visit https://www.cervistech.com/acts/console.php?console_id=0023&console_type=login

Like people, animals deserve to feel loved during the holiday season as well. The Norfolk Animal Care & Adoption Center allows volunteers to make that happen.

“Here, we have different requirements, we make it a lot more user and volunteer friendly. We know that there’s a lot of military and a lot of college students, so we actually have flexible scheduling,” Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Brittini Naylor said.

The animal shelter is always looking for volunteers, whether that be in the form of individuals or groups. Volunteers are assigned various tasks to complete throughout the shelter. Those looking for a smaller time commitment are encouraged to participate in “Tales for Tails,” a program in which volunteers simply spend time with and read to the animals. Another short-term option is a day-long commitment in which walk-in volunteers can take a dog out for the day to give them a break from the shelter.

As always, the Norfolk Animal Care & Adoption Center is open to donations, especially around the holidays.

“During our colder months, we always are really appreciative of fleece blankets and comforters, and of course treats and things like that as well,” Naylor said. “It just helps make the animals’ homes a little bit cozier and a little warmer.”

Visit the shelter’s website, https://www.norfolk.gov/260/Norfolk-Animal-Care-Center, for more information.

Volunteering, whether it be in the form of time or donations, is not only beneficial to the people and animals on the receiving end, but also to those doing the giving.

“Volunteering can supplement what you want to do with your career. It shows that you are a well-rounded person. It shows that you care about the environment or whatever it may be, you care about others,” Tsiaras said. “It shows that you make the time to help, which I think shows you are a good worker.”

As you prepare for the upcoming holiday season, consider taking some time to give back to those who may not be as fortunate.

Carey Seay and Elijah Jenkins
clseay@vwu.edu and emjenkins@vwu.edu