Once that donated food has been processed, packaged, and delivered to its destination, it still needs to be prepared. Soup kitchens are where volunteers can put their kitchen skills to the test.
When you’re cooking food for the masses, it all comes down to timing, as you need to map out the process with precision and organization in order to make sure the right people get the right food at the right time. This is where your team can really flex their cooperative skills, as even after the first couple of hours of preparation, you’ll still get the opportunity to serve that food to the grateful masses.
You and your coworkers will bond over their shared work and accomplishments, but more importantly, seeing the reaction people have to the food you’ve prepared for them is often reason enough to give back to those in need.
Below are a couple resources to help connect you to your community kitchens:
HomelessShelterDirectory.org will help you find a list of soup kitchens, food pantries, and food banks near you.
Feeding America is another resource for finding local food banks in your area, and they secure and distribute more than 3 billion meals throughout the U.S. each year.
FoodPantries.org allows you to search for food pantries, soup kitchens, and nonprofit organizations that are committed to fighting hunger.
Volunteer at a Homeless Shelter
A homeless shelter isn’t naturally the happiest place to spend the cold winter months, but they can also become warm and cozy for those in need when equipped with the right touch and care. However, that tends to take a lot of volunteer hours, as unlike pantries or soup kitchens, homeless shelter will often house many individuals and families.
Many homeless shelters have a hard time simply finding space for people to sleep, regardless of the time of year. This can mean that a portion of the homeless population who visit a shelter throughout the day and use some of their services will still have to spend the night outdoors. This is why shelters need volunteers, as maintaining these shelters and stocking them with the right resources is often a full-time job.
You can find a shelter near you thanks to the Homeless Shelter Directory. If you’d like to connect with a national organization of people who volunteer with the homeless population, you can head to Volunteers of America’s website. The National Coalition for the Homeless is also a great resource, as it has a directory of shelters that they work closely with.
Asking your team to collect simple items like scarves, mittens, jackets, or canned food items can also be incredibly valuable. These are the kinds of things people can find lying around their homes unused. You can also easily spot and purchase these items while you’re out running other errands.
You can even have some fun with it and turn your company volunteering efforts into a competition to see who can bring in the most items. When you tabulate your office totals, everyone will feel united in the amount of good you’re able to do together.
People forced to live out on the streets need to stay warm, and it’s clothing and food items that can be invaluable in keeping people warm and fed during the winter months. Collecting clothing that’s new or lightly used can prevent injury from the cold, and in some cases, even save someone’s life.
Animal Rescue Shelters
Humans aren’t the only ones in need of some help this winter. Animal shelters need all kinds of support from volunteers. Whether it’s holding down the office to answering calls to organizing animal control calls, your local shelter has needs that could really use your help. In the winter especially there is a lot more work that needs to be done in order to get animals off of the cold and lonely streets.
Company volunteering at an animal shelter can be as simple as walking in, spending some time with the animals, and taking them on a walk. Dog walkers aren’t always easy to find, and the people at the shelter don’t want the animals to lose out on exercise just because it’s colder outside and they don’t have people who can take them out on a leash.
The American Society for the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has an entire database for finding local shelters, and Petfinder.com also has options that can show you how to best volunteer at your local shelter.
Retirement homes don’t often ask for much. Sometimes just offering to visit with the elderly one-on-one, or spending some time at a retirement home with your staff can be a huge help and encouragement to everyone involved. Putting a smile on a retiree’s face in a nursing home could make someone’s day, week, or even change a life.
You could even offer to organize an entire event, offer to recite some famous historical speeches, or even moderate a poetry reading. Getting creative will keep this volunteer opportunity fun for your company and the retirees you’ll be spending time with.
To help you get started, CreateTheGood.org has a guide for how to best care for people in a nursing home, and Local Nursing Homes is a site designed to connect you with your local nursing homes that would love a visit.
If you can’t find a major organization that you can partner with, search for one of the many smaller-scale local volunteer jobs out there at VolunteerMatch.org. This site is organized almost like Angie’s List, but for company volunteering opportunities, as it allows you to search for individual volunteer groups or tasks. This makes searching for the opportunity that fits your busy schedule a whole lot easier.
The search options can get very detailed too, so if possible, try specifying exactly what kind of volunteer opportunities you’re looking for in order to find one that’ll best suit your company’s schedule.
Something They Know or Something New?
Many of the people on your team are likely to have unique and valuable skills that you regularly get to see them exemplify at work. But they also have skills and hobbies that you probably never get to see in the office. When seeking opportunities for volunteering, try talking with your staff to find something that would allow them to flex different muscles than the ones they usually use in the workplace.
If you have a team with a bunch of great cooks, for example, then volunteer at a food pantry or shelter where you can help cook and serve food. This way, your team will be doing something they enjoy while also giving back to the community.
Your team-building activities should ultimately reflect what your team’s combined skills can accomplish. Maybe try finding a new activity that no one on your team has tried before. Your shared experience of coming together in a common space, with a common lack of knowledge, will allow your group to learn together at the same pace and better get to know and enjoy each other’s company.
Get Creative On Your Own
You can also get creative and come up with a project of your own and use resources like VolunteerMatch.org to put it into action. The best company volunteering projects are often the ones that you put your heart into. If you care about the work you’re doing, then not only will the people you’re helping pick up on it but so will those you work with every day.
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