Are you looking for meaningful ways to give back this holiday season? Donating and volunteering locally has many benefits even beyond the most important of meeting local community needs.
Donating to a local food or toy drive or doing hands-on volunteering provides an opportunity to connect more deeply with one’s community and meet others who are spending their time giving back. Volunteering can also offer a different or broader perspective on one’s own life. The need for donations and volunteering is year-round, but giving back at this time could also help jump start a cycle of giving and volunteering during all seasons.
Many sources support this notion around volunteering. The EF (Education First) blog states, “By immersing yourself in a community and surrounding yourself with people who are dedicated to bettering the world, you can learn so much about how the world works. You gain a unique sense of purpose by serving those around you, one which often manifests in other areas of your life.”
Malden is a community rich in nonprofits, service organizations and community groups that help those in need, including local people struggling with housing insecurity, food insecurity, substance abuse, isolation and other challenges.
The Malden Warming Center serves nightly meals and a warm place to stay overnight during the months of December – March. They “recognize each person’s inherent dignity and unique circumstance” as they collaborate with other local groups like Malden Overcoming Addiction and Malden Cares to connect guests to “permanent housing, substance use treatment, and health and mental health services.”
Emily Granoff, Board President for The Malden Warming Center, states, “We are an all-volunteer organization so there are definitely opportunities to come help out. If families want to volunteer together, helping prepare and serve a meal in the kitchen might be a good way to do that. If it’s just adults who are looking to volunteer, we have nine or ten shifts every night ranging from helping get guests supplies from the donations closet, to picking up donuts from HoneyDew Donuts and dropping them off at the Center before we open, to being a room monitor.” Overnight room monitors must attend a training session.
Merry Malden is an initiative that started in 2020 to collect, purchase and distribute holiday gifts for local children in need. Councillor Amanda Linehan and Dawn Macklin lead the effort with support from other community volunteers, the Zonta Club of Malden, and Local 22.
“What makes our drive unique, beyond working intensively to reach under-served and previously unreachable community members, is the fact that we match individual wish lists directly with shoppers who anonymously and lovingly fill specific requests,” says Linehan.
The holiday toy drive is one of several ongoing drives for local families. Another is one run jointly by the Malden Police and Fire Departments, with help from Councillors Jadeane Sica and Craig Spadafora.
Volunteering can have a fun, creative twist with events like the upcoming 73rd Annual Santa Visits Pine Bank Parks event. Ward 5 Councillor Barbara Murphy is coordinating a team of Santa’s helpers to hand out hot chocolate and cookies. Costumes will be provided.
Food drives are ongoing. The Bread of Life in Malden collects food pantry items and folks can donate individually or run a drive through their business or organization. Food pantry use has been growing since the onset of Covid and the need has been amplified by the rising cost of grocery store items. Bread of Life also welcomes volunteers for their food pantry hours – sorting, bagging, stocking shelves and distributing items to guests. The organization also runs an evening meal program four nights a week, “grab and go” since the onset of Covid, but has enough volunteers signed up from faith and community groups. There are still opportunities to volunteer for the sit-down Christmas meal that will be served on December 25.
In their November newsletter, Gabriella Snyder Stelmack, Executive Director for the Bread of Life, shares a biblical passage that tells the story of a man who prepared a great feast and when too many invited guests did not show up, he spread the word first to townspeople most in need of food or company and then to everyone who might want to come.
Stelmack writes, “Bread of Life gives us a tiny foretaste of the heavenly banquet. We’re not like some trendy place you hear about where you need to be an “important person”, or know somebody, or have lots of money to get a table. There’s no A list and B list. All are invited. We invite you to the big banquet table of Bread of Life’s work of providing prepared meals, food pantry groceries, nutrition backpacks, food delivery, and essential supplies. We invite you to join in community, to build relationships, to spend your time and talents in service to each other, to break through walls of distrust and resentment, to get a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.”
To help you choose ways to give back locally this holiday season, the Neighborhood View team has compiled a list of opportunities to donate items and volunteer, summarized below. Please note that ALL of our nonprofits are in need of financial support, but this list focuses on specifc gift donations and volunteer opportunities. Also, please note that this is NOT a comprehensive list. It is just a sampling of some key initiatives that provide ways to give back, particularly during this holiday season.
Donate New Gifts, Gift Cards, Shop Amazon Wishlists:
- Malden Warming Center’s Amazon Wish List (especially long thermal underwear, individual servings of food items)
- Bread of Life Wishlist (list of high need foods)
- Merry Malden Wishlist (you can be paired up with a family w/ specific gift requests, or you can donate highly requested items, such as LED lights, LOL dolls, LEGO sets, slime/putty, Barbies, rubix cubes, winter coats, pajamas and snow boots in all sizes, matching sweat suits for teens (in adult sizes) and anything MineCraft or Roblox related, plus TARGET gift cards – drop at City Hall.
- Immigrant Learning Center (school supplies). Call the office first at 781-322-9777 to check on specific needs and hours for drop-off.
- Housing Families (toy drive)
- Police & Fire Department Toy Drive Amazon Wish List or drop off toys in person at Malden Police at 800 Eastern Avenue or at Malden Fire Department at 1 Sprague Street through Dec 17.
Volunteer in Person / Donate Your Time:
- Malden Warming Center (prepare and serve a meal, do training and volunteer evening, overnight and breakfast shifts)
- Bread of Life (food delivery, stock shelves, unload trucks, organize/clean, data entry, run a food drive)
- Merry Malden (sort toys, deliver toys, shop for toys)
- Immigrant Learning Center (classroom volunteer, substitute teacher w/ stipend)
- Housing Families (tutoring and enrichment groups)
- 73d Annual “Santa at Pine Banks Park” on Dec 17 from 2-6pm. Volunteers need to dress up as elves & characters and distribute cookies. Contact Councillor Barbara Murphy at 781-910-8088 or firstname.lastname@example.org