Holiday Projects

December is a great time to volunteer! Many students have several weeks of vacation for winter break and are filled with the holiday spirit. Here are some fun, meaningful ways to give back to the community. I’ll keep adding more ideas as I hear about them.  UPDATE: As of today, December 20th, many of the specifically holiday projects listed below have been completed.  However, there are still many great places to volunteer during the holiday break.  Check the main listings on ServeforGood.org to learn about many places where kids and teens can help, including animal shelters, gardens, soup kitchens, and other charities around Houston.  And check back next year for more holiday projects!

 

BAYOU CITY BLESSINGS IN A BACKPACK

This charity, launched by the Holy Spirit Episcopal community in 2012, provides weekend food bags to 1,000 elementary school children in the greater Houston area who are at risk of going hungry while school is out.  Volunteers of all ages are needed to pack food bags for the children.

Thursday, 12/21: 8:15-9:30 AM – Holiday Food Bag Assembly

Friday, 1/5: 8:15-9:30 AM – Food Bag Assembly

Thursday, 1/18: 7-8 PM – Third Thursday Community Food Bag Assembly

All of these events take place at Holy Spirit Episcopal, 12535 Perthshire Road, 77024.  For more information, call or text (281) 468-1227, or e-mail bcblessings80@att.net.

 

 

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FISHER HOUSE

 

Houston’s Fisher House is a “home away from home” for families of military veterans receiving medical care for long-term illnesses within the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans’ Administration Medical Center.  The facility includes 61 guest suites that are available free of charge to veterans’ families.

Throughout the holiday season Fisher House welcomes teens and younger students to come in and bake cookies, provide a meal for house guests, collect wish list items, provide entertainment, make toiletry bags or snack bags for the families, or other projects.  At least one must adult must be present to supervise.  Please contact Assistant Manager Shanna Battle (713-794-7784 or shanna.battle@va.gov) with any questions, or to schedule a day/time to visit.

 

 

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PLANT IT FORWARD FARMS

 

Plant It Forward provides Houston with fresh, local produce by helping refugees grow their own urban farm businesses. Each farmer is trained to farm using organic methods and sell their produce through farmers markets, farm stands, restaurants, and farm shares.  Once vacation starts you are welcome to join the regular volunteer work days at Plant It Forward’s Demonstration Farm at 12581 Dunlap Street

Join Rachel, the new Farm Manager, 
on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 8-11 AM, to do tasks such as setting up vegetable trellises, weeding, and mulching.  “We recommend you wear sunscreen, weather appropriate clothing, long pants, and sturdy shoes. Please bring your own water. You can arrive or leave anytime during the time frame. Please contact Rachel at (832) 974-0729 with questions.”

 

 

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CITY WIDE CLUB ANNUAL CHRISTMAS EVE BIG FEAST

 

This huge event takes place annually at the George R. Brown Convention Center on December 24th.  Volunteers of all ages help serve a hot meal to more than 30,000 guests, and clothing, household items, flu shots, medical examinations, food baskets, and other items and services are available.  Information about affordable housing and educational and employment opportunities is also provided. Volunteers must register in advance here.

Photo by Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle (2016)


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AISHEL HOUSE


Aishel House serves patients who are receiving treatment at local hospitals, as well as the patients’ families.  Support services include transportation and warm kosher meals to accommodations, child-care assistance, and Jewish chaplaincy. 

Volunteers who are part of the Aishel House teen program get together and create gifts of food or crafts for patients.  (To be part of the Aishel House teen volunteer program, you must commit to volunteer at least 6 times during the year.)  More information is here.

 
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BE A RESOURCE FOR CPS KIDS – BEARING GIFTS PROGRAM (this is finished for 2017)

The BEARing Gifts program provides holiday gifts to children under the care of Child Protective Services.  Last year the program answered holiday wishes for more than 11,000 children.

Volunteers are needed at the BEAR warehouse to sort and wrap presentsFor the 2017 holiday season, the program will operate Monday-Friday 9 AM-4:30 PM, but there are three Saturday opportunities: December 2, 9, and 16, from 9 AM-Noon. 
Each volunteer under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Please contact Michelle Searles for any questions about becoming a volunteer at BEAR; the volunteer web page is here.

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CHRISTMAS BOXES OF BLESSING

Saturday, December 9, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, 1201 Oliver, Houston 77007  (this is finished for 2017)

“Last year more than 600 volunteers gathered at our main Christmas Boxes of Blessing event. 5,500 families in the Houston area were impacted through Christmas Boxes of Blessing, the largest Christ the King mission project. Join us in this wonderful community-wide effort where we fill boxes with enough food to feed a family for one week during the Christmas holiday. This is a tangible way to demonstrate the love of Christ and truly get into the Christmas spirit. Invite your friends, neighbors, groups and organizations to join us. A light breakfast (donuts and fruit) and lunch (pizza) will be available.” 

The church’s community partners distribute the boxes to the needy families they serve.More information is here.

 

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KIDS’ MEALS ANNUAL CHRISTMAS PARTY (this is finished for 2017)

Each weekday, Kids’ Meals delivers about 2,500 healthy meals to Houston’s hungriest preschool-aged children. When school is out, every child up to age 18 in these homes also receives a healthy meal – up to 4,000 children per day.

Every December, Kids’ Meals hosts two holiday parties for the children enrolled in its program. Each preschool-aged child, along with their guardian, attends the parties and enjoys free holiday food, entertainment, and community resource information.

Kids’ Meals collects toys and toy gift cards for children of all ages to distribute to the children and their siblings at the parties, as holiday presents.  The gift cards allow the families, who all live at or below the poverty line, to purchase toys for their children that they know they want.
While their mission is to deliver free meals, every weekday to poverty-stricken preschool-aged children in Houston, the opportunity to provide a fun, happy, generous holiday experience for these families is invaluable.
50-60 volunteers are also needed per party to help distribute toys, food and interact with our families.

Wednesday, 12/6: Knights of Columbus, 607 E Whitney Street, 77022. Party: 10 AM-Noon. Volunteer Times: 8 AM-1 PM.

Wednesday, 12/13: Ripley House Neighborhood Center, 4410 Navigation Blvd, 77011. Party: 10 AM-Noon. Volunteer Times: 8 AM-1 PM.

For more information, contact Valerie@kidsmealshouston.org.

 

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CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY SERVICE CENTER JINGLE BELL EXPRESS  (this is finished for 2017)

The Christian Community Service Center “serves the poor, hungry, disabled, and otherwise needy while respecting their religious, ethnic, or cultural differences.”  The annual Jingle Bell Express program allows parents to “shop” for their children. Each parent chooses one or two toys and new books for each child. In addition, the entire family receives a holiday food package.

The CCSC needs hundreds of volunteers to help register clients, organize toys, set up the ‘store’, and even help parents select toys. (More donations are also welcome.)

Individual volunteers may just show up; volunteers under the age of 15 must be accompanied by an adult; groups please call ahead.)

Volunteers are wanted for two phases, both located at Bellaire United Methodist Church, 4417 Bellaire Blvd. at Newcastle.

Sort & Set-Up: (Prepare toys and food for distribution)
Monday, December 4, 2017 through Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Distribution: (Assist clients as they gather toys, books & food)
Friday, December 8th and Saturday, December 9th, 2017, 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM

More information is here.

 

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MEALS ON WHEELS HOLIDAY GIFT BAGS (this is finished for 2017)

Thanks to community donors, Interfaith Ministries distributes 4,000 gifts during the holiday season to all the homebound elderly Houstonians in the Meals on Wheels program. For many of these seniors this is the only gift they will receive all year. Each gift bag has the following items:

TWO full-sized toiletries:
Shampoo + Conditioner
Body Soap + Body Lotion
Mouthwash + Toothpaste, OR
Toothbrush + Toothpaste

ONE Winter Item:
Blanket or throw, Scarf, Socks, Gloves, OR Beanie hat

ONE Fun Item:
Crossword Puzzle book, Word Search book, Jigsaw Puzzle, OR Sudoku book

and

A holiday greeting card (can be handmade)

Please put these in a paper bag, such as a holiday bag or a grocery bag. This is a great project for individuals, clubs, scout troops, school classes, or others. In past years groups have sponsored/put together from 5 to 200 bags to show that these seniors are remembered and cared for by their community.

Please drop off gift bags at 3202 San Jacinto Street, Houston (M-F, 10 AM-4 PM) by December 15th so that drivers can begin distributing them.

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SEARCH HOMELESS SERVICES ADULT GIFT STOCKINGS (this is finished for 2017)

 

SEARCH is a nonprofit organization that “helps men, women, and children move from the streets into jobs and safe, stable housing.”  SEARCH welcomes holiday gift stockings from November 1 until December 16for our adult clients who are so deserving of your generous gifts. These gifts will bring joy and help to provide some basic needs for the holiday season.”

Recommended contents: $10 gift card (suggestions: Kroger, Fiesta, Dollar Store, Walmart)  Optional: Pair of socks, pair of winter gloves, knit winter hat, winter scarf, key chain, encouraging book or Bible (pocket size), holiday chocolate or cookies (packaged, not homemade).  

Please do not include electronics and do not exceed $35 in value per stocking. Delivery must be coordinated with Katherine White before donation.  More information is here.

 

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COUNT ME IN  (this is finished for 2017)

This nonprofit helps Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah by donating thousands of gifts and other ritual items to hundreds of children and adults during the Hanukkah season. Recipients include  families experiencing temporary financial difficulties, families of patients undergoing medical treatment, and senior citizens residing in assisted living facilities.

To participate, pick up gift bags in October and November at various synagogues and schools.  Each will have information about the recipient’s gender and age.  Fill the bag with some of the suggested NEW gifts.  (A completed bag of toys and clothing usually averages between $75-$125 for 6–8 gifts.)  Return the finished bag to a designated location.  In 2017 the delivery deadline was November 12th.  More information is here.

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CYCLE HOUSTON BIKE BUILDS (this is finished for 2017)

In December CYCLE Houston, a local nonprofit, will be giving hundreds of bikes to HISD students who raised their literacy rates in its Fall Semester Reading Program.  Volunteers will be assembling and delivering bikes on several work days in mid December. While most of the work days are during the week and before vacation, two of the days are Saturdays, and the bike building sessions last till 8 PM.  Register and get more information here.

Saturday 12/9: 9-12 and 2-5 pm Bike Build
Monday 12/11: 5-8 pm Bike Build
Wednesday 12/13: 5-8 pm Bike Build
Thursday 12/14: 5-8 pm Bike Build
Friday 12/15: 9 am – 9 pm Bike loading
Saturday 12/16: 7:30 am – Noon Bike Delivery

 

 

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CASA JUAN DIEGO (this is finished for 2017)

 

Casa Juan Diego is an all-volunteer nonprofit that serves “immigrants and refugees and the poor.” Services include food, medical help, shelter for immigrant women and children (especially pregnant or physically battered women and their children, or those whose husbands have been deported), religious services, and English classes.  It is collecting the following new items to give as Christmas gifts to the people it serves:

For Adults: Bath gift sets for women, hooded sweatshirts for men and women.

For Children: New sets of farm animals, zoo animals, dinosaurs, Fisher Price little people, Menchies little kids, doll house figures, or Community Figures Lego Duplo compatible; baby dolls; stuffed animals; toddler toys; toddler Lego sets; Super Hero action figures; toy tea sets; art sets/color and sticker activity sets.  (Please no war toys or guns or Barbie dolls).

Please drop off toys at 4818 Rose, Houston 7707 by December 12, if possible, but December 19 is OK.  (9 AM- 4 PM, Monday through Saturday.)  Their website is here.

 

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KIDS’ MEALS – ADOPT A FAMILY (All families have been sponsored for 2017)

Each weekday, Kids’ Meals delivers about 2,500 healthy meals to Houston’s hungriest preschool-aged children. When school is out, every child up to age 18 in these homes also receives a healthy meal – up to 4,000 children per day.

At Christmas time, you (or your friends, or club/team/group/church etc.) can give holiday presents to one of these families, all of whom live below the poverty line.  Starting in November you can select what size family you want to adopt, from families of 4 to families of 12.  (As of December 1st, only a few families of 8 still need sponsors.)  The sponsors receive a wish list from the family, with a recommended spending amount of about $50 per family member.  

The sponsors have the option to either deliver the gifts straight to the family or deliver them to the Kids’ Meals office on or before Friday, December 15th.  Contact Volunteer Coordinator Kelsey Ryan with questions: kelsey@kidsmealshouston.org.

 

 

 

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BE A RESOURCE FOR CPS KIDS – SPONSOR A CHILD (this is finished for 2017)

If you would like to give holiday gifts to an individual child under the care of Harris County Child Protective Services, please call Be a Resource for CPS Kids at (713) 295-2756, or email tina.holmes@dfps.state.tx.us.

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FREE THE CAPTIVES – SPONSOR A TRAFFICKED TEEN (All girls have been sponsored for 2017, but FTC would still love more gift cards for the girls’ basic needs)

Free the Captives is an anti-human trafficking organization that “engages the Christian community and partners with non-profits, law enforcement, and government agencies in the fight against modern day slavery.”  It is seeking Christmas sponsors for the teen trafficking victims it serves.

“Many of our girls never had a proper Christmas – no trees, no lights, no Christmas dinner, and no presents. You and a group of your friends can change that for our girls!  This is a great opportunity for a Sunday School class, Bible study group, or small group to buy and wrap presents and provide a Christmas dinner for one of our girls.”

The registration form is here. FTC is also collecting $20 gift cards to HEB or Walmart to provide groceries and other necessities to the girls. Free the Captives website is here.

 

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DEPELCHIN CHILDREN’S CENTER – SPONSOR A CHILD (All children have been sponsored for 2017, but birthday toys are always welcome.)

 

DePelchin Children’s Center is a nonprofit agency that works to break the cycles of child abuse and neglect, integrating “prevention, foster care, adoption and post-adoption programs to improve the mental health and physical well-being of children who are at risk of entering or are in the State’s child welfare system.”  The annual holiday project provides gifts and basics needs to the children and families who use DePelchin’s services. You can sponsor a child by buying the items on his / her wish list. You can also host a toy drive. More information about the Holiday Project is here.

 

 

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SEARCH HOMELESS SERVICES – SPONSOR A CHILD  (2017 deadline to drop off gifts has passed.)

 

This project pairs members of the community with 300 specific children from SEARCH and The House of Tiny Treasures who submitted their wish lists.

Assignment of Holiday Wish Lists starts in late October or early November.  To request one or more lists, email Katherine White at kwhite@SEARCHHomeless.org and tell her how many wish lists you would like to sponsor.  You will receive a reply with the children’s lists and delivery instructions. Delivery must be coordinated with Katherine White before donation.  The 2017 deadline for dropping off gifts is November 18th.

More information is here.

 

 

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MEMORIAL ASSISTANCE MINISTRIES CHRISTMAS SHARE PROGRAM  (2017 deadline to drop off gifts has passed.)

 

MAM offers a network of programs and services, including Family Assistance, Family Education, and Children’s Programs, that “help people find employment and autonomy.”

 

Its Christmas Share program provides toys, gift cards, and blankets to hundreds of local children. For many children, the only toys they receive for Christmas come from MAM.  To sponsor a child, drop off a bag of 3 new, unwrapped toys with a total value of approximately $50.  Note: the deadline to drop off gifts is Wednesday, December 6th.

 

You can also host a toy drive to collect new and unwrapped toys with an approximate retail value between $15 and $50, or collect new twin size blankets for the children.

 

​For more information and guidelines, visit MAM’s Christmas Share page or email christmas_share@maministries.org.

 

 

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SALVATION ARMY ANGEL TREE (this is finished for 2017)

 

Through the Angel Tree Program, you can choose a specific disadvantaged child or senior and be an “Angel” by providing Christmas presents for him/her. Last year, 20,000 children and seniors in Harris, Montgomery, and Fort Bend counties received gifts through the Angel Tree.

 

You can adopt an angel online or at a nearby mall.  You choose a tag with an individuals name, age, gender, gift requests,  and a code number.   You then buy items from their wish list and deliver the gifts to Santa’s Secret Warehouse.  Gifts will be sorted by code number and delivered before Christmas.

How much you spend is up to you, but the average cost is around $60 to $70 per child or senior. Please consider purchasing the wish list items on the tag and a few clothing items.

Call Carmen Zermeño, Christmas Coordinator, at (832) 201-8018, with questions.  More information is here.

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HOUSTON CHILDREN’S CHARITY – ADOPT-A-FAMILY (2017 deadline to provide gifts has passed.)

Through this program, you register to sponsor a needy family, and indicate the number of children you’d like to help.  (You can also suggest age ranges and gender, if you want.)  HCC will try to match you with an appropriate family.  Then you should contact the family to find out more about what the children want, and what the family needs.  You don’t need to buy presents for others in the family besides the children, but you can do so if you like. 
Please purchase NEW toys or clothing.  Sponsor families typically spend about $100 per child – but this just a guideline and is strictly your decision.  Any amount is appreciated. You are also encouraged to wrap the gifts, if you can. Finally, you contact the family and arrange a delivery time at your convenience.

In 2016, more than 400 Houston Children’s Charity sponsors (individuals and businesses) provided gifts to more than 2,000 Houston children.  More information is here.

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I’m working on adding a few more programs.  (Casa de Esperanza also has an adopt-a-family program, but it’s full now. I’ll include it next year.)

Do you know of other holiday volunteer opportunities for Houston kids and teens? Please email me at cfurse@sjs.org.  Thanks!  Claire




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