Thinking about volunteering around the holidays?


It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day mill. Go to work, pay bills, take care of chores around the house, rinse and repeat. It’s easy to forget that the whole reason we do these requisite tasks is so that we can have  time to slow down and appreciate the people around us, the people in our lives who make that daily grind worthwhile. I don’t do it nearly enough. Fortunately, from time to time, there are days where we can’t help but stop, notice and appreciate our friends, coworkers, and family who lift us, give us hope, and inspire us.

Thanksgiving is one of those days.

As we celebrate this day of giving thanks, in addition to our thanks for family and friends, I hope you will give a nod to our nonprofit community, many parts of which are working to make things just a little bit better for all of us – every day.

Don’t Volunteer Thursday!

We are T-minus two days before Thanksgiving, and this is often when some folks will get a sudden urge:  "Let’s work at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving!"  Here’s a thought, if you are not already committed to volunteering on Thanksgiving, don’t worry about it – I hereby give you a pass this year.

Full disclosure: At one time, I worked at the Volunteer Center of North Texas (now called Volunteer Now!). Contrary to popular opinion, we did not keep freeze-dried volunteers in a closet ready to deploy as the need arose, nor did we maintain a database of volunteers. Rather, we promoted (as I do in this column) volunteer opportunities. Every year around Thanksgiving, hundreds of well-intentioned people would contact us looking for where they could ‘feed the homeless’ on Thanksgiving Day. (They also would ask how they could find ‘poor’ children who would accept their children’s used toys – I’ll probably cover that next month!)

Here’s What You Can Do

If it sounds like this is a pet peeve of mine, guilty. I do not want to discourage folks from volunteering; on the contrary, I just know that volunteering on Thanksgiving is often a perk for those who volunteer year-round. If you are feeling the urge to volunteer at a soup kitchen, may I suggest volunteering there at another time of the year – like a Tuesday in July, when regular volunteers are often on vacation.

If you still want to volunteer during the holidays, check out these volunteer opportunities organized through our cities:



Volunteer Tumwater also offers a multitude of ways for you to volunteer.  Here are a couple:

  • The Tumwater Christmas Tree Lighting Festival is the second Saturday in December, at Tumwater City Hall & the Headquarters Fire Station. This popular holiday event includes games, holiday crafts, snacks and treats, school choir performances, and of course, the lighting of the tree. Pictures with Santa available between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. Volunteers help with event set-up and clean-up, help attendees navigate through the event, assist with Santa photos, serve as parking lot attendants, and more. Volunteer shifts are three hours long. Register online or for more information, contact the Volunteer Coordinator, Todd Anderson at
  • NEW Adopt-a-Road Kits are now available! Help keep Tumwater clean by providing litter removal and clean-up along community streets. Volunteer groups adopt a half-mile selection of roadway. Locations are determined by the Tumwater Public Works Department based on the need in the area and the potential working conditions for volunteers. Assignments are on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact the Volunteer Coordinator, Todd Anderson at to set up an orientation.


Soliciting your ideas 

If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits!  

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at


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