Giving the gift of time this holiday season

Jenn Compton, AP Lit Set 2

Most people know the joy of receiving a holiday gift, but too few participate in the joy of giving. Last year I handed out gifts to young children at a volunteer event, Christmas in the Park. As I watched their faces light up at the sight of a small toy car, I realized that donating a few hours of your time or even small toys can make a difference in the lives of others.

Many service opportunities exist during the holiday season, including Metropolitan Ministries Tent, Christmas in the Park, and Meals on Wheels. All of these organizations provide an opportunity for volunteers to help the community by giving time.

Every year, Metropolitan Ministries sets up a tent where volunteers create a memorable Christmas experience for struggling individuals. Playing Christmas music, handing out toys, and providing food are just a few of the ways to
participate.

Carlos Bondoc, an employee at Metropolitan Ministries, expressed the importance of every volunteer’s contribution.There is always a need all around the Ministry. If you cannot donate your time, you can always donate money or food items. Everything helps.”

Another way to help is through the Salvation Army’s “angel tree” program, which provides gifts to children whose families live below the poverty level. Each child has a blue or pink paper angel bearing the name of a special gift he or she would like for Christmas.  Volunteers can help by picking an angel and buying Christmas presents within their budget.

Hannah Crall, an AHN sophomore, “adopted” an angel last year. “Knowing that I could provide her with a present she wouldn’t otherwise get made me feel like I had really made a difference.”

Additionally, the Salvation Army provides gift-wrapping at local malls. They need volunteers to help wrap the gifts, and the proceeds go towards supporting the Salvation Army throughout the year.

The Kiwanis Club hosts a Christmas Party every year where they invite children of families who live below the poverty level. Kerrie Spiller, an AHN senior, attends this every year. “The kids at the party appreciate even the littlest things. When they leave you can tell that the party was one of the highlights of their year.”

Many other holiday service opportunities exist and the best way to find them is through the Internet. Some good sites to begin looking at are the Boys and Girls Club and the Salvation Army.

In addition to these service opportunities, numerous other holiday drives take place each year throughout Tampa Bay. Anyone can make a difference in someone’s life. So get into the holiday spirit and volunteer!