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Holiday Volunteer Opportunities in DC for 2023

Embrace the Holiday Spirit: Volunteering in the DMV

With Thanksgiving nearly here and Hanukkah, Christmas, and the new year right around the corner, people are searching for holiday volunteer opportunities in DC. Washington DC and its surrounding areas offer a plethora of opportunities to give back to the community. This festive period presents an ideal opportunity for individuals, families, and groups to engage in meaningful volunteer work and social impact activities. Whether it’s hands-on volunteering at local charities or starting at-home initiatives to support those in need, the DC area is abundant with ways to contribute and make a difference.

But it can be hard to find one-off holiday volunteer opportunities in DC. Many charities (understandably) want a longer commitment, and the ones that do offer them (like Capital Area Food Bank) fill up quickly.

8 Diverse Holiday Volunteer Opportunities in DC

I’ve put together this list of 8 non-profit organizations who open their doors to volunteers eager to lend a helping hand during this special time of year–and that have space open at the time of publishing. These opportunities are not only a chance to contribute positively to the community but also a way to connect with the diverse and vibrant culture of the DC area. From setting up apartments for refugees with Homes Not Borders to laying wreaths at military cemeteries with Wreaths Across America, each activity offers a unique way to honor the season’s spirit of giving.

Can’t make it in person? For those who prefer to make a social impact without direct volunteering, there are plenty of creative ideas. Organizing a clothing drive at holiday gatherings, starting a food drive for the Maryland Food Bank, or even participating in a fun run to support local causes like So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.) are all ways to involve friends and family in the joy of giving. Each act of kindness, big or small, contributes to strengthening the communities in and around Washington DC, making the holiday season a time of true joy and generosity for everyone.

This guide delves into a variety of options for holiday volunteer opportunities in DC, from food distribution with renowned organizations like Martha’s Table to unique events like diaper bundling with the DC Diaper Bank.

1. Martha’s Table

Locations: Columbia Heights, Kingman Park, and throughout Ward 8 in DC

About: Martha’s Table supports strong children, strong families, and strong communities by increasing access to quality education, health and wellness, and family resources. They have a wide range of innovative programs supporting the communities they serve, including a no-cost grocery store, no-cost clothing boutique, and healthy happy hours that provide nutritious food, mocktails, and emotional wellness activities.

While Capital Area Food Bank’s volunteer shifts are full for the rest of the year, Martha’s Table partners with them on some initiatives, so it’s a good alternative to volunteering directly with Capital Area Food Bank.

Volunteer: They have lots of holiday volunteer opportunities in DC to distribute food, distribute holiday gifts, supporting their healthy happy hours, and serve their grocery store, clothing store, and food pantry,.

Social Impact Idea: Organize a clothing drive for babies, children, and work-appropriate attire at your holiday get togethers.

2. DC Diaper Bank

Locations: Silver Spring, MD

About: Diapers and feminine care products are expensive. DC Diaper Bank aims to provide a reliable and adequate source of basic baby needs and personal hygiene products. There is a 5.75% “luxury” tax on feminine hygiene products in D.C., making them even more expensive for many women. With diapers not covered by food stamps and assistance programs (SNAP & WIC), it is a major problem with for 33% of female-led homes in the DMV area that live in poverty.

Volunteer: They host a diaper bundling event that still has limited spots open. This is an adults only, BYOB welcome event. Unfortunately, their family-friendly events are at capacity for the rest of the year.

Social Impact Idea: Hold a diaper drive at your next event. Ask guests to bring diapers, wipes, tampons, pads, and other baby and personal hygiene items. Drop them off at one of the many locations throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

3. Homes Not Borders

Locations: Opportunities in Landover and Riverdale, MD; remote; and throughout the DMV

About: Homes Not Borders’ mission is to provide refugees and other forced migrants in the D.C. area with what they need to thrive and feel at home in the United States. They do this through furnishing and setting up apartments for refugees, many of whom are coming from refugee camps.

Volunteer: You can help drop off and pick up furniture donations, organize donations, set up apartments, and mentor the refugees they serve.

Social Impact Idea: As you celebrate the holidays this year, ask friends and family if they have any home furnishings they’re looking to donate and collect them to furnish a home.

Arlington National Cemetery, with a wreath on a grave for Wreaths Across America
Photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

4. Wreaths Across America

Locations: DC: US Soldiers’ & Airmen’s Home cemetery in Petworth and Battleground National Cemetery by the old Walter Reed; VA: Arlington, Falls Church, Alexandria, and more; MD: Cheltenham, Laurel, and more.

About: Wreaths Across America lays wreaths on graves at military cemeteries throughout the country, though they are best known for lying the wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. Their goal is to remember those who have given their lives, and it’s one of the more popular holiday volunteer opportunities in DC.

Volunteer: You can lay wreaths and help with set up on Saturday, December 16 at any of the cemeteries they support.

Social Impact Idea: This is a great one to do with a group. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and share with friends. Or, you can sponsor a wreath.

5. So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.)

Locations: Truxton Circle, DC; Arlington and Falls Church, VA

About: Since 1970, SOME has provided meals, housing, education and workforce development, healthcare, emergency & social services, and advocacy for DC residents. Their goal is to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through a comprehensive approach. SOME has some of the most popular holiday volunteer opportunities in DC, so grab a shift while you can.

Volunteer: You can volunteer with their Trot for Hunger 5K by helping to pass out the 5k packets to those who are participating in Arlington and Falls Church, or you can volunteer at their food warehouse in Truxton Circle.

Social Impact Idea: Join the Trot for Hunger 5K with your loved ones on Thanksgiving morning along Pennsylvania Avenue. There’s no pressure to run it (I’ve walked it in the past), and pets are encouraged. Or, you can put together holiday shoebox gifts of things like hats, gloves, and personal care items for the SOME clients by yourself or with friends.

6. Comfort Cases

Locations: Rockville, MD

About: When children enter foster care, most are given a trash bag to carry their belongings. Comfort Cases aims provide every child a sense of dignity by providing a special bag that they can call their very own, filled with a cozy new pair of pajamas, a brand new warm blanket, and a new stuffed animal to hug.

Volunteer: Volunteers help in a number of ways, including packing cases for youth entering foster care, sorting donations, and managing the front desk. Volunteer opportunities are weekdays.

Social Impact Idea: Hold a donation drive for new items to include in a comfort case.

7. Catholic Charities

Locations: Downtown and Mount Pleasant DC; Silver Spring, Landover, and southern Maryland

About: Catholic Charities serves anyone in need, regardless of social, economic or religious background. They provide access to lower-cost medical and dental care, food and nutrition assistance, counseling and housing assistance, and legal services.

Volunteer: You can help by serving meals, creating food bags, and distributing food.

Social Impact Idea: Collect extra metro fare cards from friends and family (especially those out of town relatives who have them lying around and no plans to use them any time soon) and drop them off at their headquarters near Metro Center.

8. Maryland Food Bank

Locations: Throughout Maryland, with available holiday season shifts closest to DC being just south of Baltimore

About: Since 1979, the Maryland Food Bank has sought to meet the immediate needs of food-insecure Marylanders while simultaneously working to find long-term ways to reduce hunger in the state. They have operations through the entire state, from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore.

Volunteer: You can pack holiday and emergency food boxes, pack meals for kids, hand out deliveries, and more. Most of their opportunities are during the week, but they do have some weekend volunteer opportunities.

Social Impact Idea: Start a food drive and ask friends and family to bring a non-perishable item to your holiday party.

Wrapping Up the Season of Giving

As the holiday season envelops Washington DC and its neighboring communities, the spirit of giving and volunteering shines brightly. This article has explored various organizations where your time, effort, and resources can make a significant impact, from Martha’s Table’s food distribution to the creative social impact ideas for DC Diaper Bank and Homes Not Borders. Each of the holiday volunteer opportunities in DC present a unique way to contribute to the well-being of our community and share the joy of the season with those in need.

A special thank you goes to the ladies of the Junior League of Washington (JLW) for their invaluable suggestions and insights into many of these volunteer opportunities. Their dedication to service and deep connection with the community have been instrumental in curating this list of impactful activities. If you are a woman in the Washington, DC area and looking for a longer term commitment for volunteering, I would recommend looking into joining JLW.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and welcome the new year, let’s embrace these opportunities to give back. Whether it’s through direct volunteering or innovative social impact ideas, every contribution counts. Let’s join hands to strengthen our community, spread love, and ensure that everyone can enjoy a season filled with hope, joy, and generosity. Happy Holidays!

Valerie Moore

Having lived in Washington, DC for the past 16 years, Valerie has a lot of thoughts about the best things to do, eat, and know around the city. She loves doing deep dives into the interesting things she finds, and sharing with the world. You'll often find her dog, Lil Mikey, along for the ride.

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