One of the hallmarks of the holiday season is the many ways that you and your family can volunteer for worthy causes that are close to your heart.
Unfortunately, another unforeseen consequence of 2020 is that COVID has caused several opportunities for what I would call “boots-on-the-ground” volunteer opportunities, to all but dwindle into oblivion. Right now, it’s just not possible to have dozens of people sorting food or supplies and gathering to put on holiday celebrations, or going to visit the sick or elderly.
However, there are still many organizations that are doing incredible work to serve those in need in our community that still need our support, perhaps even more than ever. While we may not be able to be physically present to lend a hand, spreading awareness and encouraging financial support, is the next best step we can take right now.
We have rounded up some amazing organizations that specifically serve families and children right here in the East Valley that could use some help this holiday season.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central and Northern Arizona
What they do: Though the RMHC is a global organization, our local chapter operates three Houses here in the Valley (2 in Phoenix and one in Mesa) with 78 rooms available on any given night. When families have to travel to the Phoenix metro for treatment for their critically ill or injured child, RMHCCNAZ provides them with a “home-away-from-home” for however long they need, at no cost, with all the comforts of home provided. Last year, they were proud to serve 1,454 families, providing 22,379 nights of rest. Learn more HERE.
How you can help: There a multiple ways to support RMHCCNAZ.
- Holiday Wishlist Donations: Each Holiday season, RMHCCNAZ hosts “Santa’s Workshop” for families staying at the House, where families can pick out gifts for each of their children, and the children can find a gift for mom and dad. Help make this event merry and bright by donating new and unwrapped gifts for all ages, from newborn to adults, by Friday, December 4th.
- Household Wishlist Donations: Help fill our pantry and keep rooms cozy by collecting household items from our Amazon Wishlist
- Send a Smile: Send joy and positivity to families in need by creating homemade art with your own family! Draw, craft or paint artwork of what “home” and “togetherness” mean to you, make cards, or send words of encouragement virtually to [email protected].
- Provide a Warm Meal: Become a Dinnertime Hero when arranging a warm meal to be delivered to families, or by donating to the meal program
- Provide a Night of Rest: While no family ever pays to stay, it costs RMHCCNAZ $107/night to House one family. Provide a night of rest by donating HERE
Child Crisis Arizona
What they do: Child Crisis Arizona’s mission is to provide children and youth in Arizona a safe environment, free from abuse and neglect, by creating strong and successful families. They do this through prevention, intervention and education programs designed to support the thousands of children and families who may be at risk. Their work centers on a vision of safe kids and strong families. CCA provides many services such as an emergency children’s shelters and boys group home; foster care and adoption services; Early Head Start and Preschool Program in both Phoenix and Mesa; individual, family, and child counseling; over 300 different parenting classes, workshops, and support groups; and Safe Kids Maricopa County which educates families about injury prevention and safe practices. Learn more HERE.
How you can help: Child Crisis Arizona is focused on collecting gift cards for the holidays this year as this gives them the most flexibility to provide gifts to children in our foster care, shelter and early education programs. They are not able to accept any used items, but you can also select items to donate and send off of their Amazon Wish List. To coordinate a gift card drop off, please contact Atasha Hill at [email protected]
Make a Wish Arizona
What they do: Make a Wish Arizona grants wish experiences to children between the ages of 2.5 – 18 years battling critical illnesses. Founded and established in Phoenix where the first Wish was ever granted, they operate on the firm belief that a wish can be a game-changer for a child and their family by providing strength, hope, transformation, and community in the face of the harsh realities of their illness. About 21% of Make A Wish Arizona kids come from the East Valley communities. Learn more HERE.
How you can help: You can help make future wishes come true for Arizona kids by creating a personal Wish Your Way fundraising page. Learn more HERE
Southwest Human Development
What they do: Southwest Human Development is Arizona’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to early childhood development and has over 40 programs that annually serves 140,000 children, families, and professionals in the areas of child development and mental health, Easterseals disabilities services, early literacy, Head Start/Early Head Start, family support and child welfare, and professional development and training. Learn more HERE.
How you can help: SWHD holds an annual Gingerbread Kids Holiday Gift Drive to provide gifts for almost 1000 children in 11 of their various programs. Shop gifts for children in need contact free HERE.
Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers
What they do: Founded in Phoenix, Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers offers all youth ages 12-20 free music, dance, and art lessons, programs, and opportunities to help meet the spiritual, economical, physical, and social needs of teenagers in our community. Learn more HERE.
How you can help: Alice Cooper’s and Los Sombreros, a beloved Mexican restaurant with three locations in the East Valley, have partnered up together as they have both recently launched brand new Mesa locations. Starting October 1, $2 of every order of “Solid Rock Enchiladas” and $5 of every order of “Welcome to My Enchilada Family Night Meal” at Los Sombreros will be donated to Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers. Browse Los Sombreros menu and locations HERE.
While COVID may be keeping most volunteer opportunities small or completely virtual this year, there are some organizations, like the United Food Bank, that are still taking in-person volunteers to help during the holiday season.
The United Food Bank
Per it’s website, “United Food has been providing hunger relief to people in need in the East Valley and eastern Arizona for more than 35 years. As a Feeding America member food bank, we collect, acquire, store and distribute food and related commodities to more than 220 partner agencies, serving over 228,000 people in five counties. In 2019, United Food Bank distributed almost 24 million pounds of food providing nearly 19.5 million meals to our neighbors in need. In response to the economic impact of COVID-19, the food bank projects it will distribute nearly 29 million pounds of food (24 million meals) this year.” Learn more HERE.
Aside from participating in or hosting your own food drive volunteers can work at the United Food Bank sites to sort and box food donations, assemble emergency food bags, and assist at food distribution events.
Children aged 5-15 can assemble emergency food bags and sort food when accompanied by an adult; children aged 16-17 can participate with a signed waiver; must be 18 or older to assist at food distribution events.
Their website provides a calendar of all volunteer dates and times for the rest of the year.
- Food distribution events appear to be two Fridays per month from 6:30am – 11:30am/12:30pm
- Emergency food bag assembly is several weekday mornings a month from 9am-11am or some weekday evenings from 6pm-8pm
The two volunteer sites are at the Mesa Convention Center on University Dr and Center Street, and their United Food Bank facility on Mesa Drive and Baseline Rd (by the Maricopa County Superior Court SEF).
REGISTER TO VOLUNTEER HERE.
Free Cookies for Toys at Crumbl
Now through December 17th, donate a new toy or gift card ($10+ value), to receive a free chocolate chip or sugar cookie with every donation (one cookie per person per donation). The toys and gift cards collected will support Harvest Compassion Center and New Pathways for Youth.
The holiday toy drive is only being held at select Crumbl locations including Signal Butte, Queen Creek and Red Mountain Mesa locations.