4 ways to volunteer virtually with The Salvation Army this holiday season

4 ways to volunteer virtually with The Salvation Army this holiday season

Get involved online with red kettle, Angel Tree, toy or food drives and holiday crafts.

“Volunteering makes the holidays magic,” said Adriana Thiele, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator for The Salvation Army Southern California Division/San Diego Regional Office. Whether done in person or virtually, volunteering can bless both those who receive The Salvation Army’s help and those who give their time. Lack of time or transportation need not be an issue for would-be volunteers—from young people to older adults—who can still volunteer remotely with The Salvation Army during the holiday season.

Without its volunteers, The Salvation Army would be hard pressed to keep its promise of doing the most good, especially during the holidays, when it pulls out the stops to help those in need experience the joy of the season. According to The Salvation Army USA National Headquarters, almost 3.3 million people volunteered with the organization in the last couple of years. In 2021, with the help of its volunteers, The Salvation Army in the United States assisted over 2.2 million people during the holidays.

“We know The Salvation Army is able to help people and families that are in need. And in order to serve the community, you need to involve the community in what you’re doing,” said Stacy Dertien, Director of Volunteers and Community Engagement for The Salvation Army Southern California Division/San Diego Regional Office. “Volunteering is a great way for people who want to make a difference to have a vessel to make change in the community. By partnering with The Salvation Army, they can influence what’s happening in their community in a way they wouldn’t be able to do on their own.”

Thiele realized the power of virtual volunteering during the pandemic when The Salvation Army’s local Echelon advisory group—composed of young professionals—successfully hosted online events for kids.

“We had a virtual camping event, online story times and various projects members could complete from home,” she said. “Now, as we enter the holiday season, we are again thinking about ways in which we can have our volunteers be active participants without the need to be physically present.”

For individuals who want to help others but can’t volunteer in person, Dertien and Thiele shared four remote volunteer opportunities anyone can do to help their community with The Salvation Army.

1. Sponsor an online Salvation Army red kettle

Just like the physical red kettles outside various businesses during the holidays, online red kettles raise money to support the work of The Salvation Army within that specific community. Remote volunteers can create their own online red kettle to share with friends and family, and on social media, to raise funds for their local area. The annual Red Kettle Campaign is The Salvation Army’s biggest fundraiser and is vital to the organization’s ongoing, year-round services. Across the United States, the 2021 Red Kettle campaign raised $109.3 million, part of the nearly $520 million total that also includes major gifts, online giving and response to mail appeals.

To get started doing the most good with an online red kettle, visit FundraiseForGood.org. Volunteers can work individually or as a team.

2. Shop for a child’s Christmas wish list through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program

The Salvation Army Angel Tree program provides Christmas gifts to thousands of children and seniors around the country. Local Salvation Army corps or service centers accept applications for the program annually during early autumn. Once registered, a participant’s wish list is shared with donors—the virtual volunteers—who purchase the gifts.

“Angel tree is a great opportunity to get involved and help families in need by buying gifts and essential home goods,” Thiele said. “Volunteers can call their local Salvation Army corps to receive an angel tree tag and instructions on where to drop off their gift.” The tag provides details on the child or senior along with their wish list.

“It’s so much fun and so rewarding to help make someone’s Christmas dream come true,” Thiele said.

3. Host a toy or food drive to help people in your community

“Hosting a toy or food drive is a great virtual opportunity for kids,” Thiele said. “Local Girl Scout troops have helped us by collecting back-to-school items and donating them for our large back-to-school drives. The holidays are also a great time to do this.”

A key first step is to contact the local Salvation Army to find out its specific needs. The group can then promote the drive online through social media and specify drop-off locations. When the drive is over, they can deliver the items to their local Salvation Army, or ask the corps to pick them up.

4. Create holiday cards for older adults and others who need Christmas cheer

Volunteers who enjoy arts and crafts can create holiday cards for the different groups The Salvation Army helps; local Army units can let volunteers know what specific groups they serve.

“Creating Christmas cards and helping deliver them to The Salvation Army’s Silvercrest senior communities is a great way to get into the holiday season and bring joy to a senior in your community,” Thiele said. “Many Salvation Army corps deliver meals to their adjacent Silvercrest facilities and can provide the residents with notes written by volunteers.” She noted that the cards and notes can also be distributed at Salvation Army community meals.

“I think they could also go to women and children living in our shelters,” Dertien said. “They could also go to men in our transitional living programs that need encouragement, or the individuals in our rehabilitation programs. Or really, anywhere people aren’t able to spend time with their families over the holidays. They really appreciate a card, just to know somebody is caring about them, even though they’re in a difficult time in their lives.”

The benefits of virtual volunteering

Remote volunteering opportunities give people the opportunity to go at their own pace, when it’s convenient for them. Unlike some in-person volunteering locations, parking will never be a problem, Thiele said. She added that remote volunteering is perfect for introverts, who might shy away from in-person options. It’s also great for people who now have more flexible work schedules that provide them with free time that once was spent commuting.

“But perhaps the underlying reward from involving people in volunteering is that they are personally impacted through their volunteer experience,” Dertien said. “They are partnering with The Salvation Army to do the most good in their community. And there are also a lot of benefits to the volunteers themselves, in terms of leadership opportunities and effecting change, and sometimes making new friends.”

Do Good:

  • Have you ever found yourself wanting to volunteer but unsure of what to do or how to go about it? Here’s the key: You can make an impact in the Fight for Good with whatever time and skills you have. Whatever your interest, there is a you-sized need for goodness in the world. Get the guide on How To Be An Impactful Volunteer with 9 habits to make a difference when giving back.
  • Do you enjoy inspiring stories of impact that build well-being for all? Want to know how to get involved in doing good right where you are? Interested in tools for taking your next best step, owning your story and stepping into your calling? Like reminders that God is good, faithful and offers you joy and peace? Get the Do Good Digest and find weekly inspiration right inside your inbox.
  • Discover how to be an impactful volunteer with Adriana Thiele from her episode of the Do Gooders Podcast.
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