After a truly dire year, the 2020 festive season feels a bit strange. I won’t belabour the point, but I’m not the only one whose eagerness to sink a few tins and avoid sunburn will be shaded by the fact this year sucked.

Luckily, volunteering presents a way to exit the year on a positive note. Even with COVID-19 changing how some volunteer programs operate, there are still a stack of ways you can offer your time, expertise and chit-chat over the Christmas period.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of volunteering opportunities, but taking part might just make the end of 2020 a little better for your community – and for you, too.

The Smith Family Toy and Book Appeal

The annual Smith Family Toy & Book Appeal has kicked off for 2020, with the goal of securing goodies for disadvantaged kids across the nation.

A “limited suite” of volunteering gigs remain open, with The Smith Family seeking delivery drivers, gift sorters, and Workshop Elves to help ensure Aussie kids wake up to some sweet, sweet pressies on Christmas morning.

Heads up: COVID-19 has impacted the Toy & Book Appeal’s regular operations in Victoria, meaning direct volunteering is off the cards. However, you can still chuck a fundraiser so the appeal can cop some sweet Chrissy gift vouchers.

Check out The Smith Family Toy & Book Appeal volunteering opportunities in your state or territory here.

Uniting Food for Families

Uniting’s Food for Families appeal runs year-round, providing non-perishable supplies to those in need. It’s a big one, too: the charity says Food for Families received pledges for 73 tonnes of food last year alone.

“Participating in Food For Families means you can support the growing number of people reaching out to us for help this year in the wake of last summer’s devastating bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic,” Uniting says.

Beyond collecting and donating goods to the cause, you can enquire about volunteering opportunities here.

Ronald McDonald House Charities

Volunteering opportunities remain open at Ronald McDonald House Charities across the nation.

Primarily, these positions require a longer-term commitment, but if you’re eager to make life a bit easier for the families of kids undergoing major health challenges, check ’em out.

Heads up: once again, COVID-19 means some sites, such as Ronald McDonald House Monash, are not currently taking new volunteers. Check back in when the situation calms down, though.

Australian Red Cross Community Visitor Scheme and Telecross volunteering

Christmas can be lonely as hell. Luckily, organisations like the Australian Red Cross operate community visitor schemes, where members of the public – that’s you! – can regularly volunteer time to chit-chat with aged care home residents, or elderly folks who live alone.

This is especially important for folks whose first language may not be English. For example, Red Cross Australia is currently seeking Perth volunteers who are fluent in Italian, Gujarati, Polish or Vietnamese. Make new friends, form long-lasting bonds, flex on monolingual Australians like myself? What’s not to love.

Check out some of the Red Cross’ community visitor scheme openings here.

Can’t make in-person visits? Maybe you could consider becoming a Telecross volunteer, where you can reach out to socially isolated folks to see how they’re holding up. That’ll be especially important as temperatures continue to rise.

Australian Red Cross blood donations

Red is a Christmas colour. Consider donating some blood to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood this festive season.

Greyhound Adoption Program enrichment volunteering

Here’s a real nice one. The Greyhound Adoption Program seeks enrichment volunteers year-round, where ‘enrichment’ translates to ‘socialising and walking some of the nicest dogs you’ll ever meet.’

Cop the details for Victoria and New South Wales – and consider ringing up your nearest animal shelter to see if they need a hand, too.

Christmas gift wrapping

The classic.

There are more charitable organisations offering gift-wrapping this year than could possibly fit in one article, but if you’re keen to use your origami skills for a good cause, peep the Seek Volunteer listings.

Know of a charitable organisation that isn’t on this list? Give ’em a buzz anyway, just to see if they need a hand. You never know who could really benefit from your efforts, between lazy summer afternoons and leftover Chrissy feeds.

Image: Universal Pictures