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Volunteer Your Way through Holiday Breaks

The time has come for Thanksgiving and Christmas Break when students retreat back to their hometowns to relax and celebrate with their family and friends. I imagine myself sitting at home with a book, re-watching television series, or catching up on some pinning. At some point, that has to get old. Luckily, Bloomington and every town has its own set of unique organizations that could always benefit from volunteers.

A recent study, “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment,” by the Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS) found volunteers to have a 27% higher likelihood of finding work compared to non-volunteers. Not only does volunteering give you instant gratification, it will help you be productive over an “unproductive” period of time.


To help you find the perfect way to channel your energy this break, I have concocted a list of volunteer options catered to different personality types.

Kid Lover

Toys for Tots: Help the U.S. Marines Corps Reserve collect toys for children from low-income families!13

  • Find drop off boxes here.
  • Not a drop box near you? Ask a local business around you to have one!

Book Drive: Give the gift of knowledge by donating old books to book drives.

  • Barnes & Noble is holding a holiday book drive; find your local B&N here.

Answer Letters to Santa: The USPS offers this fun opportunity for low-income children to write a letter to Santa with their Christmas list. Become an elf and make their wishes come true by purchasing items from that list and dropping it off at the post office. The return address will even say “Operation Santa, North Pole!”

  • Find Operating Santa participating post offices here.

Avid Shopper

14Shop an Organization’s Wish List: Instead of doing a gift exchange among friends or coworkers, shop for an organization’s wish list! You can find many organizations’ wish list located on their website.

  • If you’re staying in Bloomington for the holidays, the Bloomington Volunteer Network compiled a list of wish lists from all the local organizations.

Adopt-a-Family: Many organizations like the Boys and Girls Club have programs where you can “adopt” a family which means you would help them shop for items on their Christmas list.

Donate Clothes: Have a lot of old clothes in your closet? Suggest that your family have a “winter cleaning” and take the clothes to a women’s shelter or a homeless shelter!

Future Doctor15

Host a Blood Drive: The American Red Cross is always in need of blood, especially during the winter. You can either personally donate blood or host your own blood drive where you work!

Community Clinics: Volunteering at community clinics will help exposing you to the healthcare field and you can relieve the staff with your help! Contact your local clinics and provide your assistance.

  • If you’re staying in Bloomington for the holidays, volunteer at Volunteers in Medicine!

Hospitals: Hospitals provide many options for volunteers. You can work at the gift shop, do administrative work, or greet/assist families and patients.


16Bake some holiday treats for local non-profits: Surprise the workers of your favorite nonprofit with Christmas cookies and other festive goodies! These individuals are serving the community 24/7 so take a chance to serve them.

Meals on Wheels: Prepare and deliver nutritious meals to the elderly! These seniors depend on volunteers from Meals on Wheels daily. Volunteer to help ensure their food security!

  • Find a location around you here.

Emergency Food Programs: Food security is a priority for families during the holidays. Help stock the shelves at your local food pantries, serve individuals at the soup kitchen, or help sort food at food banks.

Health Buff17

Local Races: Your hometown most likely has some 5K running events in December with New Year’s resolutions right around the corner. Grab a group of friends to help set up, hand out water bottles, and record times. Most of these races rely solely on volunteers!

YMCA: Spread your love for fitness onto children and adults! Coach teams and motivate them to live healthy lives.

  • Find out more information here.
  • Interested in promoting healthy lifestyles? Join IU’s new student group, Health NOW! Check out their Facebook page.

18Habitat for Humanity: Test your strength and endurance while you help build homes for low-income families. Your effort is needed especially with these recent harsh winters.

  • Volunteer options are available for: local, youth, veterans, and women.


Although volunteering is an excellent way to help out your community during times off from school, these organizations need your help throughout the whole year. After you select your volunteer opportunity, remain in contact with that organization and make it habitual. This will demonstrate your passion and dependence!


Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetShannen Keene is a junior from Ellettsville, IN pursuing a degree in Community Health. Bloomington has taught her the value of diversity, culture, and good food. After graduation, she hopes to work for a nonprofit organization in Nashville, TN. Until then, her days will be filled with ice cream and watching Scandal.


Categories: Career Advice

Tagged as:

IUSPH Career Services

Job opportunities for Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington majors are diverse and expanding as the emphasis on living a healthy lifestyle grows around the world. Career Services experts in each of our academic departments will provide one-on-one counseling and career building opportunities throughout your academic career, from choosing the right major to developing a strategy to find a job. They can assist you with:

•career counseling
•job placement
•volunteer opportunities
•resume and cover letter preparation
•interview skills
•graduate school preparation

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