14 Holiday Volunteering Opportunities for Kids and Families Near DC

Kids of all ages can participate in Wreaths Across America. Photo by Jennifer Marino Walters
Kids of all ages can participate in Wreaths Across America. Photo by Jennifer Marino Walters

The holiday season can be stress-inducing for anyone, with all the cooking, shopping, and other holiday tasks. But for families that lack the resources to make the holidays special, it can be extra difficult. Sign up for one of the many holiday volunteering opportunities available in the DC area to help make Christmas and the holidays brighter for some of these families.

There are volunteering opportunities to fit any interest and ability, whether it's donating toys, running in a race, buying pies, or shoveling snow. Some volunteering opportunities are only open to ages 13 or 14 and above, so be sure to check the organizations' websites for any age requirements. You can also check out our list of more organizations that provide free Christmas and holiday toys to kids.

Here are 14 holiday volunteering opportunities for kids and families in 2022.

America's Trot for Hunger
Trot for Hunger is the the only turkey trot in the city of DC. Photo courtesy of SOME

Holiday Volunteering Opportunities in DC

1. America's Trot for Hunger

For families who want to do something active as a way of helping, the annual Trot for Hunger 5K presented by SOME (So Others Might Eat) takes place on Thanksgiving morning. It’s the largest Turkey Trot in the DC area and the only one in the District. The 5K starts at 9:40am. For little ones who want to participate, there is a fun Little Turkey one-miler at 9:15am. Participants can take part in person or virtually. Proceeds help end homelessness and poverty in DC. The fun begins on Freedom Plaza at 8am and includes live music and games for kids.

2. Bread for the City

Sponsor a family this holiday season with Bread for the City, an organization focused on helping low-income DC residents by providing food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services. This year each sponsored family will receive a $50 debit card and a turkey with holiday sides for four.

RELATED: 50 Thanksgiving Crafts, Games, and Activities for Kids and Families

Food & Friends
Help prepare and deliver Thanksgiving meals to families in need with Food & Friends. Photo courtesy of Food & Friends

2. Food & Friends

This organization delivers meals 365 days a year to thousands of adults and children in the DC region facing AIDS/HIV, cancer, and other serious illnesses. It offers a number of ways to get involved during the holidays. If your family loves pie (and who doesn’t?), you can purchase apple crumble, pumpkin, nutty pecan, and other types of pie through Food & Friends' Slice of Life program, which directly benefits the organization's meal recipients. One pie provides one full day of meals delivered to a neighbor in need. Families with kids 14 and over can also volunteer at Food & Friends to help with food preparation, food delivery, or pie distribution throughout the holiday season.

4. A Wider Circle

This organization’s mission is to end poverty through stabilizing home life, revitalizing neighborhoods, and developing people for the workforce. You can help by adopting a family this holiday season (email holiday@awidercircle.org to be matched with a family) or buying toys from the organization’s Amazon wish list. to be donated to kids living in DC public housing.

5. Thrive DC

Thrive DC works to prevent homelessness in the District, serving over 250 people per day and more than 153,000 meals per year. The organization always needs donations of toiletries, menstruation products, and backpacks; as well as winter coats, scarves, hats, and gloves in November and December. Visit Thrive DC's website for more information about what and how to donate. You can also purchase items directly from Thrive DC's Amazon wish list.

RELATED: Visiting Arlington National Cemetery with Kids

Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery 
​Laying wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery is a powerful experience for the whole family. Photo by Jennifer Marino Walters

Holiday Volunteering Opportunities in Northern Virginia

6. Wreaths Across America

Each year, people of all ages are invited to place wreaths at the graves of American heroes buried at Arlington National Cemetery (and over 3,400 additional locations across the US). This year's event takes place on December 17, 2022. Visit the website for details on how to volunteer and where to meet.

7. Britepaths

Britepaths helps families in Fairfax County that struggle with financial hardship by giving them the tools they need to become self-sufficient. This is the organization's 24th year of helping Fairfax families get through the holidays. You can donate gift cards or money to help 500 families in need that have been identified through Fairfax County Public Schools. A donation of $100 will provide meals for families and $50 will provide toys for kids.

Volunteer Fairfax 
Volunteer Fairfax shares many opportunities for families to give back. Photo courtesy of volunteerfairfax.org

8. Volunteer Fairfax

For simple ideas on how to help anyone from neighbors to four-legged friends, download Volunteer Fairfax’s Holiday Guide of Ten Weeks of Service. Or, visit the organization's website to learn about more holiday volunteer opportunities in the area.

9. Northern Virginia Family Service

Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) helps more than 35,000 Northern Virginia residents each year by providing services in early childhood development, mental health, foster care and adoption, and more. Volunteers ages 16 and up can help out this holiday season by purchasing, preparing, and serving food at NVFS's family shelter in Manassas. Volunteers are also needed to sort through donations, arrange displays, and perform other tasks at NVFS's Falls Church thrift store. The organization also needs donations of holiday stockings and stocking stuffers, board books, and air mattresses.

Shepherd's Table
Help serve Thanksgiving meals with Shepherd's Table. Photo courtesy of Shepherd’s Table, Facebook

Holiday Volunteering Opportunities in Maryland

10. Shepherd’s Table

Shepherd’s Table in Silver Spring is a non-profit, all-volunteer, grassroots organization for the homeless. It needs volunteers this holiday season to serve meals or donate needed items. Kids ages 13 and up can volunteer with an adult, while those 16 and up can volunteer alone. Register to volunteer on the organization's website, or check out Shepherd's Table's Amazon wish list for ideas on what to donate.

11. City of Rockville Holiday Drive

For nearly 50 years, the City of Rockville has operated an annual Holiday Drive to distribute food and toys to needy Rockville families. Donations of money, gift cards, canned food, toys, and books are greatly appreciated. The city also needs volunteers on December 17, 2022 to sort food, pack food boxes, make deliveries, help families, pick toys, and wrap gifts. Visit the city's website for more information on how to donate and volunteer.

Shoveling snow
Join the City of Rockville’s volunteer list to shovel snow for neighbors. Photo courtesy of thezebra.org

12. City of Rockville Snow Shoveling

Not all volunteering opportunities have to be formal projects. Put your family's energy and shovels to good use by joining the City of Rockville’s volunteer list to shovel snow for a Rockville neighbor in need. 

13. The Salvation Army Angel Tree Program

Families can pick out and purchase toys and holiday gifts for Prince George's County and DC kids in need through the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program, then ship or deliver them to the warehouse in Hyattsville by December 3, 2022. Register online to sponsor one or more children. You can also sign up to sponsor a child in Prince William County or in Northern Virginia.

14. Happy Helpers for the Homeless

This organization provides food, toiletries, and clothing to families in need in Glen Burnie and Baltimore City. Families can help out in a variety of ways this holiday season and all year long. Every Saturday, volunteers can prepare sandwiches for families and food baskets for teenagers facing homelessness, and help distribute these items on Saturdays and Sundays. They can collect needed items or participate in other special projects. And on December 10, 2022, they can help distribute new toys, blankets, and food to families in need at the organization's annual Christmas party.

Additional reporting by Jennifer Marino Walters

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