Run or walk the Trot for a Turkey 5K on Thanksgiving to help provide holiday turkeys for families in need. Photo by Will Niccolls
Run or walk the Trot for a Turkey 5K on Thanksgiving to help provide holiday turkeys for families in need. Photo by Will Niccolls

12 Holiday Volunteer Opportunities Near DC for Families

The 2021 holiday season is nearly upon us! How can that be? This time of year can be stress inducing for anyone, with all the cooking, shopping, and other holiday tasks to be done. But for families that lack the resources to make the holidays special, it can be extra difficult. To help make the Christmas and holiday season brighter for some of these families, sign up for one of the many holiday volunteer opportunities available in the DC area.

There are volunteer opportunities to fit any interest and ability, whether it's donating toys, running in a race, buying pies, or shoveling snow. Some volunteer 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

Holiday Volunteer Opportunities in DC

The Trot for Hunger is the largest “Turkey Trot” in the DC area and the only one in the District. Photo courtesy of SOME

SOME’s 20th Annual Trot for Hunger 5K

For families who want to do something active as a way of helping, SOME’s (So Others Might Eat) 20th Annual Trot for Hunger 5K 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 9am. For little ones who want to participate, there is a fun Little Turkey one-Miler at 8:30am. Participants can take part in person or virtually. Proceeds help end homelessness and poverty in DC. The fun begins on Freedom Plaza Thanksgiving morning and includes live music and games for kids. 


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

Food & Friends

This organization delivers meals 365 days a year to more than 4,000 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 choose from apple crumble, sea salt chocolate chess, nutty pecan, and other flavors through Food & Friends' Slice of Life program to purchase a pie that 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 volunteer at Food & Friends to help with food preparation, food delivery, or pie distribution throughout the holiday season. You can register for shifts from November 8-25, 2021 (including Thanksgiving Day) or between December 8, 2021 and January 8, 2022.

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. A $50 donation provides a family of four with a holiday meal and the opportunity to spend the holiday season making memories. 

A Wider Circle's mission is to help end poverty. Photo courtesy of A Wider Circle

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 to be matched with a family) or buying toys from the organization’s Amazon wish list. A Wider Circle's goal is to provide 10,000 toys to kids living in DC public housing this Christmas.

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. 

Holiday Volunteer Opportunities in Northern Virginia


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 23rd 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. 

Gifts that Give Hope

This organization holds gift fairs where kids can shop and buy meaningful items for their loved ones that also help someone in need. The gift fairs support a variety of non-profit organizations including Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Arlington Food Assistance Center, Comfort Cases, and many others. Due the ongoing pandemic, the gift shopping will be virtual this year. But families can download a Kindness Calendar for acts of kindness to do through November and December. Then shop the online Gifts that Give Hope Fair on December 1 (Giving Tuesday).  

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

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.

Holiday Volunteer Opportunities in Maryland

Trot for a Turkey at Watkins Regional Park

Enjoy a walk through the dazzling Festival of Lights and help families at the same time. Your registration fee will provide a family in need with a holiday turkey. Register to walk or run the nearly three-mile course and see the beautiful light displays up close. The walk takes place on Saturday, November 20, 2021 at 6pm. The registration fee is $30 per person. 

Families can help serve Thanksgiving meals with Shepherd's Table. Photo courtesy of Shepherd’s Table, Facebook

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. 

City of Rockville Snow Shoveling

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

Join the City of Rockville’s volunteer list to shovel on a snow day! Your family can put your energy and shovels to good use by being paired with a Rockville neighbor in need near you to clear out a driveway and/or walkway. 

City of Rockville Holiday Drive

For over 45 years, the City of Rockville has operated an annual Holiday Drive to distribute food and toys to needy Rockville families. Due the ongoing pandemic, volunteers are not needed this year, but gift card donations are greatly appreciated. Visit the city's website for more information on how to donate.

For other volunteer opportunities in Maryland, check out Montgomery County’s volunteering page.

Lighting of the Menorah at District Wharf
District Wharf - 5:00 PM Pick
Holiday Road
Morven Park - 5:00 PM Pick
Holiday Inn Dulles - 5:00 PM Pick
Hanukkah on Ice
Pentagon Row - 6:00 PM Pick
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides