Holiday Volunteer Opportunities in the Greater Pittsburgh Area

Giving Thanks By Giving Back to the Community

Salvation Army
••• Jon Hicks / Getty Images

The volunteer spirit in Pittsburgh around the holidays is beautiful to behold. Volunteer positions to help set up, serve and clean the holiday meal at area missions and shelters on Thanksgiving Day actually fill up by early October. There are many other days in the holiday season, however, and many more ways in which you can assist those who need a little helping hand.

Holiday Meals for the Homeless

The Social Services Department of the Salvation Army of Western Pennsylvania needs volunteers to help with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners sponsored by local hotels for needy individuals and the homeless in the days before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas (none are actually served on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day).

The Salvation Army also sponsors four county-wide dinners and also individual community dinners at the Worship and Service Centers. Visit the website to sign up online as a volunteer or learn more.

Salvation Army Red Kettles

Only have an hour or two to volunteer? The Salvation Army of Western Pennsylvania is constantly in need of bell ringers to stand outside local merchants and ring the bell for donation to help the needy. The Salvation Army raises most of its money through Christmas Kettles and your help could go a long way toward making the holiday season a little brighter for thousands of families in your area.

Light of Life Ministries

Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Good Friday meals are served at the Mission, and volunteers also deliver hot meals to over a dozen local senior citizen and low-income high-rises on Thanksgiving Day. Volunteers are needed to help greet guests, serve and clean up after the meal, and assist with deliveries.

Thanksgiving volunteer positions fill up very quickly. Call in September or early October to help on Thanksgiving Day. Don't forget that people need help every day, however! Breakfast and dinner are served Sunday through Saturday for the homeless and needy at Light of Life. Volunteers must be age 12 or older.

Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Volunteer online to help with Light of Life meal ministry.

Light of Life Ministries also works hard to turn what is often the loneliest time of the year for the homeless of Pittsburgh into a happy holiday. You can help them help the needy with your gifts. Choose a gift tag (or several) with a special wish list for an individual, or contribute in the form of gift cards or cash. They are also in need of Christmas wrapping paper and large gift bags. They ask that you don't wrap the gifts so that they can match the appropriate gift and size with each person on their list.

Treasures for Children

Formerly known as the Angel Tree program, the Salvation Army of Western Pennsylvania's Treasures for Children program provides toys for more than 65,000 children, over 25,000 of them in Allegheny County. Needy families apply for toy assistance at their local Salvation Army Worship and Service Center. "Treasures for Children" gift tags are then made up for each registered child with their name, age and gender and are distributed to participating churches, businesses and social organizations. Donors select a tag and purchase a toy for the child. These gifts are collected unwrapped to ensure appropriateness and safety and are then distributed by the Salvation Army to the children of Western Pennsylvania.

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

It may not sound glamorous, but the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank could really use your help with sorting, inspecting & boxing food donations, especially food salvaged from Giant Eagle grocery stores. You can also help out at any of their 350 agencies - food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters - through which food is distributed to the most vulnerable people in our area. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, download a volunteer packet or contact the volunteer coordinators.

Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis

Volunteer to participate in this fun filled 5k run/walk held in North Park on Saturday, December, 2008. Over 700 participants are expected to join in the spirit of the holidays and run/walk for those who cannot. The family oriented race includes participants in costumes, clowns, and Santa Claus.

Even if running isn't your thing, volunteers are needed to help with office work and other positions!

Toys for Tots

Would you like to be one of Santa's Elves this Christmas? Then join Toys for Tots and help distribute toys to thousands of needy children. The U.S. Marine Corps seek volunteer Santa Elves to help distribute toys to parents of children at the several distribution sites across Western Pennsylvania.

Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped toys in collection boxes positioned at local businesses to provide Christmas presents for needy children. The Pittsburgh area campaign, run by only nine active-duty Marines, annually distributes over 300,000 toys to over 50,000 children in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Toy donations are collected through December 24, and there is a special need for toys for the 10-12 age group. Follow the link to find contact information for a local coordinator near you.

HSCC Holiday Toy Program

The Human Services Center Corporation works with over 50 agencies and corporations throughout Southwestern PA to make the holidays brighter for over 5,000 children living throughout the Mon Valley region of Allegheny County. Volunteers needed to donate gifts and conduct "Angel Trees" in their respective offices, as well as help collecting, sorting, and picking up toys. This is a great opportunity for a group community service project. All ages are welcome.

Bring some joy to Pittsburgh area families this Christmas by donating gifts through one of these wonderful holiday gift programs.

Presents for Patients

Since 1984, Presents for Patients has rallied gifts and visits for almost 200,000 patients in hospitals and nursing facilities stretching from Erie, PA to Morgantown, WV. Volunteers at Presents for Patients Headquarters will match you with the patient or facility you prefer. If you express no preference, then you will be matched with the nearest unmatched patient or facility. Once you buy your gift, you then get to personally deliver the present to your patient! If you would like to participate, but are just too busy, you can choose to contribute money instead, in which case a Presents for Patients volunteer will buy, wrap and deliver your gift to the patient.

Community Human Services Holiday Gift Drive

More than 300 children and adults in the Pittsburgh area benefit from this annual holiday gift drive. CHS seeks donations of gift cards, presents and cash contributions and provides many opportunities for individuals, families and groups to become involved, including everything from contributing a food basket or adopting a family or individual.

Goodfellows Toy Fund

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Goodfellows Holiday Toy Fund was founded in 1947 for one simple purpose - to make sure every child receives a toy for the holidays. They accept monetary donations only, which support the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program (described above). What's especially neat about this toy fund drive are the personal stories of the families shared in the Post-Gazette between Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with the published lists of individuals and groups who have donated to Goodfellows.

Holiday Menorah Mitzvah

Help the Jewish Community Center of South Hills make a child’s holiday brighter, happier and more hopeful by donating an age-appropriate new and unwrapped gift and placing it in the designated box in our lobby. Gifts will be accepted through November 30 and will be taken to The Squirrel Hill Food Pantry (a program of Jewish Family & Children’s Services) on December 1 in time for Chanukah distribution. Suggested Gift Items: Toys, Clothing, Books, Dolls, Art Supplies, Small Electronics, Rattles. For more information: Ann Haalman, (412) 278-1975, ext. 204.

Gifts for Children of Incarcerated Parents

Lydia's Place in the uptown section of Pittsburgh needs volunteers to donate toys and gifts for the children of incarcerated parent(s)this season. For gift list, contact Jean Harvey at 412-391-1013.

Cooperative East End Ministry Christmas Gift Program

Each year, East End Cooperative Ministry collects and distributes gifts for more than 700 EECM clients and their families – but they can’t do it alone! Individuals, groups, and congregations are invited to provide gifts for an individual or family and/or volunteer to help with sorting and distributing gifts. EECM also runs a year-round Gift of Hope program in which you can make a donation to help feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and support the youth in honor of someone special.

HSCC Holiday Toy Program

The Human Services Center Corporation works with over 50 agencies and corporations throughout Southwestern PA to make the holidays brighter for over 5,000 children living throughout the Mon Valley region of Allegheny County. Volunteers needed to donate gifts and conduct "Angel Trees" in their respective offices. Tax-deductible contributions to the Holiday Toy Program can be made payable to HSCC Holiday Toy Program and mailed to 519 Penn Avenue, Turtle Creek, PA 15145.

Holiday Toy Drive Wrapping Project

Volunteer to wrap and tag presents for the Bradley toy drive at one of several gift wrapping sessions. These gifts will go to the approximately 250 children and youth in Bradley programs.

Station Square Holiday Gift Wrap for SIDS

SIDs of PA/Cribs for Kids is looking for holiday volunteers to take 4 or 8 hour shifts at its Station Square gift wrapping table. Training will be provided. There is no cost to the customer, but donations are accepted.

You can also give of your time, talent and treasure in many other ways in the Pittsburgh area. Pittsburgh Cares, an organization which offers a "user friendly" approach to volunteering, works with a variety of nonprofit organizations and community groups to offer interesting and rewarding volunteer projects. These projects are available in areas such as helping children, providing companionship to senior citizens, improving the environment, providing respite for the homebound and hospitalized, working with people with disabilities, building civic pride, feeding the hungry, painting and building houses and caring for animals. This wonderful group helps to extend the holiday spirit of giving into every day of the year in Pittsburgh. Volunteering couldn't be any easier!