Holiday Volunteer Opportunities in the Greater Pittsburgh Area

Pittsburgh in the winter


S4M/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. But if you want to give back, there are many more ways in which you can help out if you're in the Pittsburgh area from November through January.

Explore the following list of the best ways to help out and give thanks by giving back during the holiday season this year.

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Holiday Meals for the Homeless

Volunteers handing out holiday meals.

 Esther Havens

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.

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Salvation Army Red Kettles

  JPecha/Getty Images 

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 donations to help the needy. The Salvation Army raises most of its money through Red Kettle campaigns, and your help could go a long way toward making the holiday season a little brighter for thousands of families in your area.

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Treasures for Children

Volunteers sorting toys into boxes for Treasures for Children

 Salvation Army

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, and 25,000 of them are in Allegheny County.

Needy families apply for toy assistance at their local Salvation Army Worship and Service Center, and "Treasures for Children" gift tags are then made up for each registered child with their name, age, and gender and distributed to participating churches, businesses, and social organizations.

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Light of Life Ministries

Stacks of canned food for Light of Life's Meal Ministry

Light of Life Rescue Mission

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 the holidays.

Volunteers are needed to help greet guests, serve and clean up after the meal, and assist with deliveries. Don't forget that people need help every day, too, and breakfast and dinner are served Sunday through Saturday for the homeless and needy who visit the Light of Life. Volunteers must be age 12 or older, and 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 with your gifts, 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.

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Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

Volunteers sorting food in the Community Food Bank Warehouse

Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank could really use your help with sorting, inspecting, and 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 your area. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, download a volunteer packet or contact the volunteer coordinators.

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Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis

Group of girls dressed in Santa hats and holiday tutus ready for the charity run

Jingle Bell Run

Volunteer to participate in this fun-filled 5-K run/walk held in North Shore on Dec. 14, 2019. The family-oriented race includes participants in costumes, clowns, and Santa Claus, and even if running isn't your thing, volunteers are needed to help with office work and other positions as well.

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Toys For Tots

Group of volunteers in pile of toys that were donated to Toys for Tots

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 seeks 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 to 12-year-old age group. Follow the link to find contact information for a local coordinator near you.

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HSCC Holiday Toy Program

A group of children waiting for their turn to meet Santa

 Human Services Center Corporation

The Human Services Center Corporation works with more than 50 agencies and corporations throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania to make the holidays brighter for more than 5,000 children living throughout the Mon Valley region of Allegheny County.

Volunteers are 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 as all ages are welcome. Bring some joy to Pittsburgh area families this Christmas by donating gifts through one of these wonderful holiday gift programs.

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Presents for Patients

A volunteer dressed up as Mrs Claus delivers a present to a patient in their hospital bed.

 Presents for Patients

Since 1984, Presents for Patients has rallied gifts and visits for over 200,000 patients in hospitals and nursing facilities stretching from Erie, Pennsylvania to Morgantown, West Virginia.

Volunteers at Presents for Patients Headquarters will match you with the patient or facility you prefer, but if you express no preference, 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 for you.

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Community Human Services Holiday Gift Drive

More than 300 children and adults in the Pittsburgh area benefit from the annual Community Human Services Holiday Gift Drive where 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.

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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.

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East End Cooperative Ministry Christmas Gift Program

East End Cooperative Ministry
East End Cooperative Ministry 

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 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.

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Holiday Toy Drive Wrapping Project

Volunteer to wrap and tag presents for The Bradley Center toy drive gift-wrapping session, which will go to approximately 250 children and youth in the​ Bradley programs.​

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Other Volunteer Opportunities

Exterior of offices for Pittsburgh Cares

 Pittsburgh Cares

You can also give 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, meaning volunteering couldn't be any easier!

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