Ways to Help Those in Need this Holiday Season

Charitable organizations face a greater need this year; check out these volunteer opportunities and ways to donate funds

Photo: Motortion-Adobe

While some of us are contemplating smaller Thanksgiving dinner parties or wondering how Christmas or Hanukkah might look different this year, many people are wondering how they might even have a holiday meal at all. There are many ways to help those in need in our community—from volunteering to serve or deliver a meal to packing food boxes or donating money. And remember, volunteers and donations are needed year-round.

Open Arms of Minnesota

Open Arms of Minnesota is a nonprofit that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities. Every year, the organization celebrates Thanksgiving by providing a turkey meal to each client and their family. With a 35 percent increase in clients since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Minnesota, Open Arms has more clients than ever. Consider donating to their 2020 Turkey Drive. This year, $100,000 is needed to provide these Thanksgiving meals.

To help make these holiday deliveries possible, they also need a lot of volunteers. Here are the ways you can help.

The Salvation Army

This holiday season, The Salvation Army expects to see a greater need for its services than any in recent history. There are a number of ways you can help:

Serve a Meal
One way you can help is by serving a meal at The Salvation Army shelter in Minneapolis. Space is limited to just five to six volunteers per shift. All meal-serving volunteers must be at least 16 years old.

• Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) meal volunteer opportunities at Harbor Light Center are filled. If you would like to be added to a backup list, please call 651-746-3426.

Volunteers are needed for the upcoming Christmas holidays:
Christmas Eve at Harbor Light Center (Dec. 24)
Christmas Day at Harbor Light Center (Dec. 25)

Pack Food Boxes
Volunteers are needed to help assemble boxes filled with food and basic necessities for those in need. Staff will then distribute the boxes to incoming clients.

The Salvation Army Red Kettle

Photo: The Salvation Army

Red Kettle Campaign
The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign is a long-running fundraising effort that began in 1891 in San Francisco when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee set up a crab pot at Oakland Ferry Landing to collect money to feed 1,000 people on Christmas day. Captain McFee encouraged passersby to drop coins in the pot to help the poor, and the idea for the Red Kettles was born. Now the kettles are used worldwide.

But COVID-19 has not only created a bigger need to fill, it has also decreased the number of traditional red kettles on street corners and at store entrances. In fact, according to The Salvation Army, it could see up to a 50 percent decrease in red kettle funds this year due to a number of factors including higher unemployment rates, recent closures of some brick-and-mortar retail stores and consumers carrying less cash and fewer coins. Also, more online shopping means less foot traffic in shopping areas.

For the 2020 Red Kettle Campaign, The Salvation Army started its annual holiday fundraising campaign early. People can make a donation and also sign up for a sustaining monthly donation here.

Meals on Wheels

This organization brings meals to seniors who are at risk for hunger year-round, but they ramp up efforts around the holidays. What started as a compassionate idea by a small group of Philadelphia residents in 1954 has grown to currently helping nearly 2.4 million seniors annually in virtually every community in the country. You can volunteer to help support our senior neighbors to extend their independence and health as they age. Learn more here.

Great Nonprofits

To find more ways to help, check out GreatNonprofits to find local nonprofit organizations covering a wide range of needs. Volunteers and donors can use the site to search for ratings and reviews of nonprofits in their town.


Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.