Giving — not getting — is the reason the holiday season’s heart beats. For families who want to serve rather than be served during this festive time of year, the Philadelphia area offers a number of great volunteer opportunities. These are the top holiday volunteer opportunities for the family in Philadelphia.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Child Life, Education and Creative Arts Therapy Department
34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 590-2001

Making a donation of new toys to the Child Life, Education and Creative Arts Therapy Department of CHOP can help bring smiles to ill and hospitalized children any time of year, but especially during the holidays. The department’s wish list includes everything from board books and busy boxes to scrapbooks and boom boxes. Arts and crafts supplies, as well as gift cards, are in high demand. Host a toy drive with the family or your kid’s school, then drop off your much-appreciated donations at the information desk in the main lobby.

Related: Rite Aid Donates Baby Care Kits to CHOP For 50th Anniversary

Hospitality Network of Northwest Philadelphia
7047 Germantown Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19119
(215) 247-4663

Interfaith Hospitality Network of Northwest Philadelphia provides a wealth of services to individuals and families of all faiths, all year round. Called the “shelter that’s more like a home,” NPIHN provides emergency shelter, transitional housing, food and other support services to families in crisis. A variety of volunteer opportunities are available at the shelter, particularly around the holidays, including preparing meals, serving meals, providing after-dinner companionship and activities, and staying as an overnight host. If your family prefers to stay behind the scenes, volunteers are needed to food shop, to drive families to the laundromat, to fund raise and to donate gently used furniture and electronic devices.

Church of the Holy Family
234 Hermitage St.
Philadelphia, PA 19127
215) 482-0450

Just one of the scores of Philadelphia Catholic churches in need of volunteers, Church of the Holy Family seeks helpers to run its annual Christmas Bazaar, which will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. on Nov. 30 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 1. Volunteers are needed to help sort, price, set out items and clean up for the event. If your family is not available on the dates of the bazaar, you can serve by donating new toys, sporting goods, wines, spirits and grocery items for the White Elephant sale. The parish also has a giving tree for volunteers to purchase a gift for the needy, and needs drivers to help drop off the gifts.

Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition

2323 Ranstead St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215) 496-2662

Each month, Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition prepares and delivers 70,000 healthy meals for those at severe nutritional risk and those suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Adults are always needed to pack delivery trucks and assist in the distribution of meals, but families may be a piece of the volunteer pie during the organization’s Pie in the Sky 2012 Thanksgiving fundraising event. Running through Nov. 16, MANNA hopes to raise more than $200,000 by selling cheesecakes and apple, pumpkin, pecan and sweet potato pies for $25. Your family may buy some sweet treats, or sign up as a selling team.

Related: MANNA Study Marks Milestone For Local Program

Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly
642 N. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 765-8118

You and your family will have no trouble finding a way to serve those in need at Little Brothers/Friends of the Elderly, a non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating isolation and loneliness among seniors, a problem that’s often exacerbated around the holiday season. The main aim is to make an elderly friend or two through weekly, monthly, birthday or holiday visits, when you can tell stories and provide companionship. Telephone visits, office support and soliciting gifts from merchants are additional ways to serve. Seniors especially appreciate visits with children, and the organization’s Thanksgiving Day Dinner provides an ideal way to serve by providing Thanksgiving Eve prep work and Thanksgiving Day driving, serving and cleanup errands. A security test is necessary, and then your family will be on its way to helping elderly friends all year round.

Susan DeFeo has been a professional writer since 1997. She served as a community events columnist for New Jersey’s “Cape May County Herald” for more than a decade. A writer for numerous online publications, Susan has covered health, fitness, beauty and travel, all subjects that are near and dear to her as a married mother of seven children. Her work can be found at