Holiday volunteering boosts self-value, disappoints year-round philanthropists

Claire Koswic, Senior Reporter

Charitable organizations often see an increase in the number of people wanting to volunteer around the holidays, but the demand for services is not confined to the month of December.

“We definitely see an increase in volunteering around the holidays,” Goldie Pyka, of the San Francisco Marin Food Bank, said. “People perceive that the need is more around the holidays, and so they feel inclined to give more.”

Although volunteering and donations to charitable organizations increase by about 30 percent during the month of December, according to Network for Good, an online philanthropic donations organization, not everyone agrees that philanthropic activity should be concentrated at just one time of year.

“I don’t really feel more inclined to volunteer around the holidays because I like spreading it out more throughout the year,” sophomore Ava Jones, a member of the Heart & Hands service club and National Charity League, said. “I mean, it’s great that people volunteer lots around Christmas, but people actually need help all year long.”

Volunteering year-round benefits not only those on the receiving end of the service, but can be physically beneficial to the volunteer, according to Harvard Medical School Health Publications. People who volunteer on a regular basis live longer and have lower blood pressure than those who do not.

“Right after the holidays and at the beginning of the school year are generally the hardest times to get volunteers,” Pyka said. “If some students got together a group of their friends and committed to helping out for a few hours once a month or so, many, many people would benefit.”

Volunteering consistently throughout all four years of high school makes it easier to attain the 100 required service hours for graduation, rather than completing all the hours within a few months.

“I do a lot of my hours during the summer, just because I’m free more often, but if I have a free day, I try to get out and do something,” Jones said. “My favorite place to volunteer is Brady Riding, an organization in Golden Gate Park that provides therapeutic horseback riding lessons to kids with disabilities. You get to be outside, and talk to these kids, who make you feel grateful for all that you have.”

Organizations such as the food bank also welcome monetary donations, which teens forget about or overlook, according to Pyka.

“You could give us a $2.50 jar of pasta sauce — which is great — but because we have such high buying power, if you gave us $2.50 in cash, we could provide about seven entire meals for people who need them,” Pyka said.

Simple Gifts, Students In Action and Heart & Hands student-run service clubs meet regularly, offer opportunities to volunteer in the community and participate in other service projects and events.

“Heart & Hands does a ton of outside school volunteer work,” Jones said. “It isn’t the service club that you join and then nothing ever happens.”