As the holiday season approaches and the scent of spice fills the air, it’s time to remember the purpose for the celebrations and tummies full of mashed potatoes. November offers Columbia residents the opportunity to show gratitude and give back to those who need it. Volunteering for local organizations is a meaningful way to express appreciation and support the community. Often, busy schedules and other priorities get in the way of choosing a cause and following through with the time commitment. Inside Columbia makes it easy. Here is a list of 20 ways you can make a difference this month.
Volunteer at the food pantries
The Central Pantry and The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri use volunteers to distribute food and assist low-income Boone County residents at the pantries. The Central Pantry served 24,835,940 meals in 2017 and expects to surpass that number by year’s end. The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri serves food across 32 counties in the region and can turn $1 into $21 of groceries. To sign up, visit www.sharefoodbringhope.org/give-help.
Spend time with senior citizens
At Lenoir Woods Retirement Center, volunteers spend time with senior citizens. Throughout the year, more than 7,000 volunteers help seniors to live their best lives. Recent studies show that loneliness in seniors is linked to depression and long-term illness. Volunteers serve as companions to combat loneliness and its negative effects. To apply, visit www.lssliving.org/volunteer/opportunities/.
Lend a hand to nature at the Katy Trail State Park
Located on the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad, the Katy Trail welcomed 93,114 visitors in 2017. Since 1997, the park has expanded and uses more than 100 certified volunteers who work to maintain and protect the trail while educating visitors on the surrounding nature. The park also requests volunteers to help at the visitor centers and with special events. To apply, visit www.mostateparks.com.
Run in the 2019 Turkey Trax
Start your Thanksgiving off with 3.1 miles of gratitude. The reward? Knocking out an early workout, supporting a local charitable organization and … post-race cinnamon rolls! The Turkey Trax 5K has provided support for area charities for seven years. This year, the proceeds will go to the Central Missouri Red Cross, which has served those affected by disaster for more than 100 years. The race begins at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 22. To sign up, visit www.ultramaxsports.com.
Create a gift of art to The Columbia Art League
Columbia Art League members can submit work that would be a great gift for art-loving holiday shoppers. Purchasing the art directly supports the Columbia Art League and its member-artists in Columbia. The league is accepting entries on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9-10. The exhibition will take place on Friday, Nov. 16. For more information, visit www.columbiaartleague.org.
Volunteer at a Christmas tree lot
Each year, the Downtown Optimist Club sells real Christmas trees to show its commitment to youths through service. Since 1936, the club has raised more than $1,050,000 for local youth programs such as its annual junior golf tournament and bike safety programs. This time of year, volunteers are needed to lift trees and assist customers in choosing the perfect tree. To sign up, contact the club president at www.downtownoptimistclub.org.
Provide transportation for holiday shopping for the blind
Founded in 1940, The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri (NFBMO) works to promote the general welfare of the blind. Missouri was one of seven states that made up the National Federation of the Blind when it was created. Partnering with this organization will allow blind Columbia residents to easily and safely complete their holiday to-do lists. To volunteer, contact the chapter president at www.nfbmo.org.
Support youth theater with sewing or construction skills
Formed in 2003, the P.A.C.E Youth Theatre helps aspiring actors’ dreams come to life. This year, P.A.C.E expects to generate four to five main stage productions where students can participate onstage or as a member of the stage crew. The theater needs volunteers to help sew costumes, make crafts, paint and build sets for upcoming shows. To sign up, visit www.pacecolumbia.com.
Make cards or crafts to deliver to hospice patients
With six locations across Missouri, Preferred Hospice offers more than 50 years of combined experience to its patients. Preferred Hospice of Missouri asks for cards or crafts that will brighten a patient’s day. The cards can be delivered to Preferred Hospice and will be distributed to the patients. For more information, visit www.preferredhospice.com.
Help accomplish holiday wish lists for low-income families
In 1969, members of the community noticed a need for a central volunteer coordination agency, so they founded the Voluntary Action Center. In recent years, the Voluntary Action Center has organized a program each holiday season that provides food and gifts for roughly 4,000 people in Boone County. Volunteers are needed to work closely with clients to ensure the families receive the gifts they need. To volunteer, visit www.vacmo.org.
Bell ring for the Salvation Army
With more than 43,000 Boone County residents living in poverty, the Salvation Army works to meet the needs of all residents in every way possible. Bell ringers volunteer time to fundraise to provide low-income residents with what they need. There will be 27 red buckets located around Columbia until Christmas Eve. The Salvation Army needs about 190 people total to volunteer for each bucket over the course of the season. To sign up, visit www.rocktheredkettlecomo.org.
Foster a dog or cat
Founded in 1999, the Second Chance no-kill animal shelter is the largest animal shelter in mid-Missouri. In 2017, Second Chance rehoused 1,700 animals, which marked a 57 percent increase in adoptions from the previous year. Whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, the shelter has a variety of furry friends who are looking for homes. For more information, visit www.columbia2ndchance.org/.
Adopt-a-Lawn for people with disabilities, seniors & veterans
Services for Independent Living in Columbia assists individuals with disabilities and low-income senior citizens through a variety of programs, including courses and activities that promote care, community and adjusting to different life stages. The organization needs volunteers to help maintain the safety and accessibility of members’ homes. To volunteer, visit www.silcolumbia.org/volunteer/.
Help sort clothes donations
Helping nearly 8,000 people each year, The Wardrobe Thrift and Consignment store sells gently worn clothing at low prices for those in need. The store needs volunteers to help distribute and sell donated items. In addition to volunteering, pack up clothes that haven’t been worn recently and donate them to The Wardrobe when you arrive. To sign up, stop by the store and fill out a volunteer form.
Sponsor children in foster care
The Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association supports more than 640 foster families, more than 1,400 foster children and about 400 adopted children in central Missouri. The association is hosting its 10th annual gala to benefit foster children and families. Event sponsorships cover costs for an array of support programs. The gala will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. To be a sponsor, visit www.mofosteradopt.com/gala/.
Advocate for Alzheimer’s
More than 110,000 Missourians live with Alzheimer’s disease. When you submit a volunteer application with the Greater Missouri chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the organization will match your skills and interests with a position that best suits you. Volunteer opportunities range from bookkeeping to photographers. To volunteer, visit www.alz.org/greatermissouri/volunteer/.
Help people understand their health care benefits
The details of programs such as Medicare can be difficult to understand. Community Leaders Assisting the Insured of Missouri (CLAIM) trains volunteers to work as counselors to educate and inform people on the benefits of those programs. Currently, only 300 counselors are available to serve the needs of 1 million Missourians with Medicare. To become a counselor, visit www.missouriclaim.org/become-counselor/.
Teach work skills to young adults with autism
Studies show rates of unemployment of up to 60 percent in adults with autism. To offset these low employment rates, Encircle Technologies offers educational courses on topics ranging from Microsoft Excel to social skills at home, work and the community. Encircle seeks volunteers to teach technology classes or to assist with administration. For more information, visit www.encircletech.org/.
Help veterans visit memorials in Washington, D.C.
Without charge, Central Missouri Honor Flight provides veterans with transportation to Washington, D.C., to honor the sacrifices they made. Central Missouri Honor Flight will conduct its 56th flight on Monday, Nov. 5. Flight schedules for 2019 are yet to be determined. The organization calls for a wide range of volunteers to meet a variety of demands. To volunteer, visit centralmissourihonorflight.com/.
Provide a loving space for children
After school, kids come knocking at the door of Granny’s House, an organization that provides a place for kids to do their homework, eat snacks and spend time with nurturing volunteers. Children between the ages of 4 and 13 can enroll in the program. Granny’s House serves 40 to 60 children each day. Granny’s House is a multi-church organization. For more information, visit www.grannyshouse.org/how-you-can-volunteer/.