Seasonal Serving

Many+people+are+only+willing+to+serve+during+December

Dylan Brehm

Many people are only willing to serve during December

Dylan Brehm, Op-ed

The holiday season, known by many people as “The Season of Giving” is considered the perfect time to volunteer, but is it? I believe it is better to be more consistent in your volunteerism. Volunteering year-round and with different organizations is truly best for the community.

Although many of you reading this are blessed by the fact you have a computer or phone at your convenience, there are many other people in our various communities who are not as fortunate and do not have access to these luxuries. If they do, it is at the cost of having to sacrifice other basic necessities. During these fun holiday seasons, the gifts or memories we celebrate may inspire us to volunteer in our communities. This is the case for an increasing amount of Americans, however, it has been a concern for some that volunteerism during the holidays makes it less valuable.

In reality, any help is worth something, especially during the holiday season. According to Five Thirty-Eight (2014), 5.75% of adults volunteer on average throughout the non-holiday season (Jan. – Oct.), while 8% of adults volunteer during the holiday season (Nov. – Dec.). The increase may seem slight, but it shows that many people are only willing to volunteer during the last two months of the year.

The reason that only volunteering during the holiday season can be harmful is that it may only be reaching a select group of people. For example, during the winter season, there are more outreach programs to the homeless population, as it should be, because of the cold and harsh weather. During the summer months, there is more of an emphasis on children and parents in low-income households that can not always afford food without school lunches or the “free childcare” that schools can provide for younger students. These changes in opportunity depending on the season are an important thing to consider when volunteering.

If everyone volunteers during the winter and only a few volunteer during the summer, then although the homeless population is greatly helped, the low-income families that make up our community are under-served.

As for Mountainside, there seems to be no lack of opportunities for those who wish to serve, but most of these opportunities for the outside community happen during the winter. I understand the school is limited during the summer as students and staff make plans, but I think a “beginning of the year supply drive” or an “end of year unused supply collection” would be very useful. This way we could help students that are less fortunate while also making the summer months less financially stressful for them.

When it’s time for choosing a place to serve, using discretion as to the time of year as well as the organization is vital. Serving with different organizations will give you a better perspective of the issues and problems that you can help out within your neighborhood. Also, you can meet a more diverse set of people that are also volunteering or are receiving the service.

Along with this, you may find something you are passionate about. Later, as we age and mature, you may remember one of your experiences serving the community and cling to that as something you want to pursue. This could be a career, hobby, or simply more volunteering, but it would be a shame if you missed out on one of those chances because you only volunteered during the winter months or holiday season.

Another way to serve is simply by getting to know your neighbors and having good relationships. According to the National Service Agency, 63% of Americans serve by helping a neighbor with tasks. These are important interactions that build a community of helpfulness and will likely return to help you.

All in all, although the holiday season provides many opportunities, volunteerism should always be valued equally year around, no matter the season. The best time to volunteer truly depends on the service. For the homeless, it may mean more to volunteer during the cold winters, where for low-income families it may mean more over the long summers because there are no school lunches and in essence no “free childcare” until fall. Serving year-round will also help you build extremely valuable relationships with your community members.