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Ways to Give Back 

click to enlarge Dominion Energy Christmas Parade

Scott Elmquist

Dominion Energy Christmas Parade

What makes holidays happy? Studies have shown that it's not shopping or decorating, but spending time with loved ones that matters most. For many, it's also the ability to spread good will helping those in need and this time of year offers plenty of ways to give back.

The Giving Heart Community Thanksgiving Feast offers a traditional holiday meal for free to anyone seeking food and fellowship. To make that happen, it needs volunteers and donations of all kinds. Crafty types can make place mats, candy centerpieces and no-sew blankets. Food and preparation items, as well as personal care items, also can be donated and are listed on the website. Seven drop-off locations are available, or during Thanksgiving week, donations can be brought directly to the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Individual tables also can be sponsored. Volunteers are needed Monday through Wednesday to prepare food and set up, as well as on Thursday to serve and clean up. thegivingheart.org/general-information.

Richmond's Dominion Energy Christmas Parade offers myriad festive volunteering opportunities. For the over-21 set, positions are available as parade captains and day-of logistics coordinators, while volunteers ages 18 and older can serve as division marshals and, for those who've always wanted to shepherd Snoopy down Broad Street, helium balloon handlers.
As part of the parade's community outreach, a hildren's luncheon for inner-city children follows the parade and for that, volunteers may be as young as 12. Most importantly, volunteers can't be weather wimps. The parade goes on rain or shine. richmondparade.org

Toys for Tots Richmond, a longtime holiday program of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, was originally conceived as a means to unite the community in a common cause for three months by collecting and distributing new, unwrapped toys to less fortunate children so they could share in the joy of Christmas. The only gifts they don't accept are food and toys resembling weapons. People looking to get involved have several options: A business can become a drop-off location, toys can be donated at one of dozens of places throughout the area or monetary donations can be made directly on the website. richmond-va.toysfortots.org.

click to enlarge Legendary Santa
  • Legendary Santa

Legendary Santa listens to holiday wishes from little visitors at the Children's Museum of Richmond as the centerpiece of its holiday programming. Part of that long-standing tradition is the Fawn Shop, a kids-only market where all merchandise is only $2. Volunteers staff the shop to keep it tidy, organize inventory and assist little shoppers with their decision-making and purchases so mom and dad can be surprised. Flexible shifts are available from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve. c-mor.org/full-menu/get-involved.

Holiday Activity Kits for Foster Kids is a project of the Caring Clothes Closet RVA and its Bags 4 Kids program provides comfort bags to social workers to give out to kids as they transition into the foster care system. During the holidays, the program puts together holiday bags of warm winter items — gloves, hats, scarves and socks — along with festive items, activities and games and personal care goods for local foster children and kids in need. Volunteers are needed to assist with shopping and creating fun activity kits for the young recipients. Besides the winter items, the kits should contain two or three small game items — Rubik's Cubes, decks of cards, Uno cards, balls — to entertain kids, as well as a holiday card containing a personal message for each one. caringclothescloset.org.

Family Volunteer Day at the Salvation Army on Saturday, Nov. 25, provides parents with a way to share with their kids a hands-on learning experience while giving back to the community. The goal with family volunteering is for children to experience firsthand the satisfaction that comes with giving as well as receiving. Parents are encouraged to bring children ages 8 and older to assist with sorting and organizing presents and winter coats, and stuffing holiday stockings at the Salvation Army Christmas Center at 6807 Midlothian Turnpike. Richmond Photo Booth will be on hand to capture family portraits as souvenirs of time spent volunteering together. Families should register in advance at the website. virginiasalvationarmy.org/richmondva/get-involved/volunteer/volunteer-registration-form.

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