Giving Back This Holiday Season: Service and Volunteer Opportunities

The holiday season has arrived! This the time of year when many of us reflect and take stock of the blessings in our lives. It’s also the perfect time to remember those who are less fortunate, and the holidays can be a particularly challenging time for service agencies and the individuals they serve. Whether it’s through a service project or a special donation you make as a family, there are many ways to get involved and give back this holiday season, right here in the Iowa City area. Here’s a list of local organizations that could use your help over the holidays:

Support Local Organizations

The Crisis Center of Johnson County

In addition to regular donations (here’s a list of items that are the most needed), The Crisis Center is looking for donations for Project Holiday. A $25 donation can help bring a meal to a Johnson County family in need. You can learn more about Project Holiday here.

Shelter House

In addition to monetary donations, Shelter House is always in need items to meet the day-to-day needs of the individuals they serve. You can check out their donation list of most needed items. They also have an extensive list of ways to volunteer

Coralville Community Food Pantry and North Liberty Community Food Pantry

Monetary and food donations are always welcome. You can view specific needs here and here.

Domestic Violence Intervention Program

In addition to their ongoing wish list, DVIP has a holiday-specific list that includes toys, books, craft supplies, and more. Find out where to take your donated items here.

Salvation Army of Johnson County

The Salvation Army offers many ways to serve, including volunteering with their feeding programs or being a bell-ringer for their famous red kettles. Over the holiday season they have 3,356 shifts needed to be filled by volunteers–will you be one of them?

Volunteer and Serve

Donating items and money are not the only ways your family can help over the holidays. Volunteering time at a deserving organization is a wonderful and rewarding family activity. (You can find organizations at Volunteer Match.) There are also several fun service projects your family can do, including the following:

Organize a Drive

Organize a food drive or winter clothing drive through your school or faith community. The Coralville Food Pantry has a great food drive kit to get you started. The Salvation Army of Johnson County distributes winter coats, hats, and gloves from October through March every year as well.

Have a blanket-making party

Host a blanket-making party with friends and family. This can be a fun way to host a holiday party and complete a service project. Project Linus and the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital are two organizations that take blanket donations, and both organizations feature easy no-sew patterns on their websites. UICH has a list of other helpful donation items, as well as an extensive list of unique special projects for volunteers to participate in. 

Make holiday cards

Make homemade holiday cards for the patients at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. (Check out the guidelines for sizing and theme ideas.)

Don’t forget our furry friends!

The Iowa City Animal Shelter is always in need of donations. Check out their donation wish list. And if you’re looking for a fun service project, check out these adorable and easy t-shirt tug toys for dogs.

United Way

The United Way has a comprehensive list of seasonal volunteering opportunities. Sign up to volunteer at one of their special downtown holiday opportunities.

Family service projects during the holiday season can be a great way to teach your kids the value of giving back. And who knows? Holiday helping could be the just the start of a lifelong commitment to community service.


Meghann is the mom of 5 kids. She is a Lecturer at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication and an Owner/Partner at Brand Driven Digital. Meghann was elected to the Coralville City Council in 2017 and is currently serving her first term. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Coralville Community Food Pantry (Vice-Chair) and on the DVIP Board of Directors. She is also a member of Johnson County's Juvenile Justice and Youth Development Policy Board. Meghann is passionate about her family, her community, and is a proud pop culture nerd.


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