Volunteering Brings Holiday Cheer Year-Round
The last-minute volunteers can call nursing homes to visit and share holiday memories.
The holidays can be a lonely time for elderly people living in nursing homes. Visiting with nursing home residents is one of the best volunteer activities in the weeks before Christmas, said Rebecca Stiemke, director of the United Way of McHenry County Volunteer Center.
"People don't often think of nursing homes," Stiemke said. "Anybody who wants to volunteer over the holiday can contact a retirement home. They have residents without families who would really enjoy a holiday visit to share photos and share Christmas stories."
Stiemke suggests calling the activity director at a local nursing home to set up a
visit. She said visitors should bring a photo album with holiday pictures to stimulate
"Almost anybody can start a conversation through photographs," Stiemke said.
Laura Fager, activity director at Alden Terrace of McHenry County, said visitors can
come to sing carols or do crafts with residents as well.
"They love visitors. There are people here who have no one; the have no family or
friends," she said.
Stiemke said people often think of volunteering with the homeless during the holidays, but those opportunities are filled in September.
Organizations that serve needy families have a constant need for items, such as
gently used clothing and coats, children's books, musical instruments and computer
equipment, said Lynn Tracy, community engagement manager for United Way of
"One of the things you can do is clean out your closets in December. Focus on taking
out the old things and donating them," Tracy said.
The United Way of Lake County website lists volunteer opportunities and the wish lists of needy organizations. The United Way of McHenry County website offers a
search for volunteer opportunities.
Tracy said people often think of feeding the hungry over the holidays.
"One thing I find is that during the holidays, everybody eats," Tracy said. "They forget that people have year-round needs. Think about Christmas in July. Food is especially needed in the summer."