Thrifty Thurston Volunteers as a Family for the Holidays

Since it is the season of giving, wouldn’t it be nice to spread the cheer with those in need right here in Thurston County? The winter season offers plenty of ways to volunteer and give back to the community. Now is the perfect time to focus on gratitude and giving. Choosing to focus on doing for others during this time of year is a wonderful tradition to start for families.

Giving back can be as simple as baking cookies and delivering them to a local senior home while taking a moment to chat with the residents. Gather the kids and have them help, write letters, and create holiday cards for soldiers and veterans with Operation Gratitude. Arrange to do a canned food drive with friends and neighbors to benefit the nearest food pantry.

Seeking a more structured volunteer opportunity this holiday season? Consider giving one of the following Thurston County organizations a hand and help make this holiday season merrier for others in the community.

South Sound Reading Foundation

Give the gift of reading and volunteer as a family at the South Sound Reading Foundation. Bring the kids to help process donated kids books. Families can sort, sticker and shelve books to give to children needing reading material. Give children a solid literacy foundation by helping to get books ready to be given out to kids and families who need them. There are also opportunities for families to help give out books at community events. The community events calendar has specific dates. For more information, contact South Sound Reading Foundation at or call 360-412-4411 ext. 35002.

Volunteer Services

Volunteer for Holidays with Volunteer Services
Volunteers with Volunteer Services during United Way Day of Caring 2019, helping to clean up the yard of an elderly resident. Photo courtesy: Volunteer Services

While the temperatures are dropping, those who depend on wood for heat need help. Volunteer Services requires helping hands to deliver firewood during the cold season. Volunteers work year-round harvesting firewood, including chopping and splitting, then hauling it to the two wood banks in Olympia and Shelton.

Right now, there is a need for helpers to deliver emergency loads of firewood to low-income seniors and adults with disabilities in need who use firewood as a primary source of heat throughout Mason, Lewis and Thurston counties. There is a reimbursement for mileage of $0.44 per mile and all volunteers are covered by Catholic Community Services’ extended liability accident and auto insurance.

Older kids ages 13 and up can help with firewood or with yard raking, with the supervision of a parent. Families with younger kids can help make holiday cards to send out to clients with supplies provided at the organization’s office space. For families, only one family member needs to apply to volunteer as a group. Complete the volunteer application and for more information contact Rebekah Graham at or call 360-726-3885.

Homeless Backpacks

Homeless Backpacks Volunteers
Homeless Backpacks is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization, providing weekend food to homeless, hungry and at-risk students in Thurston County. Photo courtesy: Homeless Backpacks

Adopt students supported by Homeless Backpacks at Royce Marie Bean Bar in Lacey. There, find a giving tree for North Thurston School District students for Christmas. In Tumwater, Taildragger Coffee’s giving tree allows families to buy gifts for Homeless Backpacks students in the Tumwater School District this Christmas.

Chili drives during holiday festivities are a great way to support Homeless Backpack’s program. Chili is the most expensive item in the weekend food bags distributed to homeless students in all school districts in Thurston County. Chili is also the item in the bags with the most protein.

A third way families could give back with Homeless Backpacks over the holidays is to purchase a few boxes of Rice Krispies Treats. Be sure to check the expiration dates so that there is time to rotate them into their inventory without going beyond the date. Get the kids to write encouraging messages and donate them at their facility in Lacey located at 665 Woodland Square Loop S.E. in the Columbia Bank Building.

ROOF Community Services

In Rochester, ROOF Community Services seeks volunteers for projects such as food drives and Operation Santa. Volunteers are needed during the second and third week in December to help collect and distribute clothing and toys. All volunteers are asked to complete a short intake form and background check. Fill out the application packet and for more information, contact ROOF at 360-273-6375.

Take the family shopping and delight children in need this holiday season. Make donations for holiday gifts for kids newborn to age 12 by purchasing any new clothing, toys and gift items and bring them unwrapped to ROOF beginning December 2 but no later than December 19. Adopt a family by completing the application and returning it to ROOF as soon as possible, but no later than December 6. The kids will enjoy picking out gifts for another local family.

ROOF’s Food Bank needs volunteers to help distribute food during big events like Thanksgiving Turkey Baskets. Also, on December 7 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., volunteers are needed to drive and pick up food donations throughout Rochester and Grand Mound. This is a great opportunity for families, youth groups and service organizations.

Wrapping up the Holidays

The Giving Trees at Taildragger Coffee in Tumwater and Royce Marie Bean Bar in Lacey are a great way for families to give directly to the students served in the Homeless Backpacks program. Photo courtesy: Taildragger Coffee

Share the spirit of the season with local children who need help for the holidays. Join in on KXXO Mixx 96.1’s Wrapping up the Holidays Toy & Fund Drive. Bring the family with a cash or gift donation on Friday, December 20, from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to the corner of State and Washington in downtown Olympia. Call Toni at 360-943-9937 for more information on how to volunteer at this fun annual event.

Medical Supply Sorting

For a unique and long-term volunteer option, families with kids 14 and older can volunteer with Providence Health Services at their medical supply warehouse in Lacey to sort, package or load products for shipment. Help the planet while providing medical supplies to local community members and international partners that work in economically developing countries. Volunteers need to attend an orientation and be able to stand for three hours while moving boxes up to 20 pounds. Shifts are 9:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday with a once a month commitment appreciated. For more information, contact the Providence Warehouse at 360-493-5641 or send an email.

Help make the season and spirits brighter this holiday season by volunteering locally. The whole family will appreciate their own blessings a little more by giving of their time.

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