It’s usually this time of year that we start to think about those in need. Nestled in our cozy homes with delicious food and loved ones around, it’s easy to see how much we all have. Looking out into the streets or watching the news is a bleak comparison to our own full lives, and luckily there are wonderful nonprofits here in Thurston County making a difference. If you’re looking for ways to give back, you can easily devote your time and money to these great organizations and help those in need, both during the holiday season and beyond. Here is a guide to give back and #GiveLocal n Thurston County during the holidays.

The Community Kitchen

808 5th Avenue, Olympia

The Community Kitchen is a part of Catholic Community Services and provides meals to thousands of our hungry neighbors so they can get the essential nutrients they need. They serve nutritious lunches and dinners Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. During the holidays, they are open and ready to serve warm traditional Christmas meals at both lunch and dinner. They also distribute more than 300 Christmas backpacks to community members living unsheltered in our cities.

Volunteers at The Community Kitchen help prepare and serve meals, as well as assist with clean up after. There is no experience or paperwork required in order to participate, meaning anyone can support this incredible organization. Outside of the holidays, volunteers can continue to dedicate time all year long and help provide meals that keep families, elders, and veterans stay healthy and remain hopeful. If you are interested in getting involved, email Community Involvement Coordinator Peter Epperson at petere@ccsww.org to find out what dinner meals need assistance in the coming months.

a person takes a plate of food from a food kitchen volunteer
Many of our community members rely on essential food services like The Community Kitchen. Thanks to volunteer support, they can continue to feed the hungry. Photo courtesy: The Community Kitchen

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts

512 Washington Street SE, Olympia

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts provides incredible artistic experiences for everyone to enjoy year-round. With seasonal shows and local performers, the Washington Center brings community and art together through music, theatre, comedy and more. Their mission is to inspire audiences and artists of all ages through live performances, enriching the vibrancy of our community. With that, they are also committed to delivering affordable and diverse programming that is fair and equitable and promotes local development here in the South Puget Sound region.

From assisting in the art gallery, working the concessions bar, or ushering at an event, there are plenty of opportunities for volunteers to take part in. The volunteers are truly at the heart of the Washington Center, bringing essential support to visitors and contributing to a great experience for all. You can help the Washington Center fulfill its mission to provide a low-cost venue for performing arts groups with our region and support arts education opportunities. Visit their website and fill out an online volunteer profile to get started.

Three people standing with their hands making heart shapes
The Washington Center for the Performing Arts strives to offer diverse, affordable artistic performances to the community. With the help of devoted volunteers, their dream becomes reality. Photo courtesy: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts

Joint Animal Services

3120 Martin Way E, Olympia

Joint Animal Services has been serving Thurston County since 1977 as an open-admission shelter to help find new families for homeless pets in our communities. Their mission is to promote responsible pet ownership and provide opportunities for adoption to give these loving animals a second chance. Joint Animal Services also serves as a resource center for animal behavior and health issues, humane education, and administering grants to help with pets’ medical expenses.

Volunteer opportunities at Joint Animal Services range from Lobby Greeter and Adoption Room Helper to Wildlife Transport Volunteer. Greeters can be as young as 14 years old. Even if you cannot devote time at the shelter, you can still help by donating supplies such as blankets, towels, quality canned and dry pet food, and other pet supplies. Money is a huge help to ensure quality medication and veterinary care is always available to animals at the shelter, so donations or fundraisers can help immensely. Contact volunter@jointanimalservices.org to learn more.


521 Legion Way SE, Olympia

SafePlace is committed to ending violence in our community by advocating for personal and societal change through both crisis intervention and education. They offer a 24-hour emergency helpline, an emergency shelter, housing programs, legal advocacy, support groups and more. They are deeply devoted to providing resources that actually help those in need break free from abusive situations. Overcoming sexual assault and domestic violence is not easy, and SafePlace recognizes how important it is to have a community that provides space for people to get essential help and support that will empower them to lead full lives once more.

Volunteering with SafePlace can support these amazing efforts in the fight to end oppression. There is an initial SafePlace training and 30 hours of ongoing training after one year of service. For support services, a 17-hour training will fully equip you to support and empower others. If time is limited, there are still other opportunities available as long as you are comfortable working with diverse groups. You can apply online to get started with the interview process and receive approval to volunteer.

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