-- Author Kristen Welch
In This Issue
The Gift of Holiday Giving
With Thanksgiving and the winter holidays quickly approaching, a network of partners throughout Montgomery County are now collecting holiday meals and gifts for more than 9,000 area families in need through the Holiday Giving Project. You can help with these efforts and make a family's holiday brighter by donating food, gift cards, goods, and funds to one of the participating agencies. 

To find their requests--and many more ways to help during this season--visit the Volunteer Center's online list of holiday opportunitiesWhile the ever-popular opportunities to serve meals at shelters on Thanksgiving day fill up quickly (typically by organizations' regular volunteers), the list features a variety of ways to assist with holiday needs. In addition to providing donations, these include sorting and packing Thanksgiving meals, delivering toy donations, and helping families pick up gifts and food baskets. The list is updated daily, so check back frequently to find more.

If you aren't able to find a volunteer need that fits your schedule during this season, don't forget that organizations that serve the needy seek assistance all year--and especially after the holidays. One way to find them is to search the Volunteer Center's online list of organizations dedicated to basic needs/food/shelter.
So What Else
Serving Kids and Teaching Them to Serve
So What Else volunteers and staff take a break during the organization's semi-annual Olympic games.
Founded on the simple desire to do good in the world, So What Else is dedicated to serving our community in three ways: by providing after-school and summer educational and creative programs for underserved youth, by leading volunteer projects for other community organizations, and by mobilizing the youth in its programs to pay it forward through service. In other words, the organization helps the kids, helps the community, and helps the kids help the community. 

With this multi-pronged service mission, it should come as no surprise that So What Else coordinates a wide range of volunteer activities every month. One of its greatest ongoing volunteer needs is for dedicated and passionate high school, college, and adult volunteers to serve as mentors and program assistants at the organization's youth program center in Rockville, where So What Else provides free extracurricular enrichment activities and meals weekdays, 4-6:30 pm. Volunteers commit to helping at least one afternoon per week, mentoring individuals and groups, providing homework assistance, helping site directors present lesson plans, and contributing to the overall functions of the program.

Those who serve at the center often rave about the experience. As Leanna Taylor, a student volunteer, puts it, "I learned so much about how to be a positive influence in the community. It also helped reaffirm my plans for furthering my education in criminal justice and youth development. Watching the kid's faces light up as we came into the room showed me how important So What Else is. I felt honored to have worked with this organization!"

As part of the its dedication to inspiring youth to give back to the community, So What Else partners with other nonprofits to recruit volunteers and lead service projects at more than 70 events--totaling 1,500+ individual service hours--every year. Upcoming opportunities include assisting with the Girls on the Run 5K in Bethesda on Sunday, Nov. 18, serving alongside veterans to spruce up a DC neighborhood on Saturday, Nov. 10, and painting the community center used by residents of Rockville Housing Enterprises on Saturday, Nov. 17. These activities are open to any interested volunteers (though some have age restrictions), not just youth in the organization's after-school programs, and students can earn SSL hours. So What Else is also in need of on-call volunteers to help lead these types of projects.

For more information about any of these volunteer needs, email Talia Ramey or visit the So What Else website.
Help Those in Need With Tax Returns
Want to provide an important service to our community during tax season? Consider volunteering to prepare taxes, schedule appointments, or greet clients through the RSVP/AARP Tax-Aide Program, which offers
free tax preparation for low-to-moderate income taxpayers (with special attention to those age 60 and up) and last year helped to generate $4.6 million in refunds. Training is provided. 

Learn more about these volunteer opportunities at one of the following information sessions. (No registration needed.) 
  • Wednesday, Nov. 14, 1 pm, at the White Oak Library (11701 New Hampshire Ave.)
  • Friday, Nov. 16, 1 pm, at the Gaithersburg Library (18330 Montgomery Village Ave.) 

If you can't make one of these sessions, you can get more details about joining the Tax-Aide team by calling 240-777-2612 or visiting the Tax-Aide volunteer web page

Make Plans to Volunteer This Month
The last several weeks of the year tend to be busy for many people, but finding time to give back can help you put your priorities into perspective. Find some of the hundreds of volunteer positions listed on the Volunteer Center website below. Check our calendar for more date-specific opportunities or use the search box at the top of this email or the top of our home page to search for more ways to serve. 
SSL preapproved
These opportunities meet the guidelines to provide MCPS Student Service Learning (SSL) hours--but  they're not just for students! Other opportunities may be eligible for SSL hours; visit the MCPS SSL website to learn more.

SSL preapproved FUNDRAISING EVENT ASSISTANTS: Friday, Nov. 16, 7-11 pm (plus additional volunteer opportunities prior to the event and throughout the weekend), Potomac. Help the Brain Aneurysm Foundation and its partner nonprofits organize and produce their annual Rockin' 4a Cause fundraising dinner/concert/auction. Minimum age: 15. Email Cara Weiss or call 301-351-2100. 

SSL preapproved THANKSGIVING PARADE VOLUNTEERS: Saturday, Nov. 17, 7:30 am-1:30 pm, Silver Spring. Help lead balloons, be part of floats, set up, and clean up/break down the annual Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade. Minimum age: 13. Sign up online.

SSL preapproved JINGLE JUBILEE HELPERS: Saturday, Dec. 1, 5:45-7:45 pm, Gaithersburg. Dress up as a costumed character, escort characters, monitor the Santa line, manage selfie stations, and more at the City of Gaithersburg's annual tree lighting event. Minimum age: 14. Email Sheila Bouley or call 240-805-1503. 

WOMEN'S MEMORIAL VISITOR SERVICES VOLUNTEERS: Greet and educate visitors to the Women In Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington Cemetery, the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history. Volunteers are asked to commit to helping 16 hours per month. Training provided. Minimum age: 18. Email Jordan Bolan or call 703-892-2606 x 135. 

SSL preapproved YOUTH MENTORS: Build a one-on-one relationship with a student at one of the elementary schools within the city of Rockville, providing consistent support, guidance, and concrete help. Volunteers must be at least 16 and able to commit to mentoring a young person one hour per week for nine months. Email Kate Bouwkamp or call 240-314-8317.

MUSIC PERFORMANCE SITE SUPERVISORS: Oversee students who perform at the Tacy Foundation's musical events at area hospitals, senior centers, or schools. Requires strong organization and communication skills. Typical commitment is four hours per week. Email Charlotte Holliday or call 202-780-9005.  

SSL preapproved DRAMA & SOCIAL SKILLS MENTORS: Help adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities feel engaged and supported in inclusive theater companies operated by ArtStream Inc. Opportunities available in Gaithersburg, Germantown, Rockville, and Silver Spring. Volunteers must be at least 13 and willing to commit to serving at a minimum of one event per month for three months. No previous experience necessary. Email Abby Madden or call 301-565-4567.

SENIOR HUNGER OUTREACH VOLUNTEERS: Help fight poverty and hunger by assisting eligible seniors access their SNAP  benefits ("food stamps") for nutritious food purchases. Volunteers with the Senior Hunger and SNAP Outreach Program attend events throughout the county to raise awareness of SNAP and to assist seniors in applying for other food assistance benefits. Minimum age: 18. Training provided; next session set for Tuesday, Nov. 13, 9:30 am-12 noon, in Rockville. Email Diana Tato-Niktash or call 240-777-3404.

BOOK DRIVE DONORS: Collect new or used books for Velocity of Books, which distributes book donations to nursing homes, homeless shelters, food banks, schools, and other community sites. Books must be delivered to the organization's offices in Rockville. Email Carolyn Thompson or call 301-674-3056. 

SSL preapproved CPR & FIRST AID YOUTH TEAM MEMBERS: Get trained in emergency medical response and then staff first-aid stations at community and private events throughout the area served by the Montgomery County First Aid Unit, Explorer Post 742, located in Wheaton. The 120 hours of training are conducted on Sundays, across four months. Volunteers should be between ages 14 and 20. Email Cindy Ramsey or call 301-996-0020. 
Community Service Week Brings Volunteers Together to Meet Community Needs
scarves for homeless
Volunteers create scarves for homeless individuals during Community Service Week
Across the county, residents of all ages worked together to improve our community during last month's 32nd annual Montgomery County Community Service Week. Volunteers joined forces on dozens of service projects tackling a range of needs throughout the week; activities included collecting food for low-income residents, creating care packages for families impacted by domestic violence, and removing trash from parks and school grounds. 

Many similar service projects need volunteers throughout the year. Find them by searching for whatever interest area inspires you on the Volunteer Center's online list of opportunities
Save the Date! Jan. 21 is MLK Day of Service
On Monday, Jan. 21, people across the United States will celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a day of service. In Montgomery County, the Volunteer Center will hold its annual large-scale service event--featuring a wide variety of family-friendly service projects, plus a volunteer fair--at the Bethesda North Marriott Conference Center. In addition, there will be multi-project service events at our long-standing partner sites in Silver Spring and Gaithersburg, plus additional service project locations now in development!

Watch this newsletter or visit our MLK Day of Service page for more details as they become available.
Watch the Ways to Make a Difference
Make a Difference, a monthly County Cable Montgomery program, highlights the contributions of stellar county volunteers and organizations that contribute positively to our community. This month's program features representatives from the 50+ Volunteer Network (a program of the Volunteer Center) and the Bernie Scholarship Awards Program, which provides financial assistance for college and trade studies students living in subsidized rental housing (and is one of the nonprofit members of the 50+ Volunteer Network). Watch it online here.
Follow Us on Social Media and Get the Latest!
Learn about new and last-minute service opportunities, volunteer news, and information to inspire on the Montgomery County Volunteer Center Facebook page. If you haven't already done so, Like us to get the latest information in your Facebook feed. 

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