Happy to Help Others: Why help out during the Holidays?

HELPING OUT DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON HAS ENDLESS BENEFITS FOR YOU, YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR COMMUNITY. There is no better time to begin good habits of giving for the year to come, than during the season of giving. In the Rochester area, there is a great array of opportunities for you and your group to give. Volunteering is an especially great opportunity for families and friends to spend time together, stay active during the cold winter months and feel good about improving the lives of others.


Donating items and volunteering takes more time than giving money. But being more involved increases the fun, and you can more easily see the direct impact of your contribution. In the words of Anne Frank, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” The “Journal of Health and Social Behavior” found over 90 percent of people report volunteering improves their mood, makes their community a better place and enriches their sense of purpose in life. 

Having volunteered for various organizations myself, I can endorse the benefits. I most recently worked closely with Make-A-Wish Foundation on projects that have taught me that a team of volunteers working together can truly make magic happen. From event planning and decorating to meeting Wish kids and participating in fundraiser runs, I was able to witness the beauty in volunteering that every individual with the desire to contribute can do. 

Monetary donations are just as powerful as volunteering. Not only are monetary donations fast relief for organizations, but the act of choosing an organization to donate to fosters connection for your family or group, by giving you all a common cause. If you’re still not convinced donation is a great place to start, there are statistics that show giving can truly be receiving. In fact, people who give more money to charity were 43 percent more likely to consider themselves “very happy.” 

 Websites of local organizations share their core beliefs and how to help their cause through monetary and item donation or by volunteering your time. Results from navigating the websites of Channel One, Gift of Life Transplant House, Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army and Women’s Shelter are mentioned below. 


Channel One is a regional food bank that provides food assistance to low-income individuals and families. Many choose to support Channel One for its commitment to providing balanced nutrition especially important to children, seniors, immigrants and those with health challenges. 

There are a few ways monetary donations are utilized at Channel One. Supporting the Growing to Give Capital campaign for facilities expansion is strongly encouraged. Cash gifts to the main organization relieve distribution costs and allow Channel One to purchase items they don’t receive as donations to keep a diversity of food on the shelves. Additionally, Channel One allows you to sign up to fund regular meals to those in need through their Meal-A-Month monthly donation.

Needed items can be delivered to Channel One’s facility or at numerous food drop-off sites around Rochester. Needed food items include protein, produce (canned or fresh), complete meals, grains, cooking basics, special dietary foods and personal care products. Channel One also accepts donations from your own garden. In addition, Channel One accepts surplus donated food product from the food industry. 

Channel One uniquely allows you to plan and host a drive yourself or for your group. They’ve even created a Food and Fund Drive 101 Kit to help you get started on your next drive. Individuals and groups can also sign up for tours to learn more about the impact of their contributions. For more information, visit helpingfeedpeople.org.


Gift of Life Transplant House is a supportive, home-like environment providing Mayo Clinic transplant patients and their families with high-quality, affordable accommodations. Gift of Life seeks to provide compassion, healing and hope for patients of all ages and origins. Supporting Gift of Life helps ease the impact of complex medical, financial and spiritual burdens. 

Monetary donations, garden pavers, leadership and planned giving are welcome, along with food and household items. The wish list for Gift of Life Transplant House, found on their website, includes a wide variety of household items to help guests feel as comfortable as possible. Gift of Life volunteer positions currently available are dinner hosts, office assistants and tour guides. To learn more, visit gift-of-life.org.


Aside from basic needs, like rent and transportation assistance, the Northern Division of The Salvation Army provides a variety of other services for those in the Twin Cities metro area, greater Minnesota and North Dakota. Other services include housing, youth, rehabilitation, disaster relief, counseling and spiritual services. 

Volunteering your time at the Salvation Army includes fundraisers, business and community group supply drives. There is also a list of volunteer needs based on where you live in addition to bell ringing and other seasonal opportunities. To learn how you can help, visit salvationarmynorth.org.


The Women’s Shelter provides a variety of services to abused women, individuals and families, from housing to outreach and advocacy. Advocates are passionate staff who help with every step toward safety and recovery. Serving over 3,800 victims annually, Women’s Shelter houses 400 to 500 women and children at a time. 

Donating money, and goods from the monthly updated wish list, is a great way to make a difference in the lives of the women and children served by the Women’s Shelter. You can also help by hosting a fundraiser, or volunteer in one of the many available positions. 

Informational meetings are held every second Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Contact Terri Allred (terria@womens-shelter.org) to reserve a space
at the meeting or to learn more about volunteer opportunities. Or to learn how you can help, visit their website at womens-shelter.org.


The Ronald McDonald House provides housing and support to families seeking medical care for their children. It’s a nationwide organization that values compassion, hospitality with heart, mutual respect, community partners, sound management and excellence. 

Current and past residents contributed to the groundbreaking for facilities expansion May 1, 2018. You can donate to support the Ronald McDonald House continued expansion construction, through monetary donations and planned giving. A detailed needs list of food, household family and activity items is also provided on their website.

The Ronald McDonald House pop tab program is another easy way for families, schools, organizations, businesses and individuals to contribute. Full containers of pop tabs can be dropped off at the Ronald McDonald House where the proceeds help the local house in Rochester. 

House Warmers are volunteers at Ronald McDonald House who welcome families, provide light cleaning and support the house staff. Group activities and service projects include assisting with house dinners, tying fleece blankets, collecting needs list items, creating family mailbox stuffers, baking, hosting fundraisers and general house or yard work. Individuals and groups can also sign up for tours to learn more about the impact of their contributions.

Group activities and service projects details can be discovered by contacting the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester at 507-282-3955.


Helping locally deepens our sense of community. I challenge you to contribute in a new way this year. There are endless ways to give and make a difference in the lives of individuals and families in the Rochester area. Better yet, you may even discover how giving can be extended throughout the year. 

Tiffany L. Hansen graduated from University of Minnesota CLA (2018) and enjoys volunteering.