Ways to give back this holiday season

KentWired Staff

The holiday season is not only about getting gifts — it’s also a time for giving back. Here are a few volunteer opportunities for those looking to donate their time this year. 

Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County

Most volunteer opportunities are short, temporary chances to help out the community. Big Brothers and Sisters, however, gives volunteers a way to get deeply involved in giving back.  

Located in Ravenna, Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County offers a one-to-one mentoring program for children ages 6 to 17 years old. Volunteers, who must be at least 18 years old, can become “Bigs” and mentor “Littles,” the youth registered for the program. 

Those interested in becoming Bigs must go through an interview process, as well as background checks and training, said Deanna Revels, match support specialist at Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County. 

“Once everyone is ready to go we put them together based on the same personalities, same likes and dislikes and the idea is that this person will be the child’s friend and also will be able to answer any questions that they have,” Revels said.     

The program requires volunteers to spend 12 hours a month, spread over three times a month, for at least a year, Revels said. However, Bigs get to decide how they spread out their time and can always spend more time with their Littles. 

Visit the national website or call Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County at 330-296-6655 to learn more or get involved in this program.  

“This is a great way to force someone to see how other people live and be able to help someone who just needs a leg up to go ahead and reach an opportunity that they maybe didn’t think was possible,” Revels said.

Kent State American Red Cross Club

The American Red Cross Club will host a blood drive from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 12 in the seminar rooms in the Beverly J. Warren Student Recreation and Wellness Center. The group is looking for volunteers to donate blood and spread the word about the drive, said Lexie Jones, president of the American Red Cross Club and sophomore nursing major. 

Those interested can make an appointment to donate blood at redcrossblood.org

Donors will receive FLASHPerks points as well as a wristband for participating, Jones said. Walk-ins are welcome, but people may not receive these incentives if they do not schedule appointments.   

For students unable to participate in the upcoming drive, the American Red Cross Club is also looking for other groups on campus to sponsor its blood drives next year. 

Miller Community House 

Miller Community House offers emergency shelter and supportive services to men, women and children. The shelter is located in Kent, providing students with a volunteer opportunity that is only a short drive away.

Volunteers can help out the shelter by cleaning, organizing the pantry, doing clerical work or working outdoors if the weather permits, said Bobbie Freedline, senior housing specialist. However, there are countless other ways volunteers can support Miller Community House. Freedline said volunteering can show students what the shelter is about and all that it has to offer the community.   

To learn more about or get involved with the volunteer opportunities at Miller Community House, call 330-673-0034.  

Akron YMCA 

The Akron YMCA has multiple volunteer opportunities for those looking to give back to the community. According to the YMCA’s website, volunteer opportunities include: cooking for a bake sale, greeting people at the front desk, serving as a role model for young people, helping out in the office or at special events, being part of a group or committee who works together to solve neighborhood problems and more. 

Prospective volunteers can complete an application that can be found on the Akron YMCA website at https://www.akronymca.org/SocialResponsibility/Volunteerism/. Applications can be turned in at the front desk. 

Abigail Mack, Kimberly Fisher and Paige Bennett contributed to this story.