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Giving spirit mixes with holidays

Rob Winner –
Gary Billings, food pantry coordinator, holds a bag for a client Thursday at The Salvation Army in DeKalb.
Rob Winner – Gary Billings, food pantry coordinator, holds a bag for a client Thursday at The Salvation Army in DeKalb.

DeKALB – The holiday season often inspires a spirit of giving, and it is noticeable to Kathy Vickers.

Vickers, activity director and volunteer coordinator for the DeKalb County Nursing & Rehab Center, said the agency always sees an increase in volunteers during the holidays, and it is a welcome change.

Many seniors need companionship and conversation at a time when families come together, but they may have no one.

Opportunities such as delivering gifts to residents Dec. 24 still are available to volunteers, but Vickers said she hopes the giving spirit will not end when the holidays are over because the center always needs help.

From programs such as Adopt-A-Grandparent, which requires just a couple of visits a month from a volunteer, to assistance at the ice cream parlor or gift shop, Vickers said there are numerous opportunities to help.

“I always feel that we can never have too many volunteers,” Vickers said. “We need people who can help with craft classes, lead book clubs, help meet residents’ spiritual needs ... there are a number of things people can do here.”

Although most social service agencies see a surge in volunteer help, some, such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, go through a down period.

Because many people travel during the holidays, those that have “littles” are often unable to meet with the child for at least two weeks. Courtney Denison, director of the program, said it can be tough during the holiday season but many of the volunteers try to do something special before taking a two-week break.

She said she is more concerned about after the holidays because the program still needs volunteers. New additions, such as activity plans that will be provided to “bigs” to help them come up with ideas on how to spend time with their little, could make more people comfortable volunteering, Denison said.

For those who cannot make the weekly commitment, she said participating in fundraisers such as Bowl For Kids Sake in March, which accounts for 60 percent of the program’s budget, would be a huge help.

“We’re always in need. For every one volunteer we get we probably get three more kids in the program,” Denison said. “I’ll never be at a point where I say ‘no more volunteers.’ “

Some organizations are overwhelmed with volunteers during the holidays and beyond.

Lesly Wicks, executive director of Hope Haven, said people will start signing up to volunteer at the homeless shelter for the holiday season as early as October. Wicks said volunteers flock to Hope Haven to help year-round, but there are still opportunities for those in the giving spirit past the holidays.

“We always could use people with particular skills,” Wicks said. “Whether it’s teaching a cooking class, teaching clients to crotchet or a computer tech expert who can help us with our problems, that’s always helpful.”

Volunteer opportunities also exist for youth.

Erin Holman, program coordinator for the Youth Service Bureau, said the new VolunTEEN program gives teenagers a chance to choose their own community service project, research why it is important, learn what they can do to help, and then reflect on how they made a positive change in the community.

She said there is usually a month wait to start the program, but residents can sign up anytime. Adults can also help the agency by volunteering at the March Royal Children’s Ball or at the May Bike Auction.

“We always try to have people help where we can,” Holman said.

Get involved

For a list of social service agencies where you can volunteer, visit

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