Holiday Service Opportunities in the Milwaukee Area

milwaukee service opportunities

It’s officially my favorite time of year! I am a self-proclaimed Christmas NUT. From the moment I open my eyes on Thanksgiving morning, I basically turn into Buddy the Elf. 

I love virtually everything about the holidays. The music, the lights, the decorations, the food, the time with family, the shopping, the gift giving, the pageants, and the way the world is just a little bit kinder at Christmas… it all makes me SO happy.

The holiday season also brings with it a special opportunity to serve Milwaukee, as opportunities become available that might not necessarily be around the rest of the year. Volunteering in this season allows us to spread some holiday cheer and introduce our kids to service in the very best way — leading by example.

We’ve been profiling several area organizations our team is especially excited about and you can learn more about all of them below: 

Many charitable groups do require kids to be at least 13 years of age (sometimes 17) before they can officially volunteer, so be sure to check ahead of time if you plan to bring your younger children to an organized service opportunity. Of course, there are several possibilities listed below that are perfect for families with kids of all ages!

Milwaukee Service Opportunities:

Journey House – Journey House empowers families on Milwaukee’s near Southside to move out of poverty by offering adult education, youth development, workforce readiness, and family engagement. Adopt a family, child or teen for the holidays and you’ll get a wish list to help them make it a holiday to remember.

The Guest House – Our team had the opportunity to see firsthand what this fantastic Milwaukee resource is all about and we were incredibly impressed. The Guest House has been helping people overcome homelessness for over 30 years. How can you help? Contact them about volunteer opportunities, or shop their Amazon wishlist for items like men’s shirts, basic toiletries, and more necessities that help support the guests. 

Milwaukee Rescue Mission – This organization seeks to rescue people from poverty and homelessness in Milwaukee and support them through programs like Joy House, Safe Harbor, Cross Trainers Academy, and more. Every year, caring people give hundreds of toys, games and stuffed animals to children who live (or used to live) in Joy House and students who attend Cross Trainers. MRM needs new, unwrapped gifts – $15 value – for hundreds of children (infants through teens), plus new hats, gloves and scarves to give to men, women and children. Items can be dropped off at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. MRM currently has a great need for gifts for boys and girls, ages 9 and older. Suggested gift ideas include watches, wallets, jewelry, handheld games and remote control cars.

Sunbeam Kids – The perfect way to introduce your young child to serving! Sunbeam Kids, Inc. is an all volunteer driven 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to providing resources and organizing community service projects for kids and families. They offer family friendly volunteer projects benefit people & organizations in the Milwaukee Area and beyond. Check out their Kids & Families Volunteer Schedule to find out what upcoming projects would appeal to your family.

Toddlers and Kids on a Mission – For parents and caregivers of kids ages birth through 8, this organization offers opportunities to volunteer TOGETHER, model acts of kindness, and connect to our diverse Milwaukee community. TOAM events happen monthly with weekday and weekend events for all types of families.

Ronald McDonald House – Provides a home away from home for families with children getting treatment at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. There are many ways to get involved, including providing a meal or snack for families, hosting a fundraising event, serving as a house volunteer and more. Kids age 14-17 can apply to be an Associate Volunteer. For more information on volunteer opportunities, click HERE

Toys for Tots – This is a great one to get the kids involved! Take the kids shopping for toys that will brighten the holiday of any child and bring them to your local drop-off center, listed HERE.

Milwaukee Women’s Center Emergency Shelter – dedicated to ending the cycle of domestic violence, abuse and addiction. The shelter is looking for people to help supply toys, games and craft items for the many children who come to the shelter. The wish list includes: Baby toys, Pop up toys for 1-3 year old, Dolls (African American, Asian, Indian), Balls (any balls except baseballs/hard ball), Puzzles for kids of all ages, Books for all ages (featuring African American and other ethnic groups would be greatly appreciated), Any children’s movies, Action figures, Matchbox cars/hot wheels, Games, Play-Doh and utensils, Blunt edge scissors for 4- to 5-year-olds, Coloring books, Markers, Colored pencils.

The Salvation Army – What would the holidays be without the iconic bell ringers at the red kettle? Volunteering with The Salvation Army goes far beyond the bell, however. Check out the Prison Toy Program, Coats for Kids, or sing carols at the Christmas Family Feast, just to name a few.

Angel Tree – The Angel Tree program allows you to purchase a gift for a single child or children whose parents are incarcerated during the holidays. Beginning in November, Angel Tags are available at Milwaukee Public Market and several area churches.

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin – The holidays can be very hard on families when a child is sick, so this is a wonderful time of year to pursue volunteering at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Contact their volunteer office at 414-266-2180 to ask about how you can help brighten the season for patients and their families.

Christmas Clearing Council – The Christmas Clearing Council of Waukesha County promotes and coordinates giving to families in need during the Christmas season. You can select your level of involvement by choosing to: sponsor a family, donate new toys or money, organize community service projects or volunteer.

Hope House of Milwaukee – Hope House is a non-profit emergency homeless shelter and rapid rehousing facility as well as a true community center located in the near south side of Milwaukee. Hope House hosts special events such as neighborhood clean-ups, our annual street fair, and holiday gift and food drives throughout the year.

Next Door Foundation – Next Door promotes school readiness and success in life for young Milwaukee children and families through exceptional early childhood programming and whole-family support services. The Holiday Giving Program at Next Door assist hundreds of families each year, lessening their stress and financial burden, while providing them with a memorable holiday season. Each sponsor who adopts a family will receive a ‘wish list’ to shop from. Since families of various sizes are available for adoption, this is a great opportunity for organizations, or groups of individuals, to work together in support of a needy family.

We do it unofficially. After meeting a boy and his aunt 5 years ago volunteering to bowl with foster families we found they really need help with their Thanksgiving meal. We bring them everything they need every year since. My son also has been spending time with the boy on many occasions and he has slept at our house. I also visit with his Aunt on occasion. Hopefully we are bringing some comfort to them, I know they matter to us. -MkeMB Reader

Beyond Milwaukee:

Operation Christmas Child – One of my favorite holiday traditions with my kids is to bring their shoeboxes to the store and help them fill them with gifts for a child in need. They love that they can track their box to see where in the world it ends up! We’ve seen their boxes go to Uganda and Madagascar, which leads to a fun geography lesson as well as cultivating a sense of appreciation and love for kids across the world.

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World Vision – There is just something special about giving a gift with a purpose and World Vision provides the opportunity for you to select a unique gift like a goat, chickens, ducks or a fishing kit to provide vital nutrition to feed children and give families a way to make an income. Check out the World Vision gift catalog for more choice that can impact children locally and around the world.

Sponsor a Child – There are multiple organizations that do a fantastic job of providing food, medicine, clothing and education for children in marginalized nations through child sponsorship. Compassion International has a high reputation of integrity for their child sponsorships, scoring an A from Charity Watch. Other good options are World Vision and Food for the Hungry, scoring an A- and B+ respectively. Child sponsorship can become a very profound, personal relationship for your family and for your kids. Encourage your kids to write letters to your sponsor child and enclose photographs. Get them involved financially by encouraging them to donate a portion of their chore money or allowance toward the sponsorship fee.

Get Creative:

No one ever said you have to go through a volunteer organization to love on the people around you. With a little creativity, you will be amazed at all the opportunities you will see right in your own neighborhood to serve and spread joy. Here are just a couple ideas from our readers:

  • Blessing Bag – Have a gently used handbag in your closet you don’t use anymore? Bring your kids to Target and shop for toiletry & hygiene items, non-perishable food items (KIND bars, bottled water, nuts, etc), socks, winter clothing, maybe a good book. Fill the purse and stash it in your vehicle. The next time you come across a homeless woman as you go about the city, give her the purse! Area homeless shelters would also love to accept care packages. Find a directory of area shelters HERE.
  • Pie Baking Party – Last year a group of girlfriends and I got together, opened a couple bottles of wine, and worked together to make several apple and pumpkin pies. We played music, rolled dough, got covered in flour and had an absolute blast. The next day, a couple of the gals delivered the pies to The Salvation Army for the big holiday meals they serve. This year, we did it again and brought the pies to Journey House!
  • The Simple Stuff – Serving others doesn’t have to be complicated. After a big snowfall, give the kids some shovels and help clear the neighbor’s sidewalk. Scraping off your windshield in the parking lot? Clean off the car next to yours too. Buy the coffee for the person behind you in the Starbucks drive thru. Pick up a couple extra Target gift cards the next time you are there and give one to the next mom you see who just looks tired or to that mom you always run into at school drop-off. Look for opportunities in your regular routine to bless those around you!
  • The Big Tip – Chances are, you will go out to eat in a restaurant at some point this holiday season. Put it in the budget and plan ahead to randomly bless your server with an obnoxiously large tip, for no other reason than to give. Food service workers are often stuck missing out on family holiday gatherings to work and serve other people, so this kind of random generosity can have monumental effect on the heart of your server. And you’ll feel pretty great as you drive home, I promise.

We would LOVE to add to this list with your favorite ways to serve others in your community over the holidays. Please share in the comments or on our Facebook page about how you like to give back! 

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