With only a few short days to spend at home, deciding how to divide one’s time between catching up with old friends, catching up with homework and spending time with family is a real challenge. In some ways, Thanksgiving “break” tends to be just as busy as the rest of the school year.

However, it is important to recognize that as college students, we enjoy a great deal of freedom. Particularly during break, with family to take care of us and no classes to attend, we are free to do whatever we want with our time. We are not, in general, living paycheck to paycheck or worrying about whether we will have enough food to eat.

Not being constrained by life responsibilities, consider taking some time this break to volunteer in the community. There are a wide variety of organizations that accept volunteers any time of the year. DC Central Kitchen, a nonprofit focused on reducing hunger, and Shepherd’s Table, an organization that provides basic services to people who are homeless or in need, are two local examples.

In addition to helping out people in need, giving back to the community gives you a change in perspective from “stressed-out college student” to “privileged person who generally has enough food to eat and likely always will.”

Volunteering at the DC Central Kitchen is a great way to give back to the community. This food recycling and distribution organization provides 5,000 free meals to homeless shelters and nonprofits every day. Volunteers can work in the kitchen preparing meals or they can go to local farms to gather fresh produce. DC Central Kitchen uses an online form for volunteer sign up, located at http://www.dccentralkitchen.org/volunteer/.

For those closer to the Silver Spring area, the Shepherd’s Table nonprofit provides meals to the homeless as well as medical support and clothing. Volunteers can prepare meals, sort clothes or help out in the eye clinic, which provides vision testing, glaucoma testing and eyeglass prescriptions to the uninsured. Shepherd’s Table also uses an online form for volunteer sign-up, located at http://shepherdstable.org/volunteer/.

A Wider Circle, also in Silver Spring, provides basic home goods to families transitioning from homeless shelters or other needy situations. The nonprofit also holds workforce readiness courses and individual job coaching to fulfill its mission of fighting against poverty. Volunteer opportunities include collecting and distributing furniture and sorting professional clothing at the organization’s Center for Professional Development. More information can be found on A Wider Circle’s website, http://awidercircle.org/get-involved/volunteer/.


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