WINTER Volunteering

January sees Winter take a firm grip, and certainly 2018 has begun by encouraging us to really bundle up and stay warm, while having us explore setting up indoor activities. One of the greatest benefits of pursuing hobbies and worthwhile projects well into February is that March tends to arrive before you know it.

Another great thing about volunteering during the winter months is that it can bring people together in a wonderfully social way, with focus upon needs of the vulnerable in our communities that are particularly acute when the days are short and the cold seems ever present.


I. Packing Party

The Idea

A packing party is a get-together where volunteers build care packages for shelter occupants. Volunteers are asked to donate care package items or a small fee to cover the costs of purchased package items.


1. Pick a shelter where you will donate your packages. (Among ‘member’ not-for-profits of Volunteer MBC, examples of organizations that will accept donations are the Caledon Exchange, Seva Food Bank, Journey Neighbourhood Centre, Eden Food for Change, Peel Children’s Aid Society, Indus Community Services, Interim Place, Our Place Peel (Youth Shelter), Salvation Army – Region of Peel Emergency Residential Shelters.)

2. Create a list of shelter items your care package will contain. Most shelters will provide a list that you can narrow down. If not, consider these easy and affordable items:

  • toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  • lotion
  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • soaps
  • sanitary pads

3. Determine how many will attend the Party and the estimated number of parcels needed by the shelter, then buy items to be packaged and appropriate (perhaps festive) packaging materials*, besides accounting for inventory already donated and funds contributed or pledged for purchases in preparation for the Party.

*packaging materials should be recycled and recyclable.

Volunteers Required                                                                                                                                               

You will need:

1-2 volunteers to collect care package items.

1-2 volunteers to donate and pack items.

NOTE: The capacity of your volunteer site will likely depend on your location and funding. You may want to put a lower and upper limit on your number of volunteers to assure you can afford the materials.

1-2 volunteers to deliver the packages to the shelter.

II. Craft Circle

The Idea

A craft circle allows volunteers to craft items, based on interest, to donate to a charities or not-for-profits. The process may include tutorial sessions or online instructions. These crafts can be done individually or in groups.


1. Pick a charity or not-for-profit where you will donate your crafts (see the LINK and examples under Packing Party above). The United Way of Peel may also be able to guide you as to an appropriate recipient, and consideration should be given to charity ‘thrift stores’, children’s and seniors’ needs (for example, knitted clothing accessories), and food banks.

2. Create a list of crafts you would like to create. Most charities or not-for-profits will provide a list that you can choose from. Sample crafts are:

  • knitting scarves or hats
  • no-knit scarves or hats
  • holiday cards for kids in hospitals

3. Allow participants to create crafts from their own homes or set up dates for group crafts. Establish a time frame, assign specific projects, identify progress dates and deadlines, having regard to the needs of the organization(s) to which you will donate.

4. Collect crafts.

5. Donate crafts to the organization(s). Where appropriate and available, plan and obtain acknowledgements for your volunteers individually and as part of a group celebration.

Volunteers Required

You will need:

1-2 volunteers managing each craft.

1-2 volunteers to collect and donate items.

III. Food Drive

The Idea

A food drive is an initiative by residents who collect non-perishable grocery items and deliver these to traditional ‘drop off’ locations (eg. churches, fire halls), food banks, and to other charities.

The initiative can come from a social group (service club, bridge club, for example), and as a student project (part of volunteerism in schools), and even as a neighbourhood undertaking spearheaded by a local resident.

All ages can easily be involved, with adult supervision where warranted.


1. Decide on the charity where you want to donate the food items. (Among Volunteer MBC’s ‘member’ organizations, the following organizations would be ready recipients: Eden Food for Change, Seva Food Bank, The Compass Food Bank and The Caledon Exchange.)

2. Create a list of acceptable items. Most charities (especially food banks on their websites) will provide a list.

3. Collect items over a chosen time period (between 1 week and 1 month).

4. Deliver food items to the charity or ‘drop off’ with a list of inventory (or arrange for pick up at an agreed location).

5. Arrange an acknowledgement of those donors who can be identified.

Volunteers Required

You will need:

1-2 volunteers to set up the donation box (some organizations provide these boxes, upon request).

1-2 volunteers to check over the contents of the donation box and deliver the donations to the charity, or arrange for pick up.

IV. Item Swap

The Idea

Participants will have the opportunity to bring in items that they no longer need, and which are in good, working condition. When the items are delivered, the participants will receive tickets that are redeemable for other items in the Swap. Organizers will determine the time period for receipt of items and issue of tickets, and the date(s) on which, and a suitable central location where, ticket holders may engage in the actual Swap.

An item swap consists of three stages:

Collection Period: People donate items in exchange for tickets.

The Swap: People exchange their tickets for donated items.

Donation: Any unclaimed items are donated to charity or not-for-profits.


1. Pick a charity or not-for-profit where you will donate the items not selected in the Swap (see examples of possible recipients noted above, plus reference Volunteer MBC’s overall list of ‘member’ not-for-profits.

2. Decide on a ticket system: one-to-one or one-to-many.

TIP: try a digital ticket system for a greener approach

3. Create a list of items you will collect. Consider:

  • books and magazines
  • toys and games
  • clothes and accessories
  • decorative items and houseware

4. Collect items over a chosen time period (between 1 week and 1 month).

5. Dedicate one or two days to the actual swap.

6. Donate any remaining items to a charity or not-for-profit.

NOTE: some charities or not-for-profits will pick up items at your location at no cost!

Volunteers Required

You will need:

1-2 volunteers per collection shift.

2-4 volunteers on the day of the swap.

1-2 volunteers to deliver the leftover items to the charity or not-for-profit.

In organizing these worthwhile activities, you are bound to attract family, friends, neighbours, and people you work with. Some may be seasoned volunteers, others trying a volunteering experience for the first time, especially children. Winter does indeed yield to Spring, and many involved in your project may want to move on to other volunteering activities. A very easy access to additional volunteering opportunities is through Volunteer MBC’s website: With close to 200 ‘member’ not-for-profit organizations and many more volunteering ‘positions’ on offer, Volunteer MBC is an extremely convenient gateway to additional, fulfilling volunteering experiences!

Have you started any winter initiatives? Send us an email and tell us about your activity and experience!