Acts of service is my love language, and service has been a huge part of my life for years. I love giving back, doing something that creates tangible results for people who need help, shopping for the Angel Tree, et cetera. 

But 2020 has really thrown a wrench in service-provision. Soup kitchens are becoming about small groups of volunteer pre-packing lunches that will then be distributed safely. Museums don’t need docents coming in. No volunteers can go into schools, prisons, or nursing homes to help connect those people with health services, great books, career building exercises, or anything else. 

All is not lost though! Yes, service looks different now, but if you’re looking for ways to be of service to others this holiday season–a time in which so many of us are usually active in soup kitchens, shopping centers helping wrap presents, shopping for donated gifts, shaking bells, etc–without leaving your safe little home, here are five great ideas!

Write letters to veterans, home-bound patients, or nursing home residents

This year has been super lonely for some people, but it’s easy to help them feel more connected to you and the rest of the world. Grab some paper, some cards, envelopes, etc, and write letters to veterans, nursing homes near you, et cetera. Try to think local, but there are some national organizations that do accept letters from all over the world. 

Email or call a nursing home near you and ask if you can write holiday cards to the residents. Ask how many residents they have so you can get enough cards–or divvy it up among your friends–and get to writing! 

Introduce yourself, ask questions they can answer to themselves even if they aren’t writing back, talk about your interests, etc. You can really make this what you want.

You can order all your supplies online, if necessary, and you can even get stamps delivered to your house. No excuses–and you know you’ll be putting a smile on someone’s face.

Help transcribe records, family Bibles, and other documents

Not into talking to strangers? Fingers hurt when you grip a pen too hard? Try looking into online transcription opportunities–like those with the Smithsonian Institute–or museums and organizations near you. 

You can do this at your own time, it’ll stretch the way you use your computer and your mind, and it helps preserve our world for future generations. 

At the Smithsonian, you can also choose a project to work on based on your hobbies. Many churches, libraries, and museums are also offering virtual transcription opportunities for family Bibles, census records, and more things.

Make masks or ear-savers 

Got any seamstress in your bones? Try your hand at mask making or making ear savers. We all know these masks aren’t going anywhere fast, and people are realizing they need multiple masks so they don’t re-wear dirty ones. 

If you make masks or ear savers–see here to understand what I mean–you can save them to give out to homeless people you see that might need them, donate to your neighbors, or connect with a nursing home, school, or other site that is open to aid them in making mask-wearing easier.

I know, sewing is a hard thing to take up overnight, that’s why I focused on ear-saver making. I crocheted them–super simple single stitch–and hand-sewed on buttons and breezed through them.

Clean up trash in your neighborhood

Okay, you might have to leave your literal home for this one, but it’s safer and easier than entering into a foreign environment. Grab a trash bag, ideally some gloves, and walk the block. Pick up trash and throw it away. This is great to do before snow really sets in and makes things even grosser. It’s a great way to enjoy some fresh air and do something good for your immediate area. 

Bonus points if you post about it on Nextdoor or Facebook and encourage your neighbors to do it so that the neighborhood stays clean for months to come.

Help emerging readers by reading from home

Do you like books? Do you have a webcam? You can help emerging readers bridge the divide that this weird school year is going to have on them. A lot of kids don’t have good reading models at home, and organizations with public libraries, local community centers, and schools have pivoted to virtual reading activities. It’s so easy to participate. The one near me, Everybody Wins, is hosting virtual reading time, but you can also pre-record reading. It’s about building good vibes around books as well as helping the actual reading process solidify for these kids. 

Check with the local schools or libraries to see if they can connect you with these people. You don’t even have to be reading books you already own. Check out books or e-books from the public library near you–look into Overdrive!–and enjoy the big steps you’re helping these kids make on their reading journey.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member