British Columbia

8 short-term volunteer opportunities to put your holiday cheer to good use in Vancouver

Check out these short-term volunteer gigs in Metro Vancouver to help out people in need in your community.

Beware! Short-term, feel-good volunteering can tempt you into a long-term commitment to give back

Volunteer and aspiring pastry chef Maggie Zhang serves up pumpkin pie desserts for guests at a Union Gospel Mission dinner in Vancouver. (Lien Yeung/CBC)

It's that time of year again: drinking eggnog, crying at old reruns of Miracle on 34th Street and grappling with the overwhelming desire to give.

For those looking to put that holiday spirit of giving to good use, short-term volunteering can be a perfect opportunity to do so. 

"Let's face it, we want to give back, we all know that it's needed ... but life is busy," said Cathryn France, director of fund development at the YMCA of Greater Vancouver. 

France points out that short-term volunteering can also be a good way to get to know an organization and start thinking about contributing in the long-term.

"One of the things I would encourage people to think about this time of year is how to take those short-term volunteer opportunities and leverage them into year-long commitments," she said. 

So if you're looking to dip your toes into the feel-good waters, here are some short-term volunteer gigs for you to explore.

A volunteer helps serve beverages at the Union Gospel Mission's annual Christmas dinner. (CBC)

1. Salvation Army toy drive

The community and family services branch of the Salvation Army in Vancouver is looking for volunteers to sort and pack toys from its toy drives. Volunteers can contribute for a half or a full day. 

It is also looking for volunteers to solicit donations at its Christmas kettles for a day, or to help out during the registration process for its Christmas assistance program by translating for Cantonese, Mandarin or Vietnamese speakers. 

How to sign up: call 604-872-7676 or email

2. Ignite the Warmth blanket drive

Ignite the Warmth is a student-led initiative that hands out blankets to people on the Downtown Eastside with personal messages of hope for the recipients. It is looking for people to donate blankets, make hand-made cards, and help hand out donations.

How to sign up: email

Every year the Salvation Army looks for volunteers to accept donations at its Christmas kettles. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

3. WISH Drop-in Centre holiday meal prep

WISH aims to improve the health, safety and well-being of women involved in Vancouver's street-based sex trade.

It is looking for women 19 years old and over to help prepare and serve food between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, particularly on Christmas Eve, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. 

It is also looking for volunteers to sort through donations and help with administrative tasks. 

How to sign up: email

4. Project HELLO Christmas card donations

Project HELLO helps people on the Downtown Eastside connect with their families by helping them send Christmas cards and locate loved ones

It is looking for volunteers to make handmade cards or donate materials and help track down friends and family. 

How to sign up: email

The Ignite the Warmth blanket drive aims to build empathy between youth and adults and people living on the Downtown Eastside. (Ignite the Warmth/Facebook)

5. Beauty Night holiday-themed aesthetic services

The Beauty Night Society provides wellness and beauty services to help build self-esteem for impoverished women and youth. 

It is looking for wellness and beauty professionals to offer services like manicures, massages and haircuts at shelters in Metro Vancouver over the holidays. 

How to sign up: fill out a volunteer application form

6. AIDS Vancouver holiday grocery

AIDS Vancouver's annual holiday grocery event supports more than 700 HIV-positive people with food security issues. 

The event takes place Dec. 13 from 9 a.m. PT to 4 p.m. PT on the Downtown Eastside and it is looking for volunteers to distribute food, make merry and hand out treats. Volunteers can also help with set up on Dec. 9 and 12. 

How to sign up: fill out a volunteer application form or email​

A Project HELLO volunteer helps Ethel Smith write a Christmas card to her daughter, whom she hasn't seen in over 10 years. (CBC)

7. Union Gospel Mission turkey carving and Christmas hampers

The Union Gospel Mission provides shelter, food and services for those in need. 

It is looking for volunteers to deliver Christmas hampers to families and seniors on Dec. 14 and 15.

People with culinary skills who are over the age of 18 can contribute on the mornings of Dec. 5 to 8 to carve turkeys in preparation for its Christmas dinner on Dec. 10. 

How to sign up: email for the hamper program, or for the turkey carving.

8. Be a Santa to a Senior

Be a Santa to a Senior partners with non-profit organizations to identify seniors who might not otherwise receive gifts over the holiday season. 

It needs volunteers to collect, wrap and deliver gifts to seniors at homes and service agencies across B.C. 

How to sign up: submit your postal code to find an agency near you that is looking for help. 


Maryse Zeidler


Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at