Play It Forward Pittsburgh takes over the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for its annual toy distribution event.

The spirit of giving pervades the holiday season. While most of us won’t be handing out cars with massive red bows on top, many of us can afford to give a little time. Here are seven volunteer opportunities at organizations or events that would welcome your assistance this month. (Volunteer sites have varied masking and distancing requirements, so be aware of them when signing up.) 

Dec. 11

Brunch N’ Serve is hosted by the Pittsburgh branch of Repair the World and GIFT (Giving It Forward, Together); they’re looking for high school and college students to prepare and deliver winter holiday kits for seniors. The kits include a meal, small gifts and cards made by younger kids. As indicated, volunteers will be fed as well. They’ll meet at East End Cooperative Ministries (entrance B) from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sign up here or here

Dec. 12-17

Play It Forward Pittsburgh is getting ready for its annual toy distribution event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Starting Monday, Dec. 12, they’ll need a lot of volunteers to sort toys, as well as prepare and distribute donation boxes. Two-hour shifts are available between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. from Monday, Dec. 12 through Thursday, Dec. 15, and until 7 p.m. on Dec. 16. Most volunteer slots are filled for “shopping” and distributing on Saturday, Dec. 17, but they can always use help with cleanup. Parents are permitted to bring their kids to help. Sign-up information is here.

Play It Forward Pittsburgh welcomes parents and kids to help with its annual toy distribution event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Dec. 15 and 16  

Toys for Tots celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Pittsburgh Cares, the one-stop shop for local volunteer gigs, is teaming up with local Marines to coordinate outreach, and they need help. Volunteers will assist families by fulfilling their requests for toys, and otherwise helping in the warehouse in the Penn Hills area. Children aged 10 and up are welcome if accompanied by an adult. Sign up here.

Through Dec. 23

The Peoples Gas Holiday Market in Market Square is in full swing, Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. through Dec. 23. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is looking for volunteers who can encourage visitors to take a photo with Santa for a suggested donation of $10 to the food bank. Shouldn’t be a hard sell. No age limit. Choose a shift here.

Through Dec. 31

The Salvation Army can always use some more bell ringers for the iconic Red Kettle Campaign. They’re set up this year in front of Kuhn’s on Banksville Road, Sam’s Club in Monroeville, Giant Eagle Market District in Shadyside and the Giant Eagle on Monroeville Boulevard. Family volunteers are welcome. Donors can give cash or scan a QR code from a poster at the site. And, of course, you get to ring a bell! Choose your preferred time and location and submit your information here, and someone will be in touch.

Photo courtesy of Our Giving Kitchen.


Our Giving Kitchen invites people to join them on Sundays to cook meals for distribution at their Surplus Store located at 2118 Murray Ave. in Squirrel Hill. They’ve been doing this since 2021 in response to the Covid pandemic. The store is open for donations and food pickup on Sunday afternoons and Mondays. They can only host a few cooks at their site, but there is some availability on Dec. 11 and 18. Signup is here. Groups can also sponsor a private cooking session.

Every day of the year since 1979, Jubilee Soup Kitchen in the lower Hill District prepares and serves a mid-day meal for as many as 200 people, and the holidays are no exception. Due to Covid, they’ve moved to takeout service, available between 11 a.m. and noon. Volunteers are needed from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to prepare and give out meals and help with cleanup. Volunteers must be over 13 years old. Call 412-261-5417 Monday through Friday morning, to sign up and get more information.

Annette Bassett

Annette Bassett is a freelance writer and grant writer living in Bloomfield. She likes visiting local breweries, going to concerts and walking the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh while listening to audiobooks....