5 Places Students Can Volunteer this Holiday Season

Consider how you can comfort someone in need this holiday season. No matter how small a task may seem, it can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to your community.

"What can you do to help out the community around us? I encourage you to go help out in some way this week, whether it is a service project or something as simple as buying someone lunch,” says Jackie Stone, OBU student.

Joy Turner, director of global mobilization, teaches students the importance of serving the community, and the entire world. Freshmen get involved in serving the community through “Serve Shawnee” during Welcome Week and then the entire campus can serve together during “One Body United” in the spring. There are also ongoing local ministries that students are involved in that any student can join.  

OBU students have been volunteering with certain Shawnee organizations for years, so you can join an existing group. Or, you can blaze your own path.

When deciding where to volunteer, think about your passion. Consider your strengths and what makes you happy. Do you work better with the elderly, with children, with furry friends, or, would you do better in an office setting, or doing yard work? Shawnee offers a variety of places for volunteers to get plugged in. 

“Some students stay in the local ministries for several years; they build strong relationships, and serve as Christian witnesses and teach the Bible,” Turner said. “Seeing the students that go every single week is impressive.”

Here are some meaningful places to make a difference.

Places to Volunteer in Shawnee

Cargo Ranch

Many OBU students volunteer at Cargo Ranch, a center that supports children in need. Through mentorships and outdoor activities, volunteers encourage children who are facing obstacles. Cargo Ranch tries to match children with mentors who have been through similar life circumstances.

“We have about 40 kids in the program we mentor,” said Executive Director, Carrie Carter. “Our goal is to share the gospel and give them the hope of Christ. We want to show them how they can move past an obstacle in their life, and that this life isn’t an end-all be-all.”

There are two eight-week sessions during the school year, in the spring and fall. About 30-40 OBU students volunteer regularly each Tuesday. Volunteer activities range from mentoring, yard work, office work and more.

Volunteers are always eagerly welcomed because the program is free and there is always a waiting list.

“It extends past just Tuesday night,” Carter said. “We get involved in the lives of the families so we can share the gospel. We’ve had kids become Christians during their time at Cargo Ranch.”

Family Promise of Shawnee

Family Promise of Shawnee helps families become self-sufficient by providing food and shelter in times of transition. In 2015, more than 20 families who entered the program graduated with permanent housing and job placement. Families stay at the center during the day, and typically stay the night at partnering churches.

Volunteers are critical to the success of Family Promise of Shawnee. Every family is provided dinner prepared by volunteers. Other volunteer opportunities include staying with families in the evenings or overnight, providing transportation, doing yard work or repairs in the center, and watching children while parents are job searching.

Families appreciate having someone stay the evening with them because it provides a sense of ease for families who wouldn’t otherwise have transportation if there was an emergency.

“The OBU softball team volunteers at our fundraiser every year,” says Skylar Johnson, case manager. “They are a huge help.”

This year, Family Promise of Shawnee would like to host a Christmas drive for Christmas decorations and so they can provide hot chocolate and cookies to families throughout the season. “We want families to look forward to it and would love for the community to help out,” Johnson said.

Heartland Hospice

Heartland Hospice is a wonderful volunteering opportunity for students where they can see the immediate impact they are making in an individual’s life. Not only do volunteers comfort patients, but they provide support and rest to the patients’ caregivers.

Karen Cleveland, employee at Heartland Hospice, shared examples of past OBU student volunteers. One student would go and play guitar for a patient, the two connected so well his family asked the student to play at the patient’s funeral.

Volunteers must be approved and trained, but as Cleveland says, “It’s well worth it to complete the process. The patients love to talk to young people and tell them their stories.”

“There is plenty of rewarding service to be done once students are accepted into the volunteer program,” Cleveland said. “Going out to someone’s home or to a nursing home, or sitting vigil is very rewarding.”

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has served Shawnee for more than a century. The Salvation Army aids the community through a soup kitchen, shelter, utility bill assistance, food pantry and clothing vouchers.

They offer two social services programs called Light a Life and Share the Warmth where anyone can make a contribution and assist families who need funds for fuel and energy.

Many organizations on the OBU campus, like Omega Chi Delta, volunteer at the Salvation Army.

Hope House at Youth & Family Resource Center

The focus of Hope House at Youth & Family Resource Center  is to make positive changes with Shawnee children. The volunteer activities range, but mostly involve spending time with children and teens.

“The teenagers relate to OBU students and the students are a great influence on them; they mentor them,” said Sandra Moseley, Hope House shift leader. “We have seen some great things happen over the years with the kids and OBU student volunteers.”

OBU has been volunteering with YFRC for years. There are currently two OBU groups that volunteer every Monday and Thursday night.

“Whatever needs we have, they take care of it,” Moseley said. “If someone has a bad week, we can tell the OBU students and they will talk with them. It’s really awesome. I’m thankful for them.”  

Moseley is pleased that the group continues to grow and she is always looking for more volunteers.

YFRC hosts fun activities for their volunteers, like seasonal activities, bonfires, and more. They want volunteers to enjoy the experience as much as the children they are serving do.

If you enjoy volunteering with likeminded individuals, we know you will feel right at home at OBU. Apply today and let’s serve the community!