The holiday season is usually filled with family, friends, gifts, lots of cheer and more baked goods than you can handle. Of course, this year things have been a little different (I feel like this should be the tag line for literally everything that's happened since March). Less friends and family. Maybe a lack of cheer. I don't know about you, but I've been struggling to get into that "holiday spirit". In my experience, one sure cure to get me out of my funk is volunteering. And there are lots of places in Kalamazoo that need your help.

I stumbled upon a reddit post expressing the same type of feeling. Reddit user a-l-b posted,

Is there a website or anything that lists volunteer opportunities near me? I’m so sick of sitting at home, feeling like a failure for being so broke right before Christmas. I don’t have Facebook and I feel like that’s the best way to hear about events happening near me — but I really don’t want to sign up for Facebook again.

Fellow users offered a few suggestions including checking out 211 Michigan, a website that focuses on volunteer opportunities in the UP. But, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer right here in Southwest Michigan. Here are 5 to get you started.

1. Volunteer at a Blood Drive 

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According to The Red Cross, approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S. As a volunteer with local blood banks, like Versiti, you'd help with customer service and monitoring donor reactions.

2. Deliver Meals to Seniors 

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Senior Services of Southwest Michigan is looking for volunteer drivers and hoppers as they call them, aka the ones who take the food to the door, for local seniors in need. If driving isn't your thing they're also looking for handy helpers or people to grow produce for meals on wheels.

3. Thank a Teacher

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This may the easiest one on the list. Thank a Teacher is looking for volunteers who would be matched with a PreK Educator in order to send monthly thank you cards or notes of encouragement to uplift teachers, during this uncertain time.

4. Share the Gift of Pet Therapy and Volunteer with Grace Hospice 

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There are a lot of professions that do not get the recognition they deserve. Hospice workers are one of them. If you're in a place where you're emotionally able, pet therapy volunteers are needed to visit with Grace Hospice patients and their caregivers at the end of life. It's all about providing some joy and stress relief.

5. Provide Mental Health Support to a Veteran

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This one is a bit more specific. The non-profit organization Give an Hour are looking for volunteers who are independently licensed mental health professionals who set aside one session per week for a client. If you're not a licensed mental health professionals, Give an Hour may still have opportunities for you. Reach out to them with any questions.

Those are just a few on a long list of needed volunteers thanks to volunteermatch.org.

If you're feeling down and out, if you're feeling hopeless, just know you're not alone. And if you don't know what to do, consider volunteering. There are lots of people who need our help. And the more we volunteer the more we can disprove this study that says that Michigan isn't a charitable state! Check it out below.

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