Spreading holiday cheer: A guide to volunteering this winter season

A student’s guide to student volunteering for Christmas 

Photo Credit / AIDS Vancouver

By: Lubaba Mahmud, Staff Writer


As the great Michael Bublé sings, “It’s that time of year I treasure, the time for giving, the best part of living.” This holiday season is one for giving, so The Peak has compiled this guide which provides an overview of some organisations that let you give back to the community! 

Most of the following volunteer positions are for people with little or no experience. Please also note that this guide provides only summaries of volunteer opportunities, so we encourage you to visit the said organisation’s website for detailed information and volunteer applications.


Aunt Leah’s Tree Lots: November 21–December 23, 2019 (or until supplies last)

Aunt Leah’s Trees is one of the largest charity tree lots in Canada. This organisation sells locally-sourced Christmas trees with the proceeds going towards funding programs assisting foster children and young mothers. Positions include customer support, cashier, and sales tracking — volunteer orientation is held on-sire. Each shift is 4–4.5 hours long, and group volunteering opportunities are also available. A supply tent will be stocked with snacks and beverages, as well as equipment including gloves and other gear for volunteers. 

Hope Rayson, the organization’s Volunteer Coordinator, encourages students to participate. In an email exchange with The Peak, Rayson wrote “SFU students can join the tradition and help prevent foster youth from becoming homeless by volunteering at Aunt Leah’s Tree Lots. Make a meaningful impact while having a great time and getting in the holiday spirit!”

Contact Hope Rayson at (778)-551-5535 or hrayson@auntleahs.org

2019 Locations:

  • Vancouver: Kerrisdale/Marpole and River District
  • Burnaby: Royal Oak and Rumble
  • Coquitlam: 2813 Glen Dr., Coquitlam, 
  • North Vancouver: Lonsdale Quay


Be a Santa to a Senior: December 2019

This holiday season, spread the joy of giving to lovely seniors. Home Instead Senior Care pairs seniors, who might not receive Christmas gifts otherwise, with volunteers who wish to give presents to them. Each senior’s gift requests are written on a ‘Be a Santa to a Senior’ bulb and placed on Christmas trees in many retail store locations. 

To volunteer, simply type in your area code in their website to find a nearby participating ‘Be a Santa to a Senior’ location such as London Drugs or Vancity outlets. Go to the location to select a bulb from the tree with a senior’s gift request written on it and buy the requested gift. Then, place the bulb and your unwrapped gift(s) in the designated box. Home Instead Senior Care will then deliver your kind gifts to seniors!


AIDS Vancouver’s Holiday Grocery: December 10, 2019

Through gathering donations, AIDS Vancouver’s annual event supplies groceries for up to 800 people every holiday season. Volunteers help with tasks like grocery delivery. This organisation partners with many local community agencies, including Positive Women’s Network, Portland Hotel Society,Vancouver Native Health Society, Woodward’s Community Housing, and The Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

The event will take place from 9:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m at the second floor of 1101 Seymour Street, Suite 235, Vancouver. Contact Lawrence Chidzambwa, Grocery Program Coordinator at (604)-696-4678 for more information.


Outreach Christmas: December 12, 2019

Outreach Christmas is a holiday event that provides food, clothing, and toiletries to those facing the challenges of poverty and homelessness. The event is organised by The Society To End Homelessness, and all resources are supplied by donations from the Outreach Resource Centre. This charity event will also host a number of activities such as card-making, bingo, and hockey.  Volunteer positions include: Santa’s helper, bingo monitor, food distributor, MC/greeter, receptionist, and more. 

A detailed guide outlining specific volunteer tasks can be found in the event’s website. To apply for a position, contact Carol-Ann Flanagan at (604)-200-0712 or email the centre at info.burnabyhomeless@gmail.com 


Christmas Day Community Meal: December 25, 2019

The Salvation Army Vancouver Harbour Light is hosting a Christmas Day Community meal, and they need your help to make this event a success!

Volunteers would help with meal preparation, serving tables, and offering ‘sunshine bags’ (i.e. small gifts) to guests. Volunteers must be at least 19 years old and comfortable standing or sitting for the whole shift (1.5–3 hours). 


One-time holiday volunteers do not need to attend a volunteer orientation or undergo a Criminal Record Check in advance. Please visit the event’s website to apply and for other details and shift timings. 


Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau (LCMB): December 4–20, 2019

The Vancouver Christmas Giving Program helps low-income-working families and families on assistance with holiday gift-giving. They are offering the two volunteer opportunities below:


  1. Christmas Toy Store Volunteer:

Volunteers needed would provide one-on-one help to parents as they choose Christmas presents for their children. Available shifts are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 12 to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 10:00 a.m. to 2:00pm on December 14 only.

Toy store location: 205 Victoria Drive, Vancouver B.C. 


  1. Gift Sorting in LMCB Warehouse:

The LMCB receives up to 100,000 gift items for Christmas, therefore, the organisation needs volunteers who can assist them with collecting, sorting, and shipping gift items. Volunteers can sign up for either morning or afternoon shifts. There are no required minimum hours.

You can apply for one or both of these volunteering positions through their website.

Contact LCMB for more information at (604)-253-7191


Vancouver Christmas Market: November 20–December 24, 2019

This famous local market, held at the Jack Poole Plaza, hosts festive shows and features many shops for visitors to enjoy. Starting November 20, the market will be open everyday from 11:30 

A.m. to 9:30 p.m. On December 24, the market’s last day, it will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Organisers of Vancouver Christmas Market are looking for volunteers who can help with promotion, act as mascots, supervise the Kinder Kraft Igloo (which is an accessible and friendly position to oversee a crafting booth for children), tend to guests, and support the market’s social media team. Volunteers will be gifted with complimentary tickets along with free food and drink every shift. Given the market’s long duration, a variety of day and evening shifts will be made available on both weekdays and weekends. Shifts are four hours each and are allocated on a first come first serve basis. You can apply to be a volunteer by filling out a form on their website. Selected volunteers will be contacted by email and invited to a Meet & Greet in November.


Giving back (literally): Organizations looking for item donations

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter: November–December, 2019

The centre is seeking donations for women and children this holiday season! You can donate new and unopened items like scarves and chocolates, or anything else from their holiday wishlist. Donations will be accepted until December 13.

Donation hours:

Thursday–Tuesday: 10 a.m.–12 p.m. and 2–4.30 p.m.

Wednesday: 11 a.m.–12 p.m. and 2–4.30 p.m.


The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre

302 Columbia St Vancouver, BC V6A 4J1


Covenant House’s Christmas backpack program: November–December, 2019

The Christmas Backpack program provides homeless youth with a backpack full of Christmas gifts. You can help this cause by donating money for their Christmas campaign,

purchasing a completed backpack through their partner Army & Navy, or purchasing a backpack and advent items online from their Amazon wish list. Only new, unopened, and unwrapped gifts will be accepted. Contact Covenant House in advance before leaving/delivering donations. 

For more information, reach out to Cory Kaban, Development Associate, at (604)-757-6064 or ckaban@covenanthousebc.org


Soles for Souls: December 7, 2019

Soles for Souls collects and provides footwear for people living in poverty. According to the organization, they support groups including: “working poor, people living with disabilities (15% live in poverty), people who are homeless, single parent families[ . . . ].” This annual sneaker drive is presented by BRED, the Vancouver Sneakerheads Group, and Vancouver Streetwear Community. 

During the event, Soles for Souls will collect new or lightly worn footwear, as well as donations to the Shoe Bank of Canada. This 19+ free event will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and will offer drinks, music, shoe raffles, and giveaways from sponsors.


1063 Hamilton St., The Space Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC