Residents encouraged to volunteer during holidays

Volunteers with Manna Pantry of Big Rapids unload a delivery of food for the organization. Residents in the Big Rapids area are encouraged to help their neighbors by volunteering in the community, particularly during the holiday season. (Pioneer file photo)

BIG RAPIDS — For many, the holiday season means spending time with families and friends, taking time to relax and enjoying many good meals, but it also is an important time to give back to the community through volunteering.

With several organizations needing volunteers and donations in the Big Rapids area, including the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Manna Pantry of Big Rapids, Women’s Information Service Inc., and more, residents have many options for helping their neighbors.

One agency always in need of more assistance is the Salvation Army Big Rapids Corps, officials with the group said.

Envoy Edwin Hoskins said the organization currently is seeking volunteers to be bell ringers and to help with the Salvation Army Angel Tree program.

“Those are the biggest things here at the holidays that make the quickest impact on the community,” Hoskins said.

He explained money collected by bell ringers throughout the holidays not only helps offset the cost of the Angel Tree program, but also helps pay for the cost of free music lessons provided to people in the community through the Salvation Army, as well as other services.

The Angel Tree program provides children enrolled in the program with toys and gifts donated by the community, Hoskins explained.

“It’s real-time gift giving, from the community, to the community,” he said.

He said it is important to have volunteers for this program because there is usually a shortage of gifts and any help with shopping or donating items is appreciated.

“It’s all our responsibility to help those who are our neighbors,” Hoskins said.

Another local agency hoping to give back to people in the community is Manna Pantry of Big Rapids, which provides food to people in need in Mecosta and Osceola counties.

Executive Director Kevin Courtney said the easiest way for people to volunteer is by coming to the pantry to assist with unloading food deliveries, inventory maintenance, preparing food and other necessary tasks.

He added each shift is three hours and people can volunteer for a day without any further commitment.

Courtney said Manna Pantry has a particular need for volunteers around the holiday because many of their regular helpers are retired and will leave the area during the winter, leaving the agency short-staffed.

“Volunteering is a way of showing your appreciation of what you have,” Courtney said.

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