Out of the Bag: Winter Time Volunteering

Volunteer suggestions for the winter months

January is the harshest of months - resolutions to do good collide with cold weather, wet feet, short days and recovery from a busy holiday season. 

Still, there's no denying the simple fact - our neighbors need us more than ever. For they, too, face these same constraints only with the lack of reliable housing, employment, heat and food. 

Volunteering is often among the Top Ten New Year's Resolutions.

A new year does not mean the diminishing of world problems, and volunteers are always needed. The season of giving is still swinging, so people feel inclined to volunteer and make their free time a bit more meaningful.

We have a few suggestions for volunteering that works with your schedule.


Family Projects:

  • Print out our activity sheet for your kids; talk about the hunger & environmental concepts. 
  • Decide together how you can help - maybe give up one "treat" and donate that to other families? Or shop together & talk about nutrition. 
  • Encourage the kids to do their own tote drive - have them notify other family members, neighbors and their friends' families. Collect the totes together. Remind them that we are helping our neighbors one tote bag at a time.
  • On National Peanut Butter Day, invite the kids to contribute some of their allowance to purchase a jar or two of peanut butter, put into a tote bag and drive to one of our drop-off locations. 


Volunteer From Home:

  • Good with numbers? We need an interim treasurer to do some very light bookkeeping for a few months. This might be one hour per week max plus one meeting in Feb. 
  • Do you like to write? Our blog is always interested in guest posts. Tell us about your tote drive, your recycling stories, interview one of our partners, the ideas are limitless. 
  • Data entry? Fold and stuff mailings? We can use your help for these occasional needs. 
  • Experienced with newsletters? We need to send a weekly e-newsletter to volunteers. You will be the editor - google groups takes care of distribution.


Regular Commitments:

  • Do you like to drive? We need a volunteer to make a trip once a week (or every other week) from the Northside to Duquesne to deliver donations. No heavy lifting. This would be M,T, H or F between 10 and 2. Typical load fills a trunk and backseat. 
  • Searching for "transporters" to collect donations on a regular basis (1x month average) from these neighborhoods: Beechview, Cranberry, South Side, Woodland Hills. You can schedule with the site. Items will need to be delivered to the Northside, but that's flexible. 


Organize a Tote Drive:

  • Pick a theme, download our guide and get your drive on the schedule. 
  • Where? Book club, your work place, your church or place of worship, Scouts, school, even the hair salon you patronize. 
  • What? National Soup Month, National Peanut Butter Day, Heart Healthy Foods (think red - salmon, beans, tomato juice, etc), Sister Supplies. Or simply totes. Backpacks. Messenger Bag. 
  • Complicated? Doesn't have to be. Email people you plan to see anyway - ask them to bring along a tote bag. Is someone doing a food drive? Suggest they add totes. 
  • What schedule? We add planned drives to our calendar. Not only does this help us coordinate logistics with you, it inspires others who read the calendar - if you can do it, they can do it, too!


Crafts and Activities:

  • Do you sew? Handmade tote bags are terrific. Can you spare an hour or two to make one or two from your leftover fabric? 
  • How about a crafty challenge? You know the grocery store totes - they are made from nonwoven polypropelene plastic. We need ideas for repurposing/upcycling this material. 
  • We are often asked to lead workshops for children involving tote bags. Would you like to create that activity? This is a little complicated because we have to consider practical uses for the bags (no markers, no messages, no glitter, etc) but ...


So from a one time commitment to a regular but manageable amount of time, we have volunteer opportunities to meet your needs and help our neighbors. Contact us for more information.


The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project collects new and gently used tote bags for distribution to the region's food pantries. We are a project of the Thomas Merton Center. Visit our website for a list of permanent drop-off spots, information on how to organize your own tote bag drive and details on our partnerships with corporations and promotional products items. You can also follow us on Twitter@Tote4Pgh and Facebook.com/Tote4pgh

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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