– By Cristy Maldonado
The real spirit of the holiday season is giving. We too easily forget that gifts can be intangible – a smile, a kind gesture, or even a helping hand. Helping hands are needed throughout the greater Boston community this holiday season. If you have time to spare and would like to give back to the city and regularly in 2012, use this guide to volunteering in Boston to learn more. The organizations included in this guide make it easy to volunteer offering a variety of schedules and same day volunteer opportunities. Whatever way you want to give back – it’s always best to plan ahead.

Photo Credit: Boston Cares

Boston Cares

190 High Street # 4
Boston, MA 02110

Boston Cares is an organization at the hub of volunteer opportunities in the greater Boston area. From working in community gardens and preparing meals to tutoring adults and children, the tools available on the Boston Cares website will assist you with matching volunteer opportunities to your particular interests.

Photo Credit: Cristy Maldonado

Greater Boston Food Bank

70 South Bay Avenue
Boston, MA 02118

The Greater Boston Food Bank is the largest food bank facility in New England. It acts largely as a processing and distribution center where donated food is sorted, boxed, and shipped for delivery to local soup kitchens, community centers, and religious organizations. As a volunteer, you can work within the main distribution center sorting and packing food. Shifts occur daily in the morning (9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.) and afternoon (1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.). Training is quick and provided on site.

Photo Credit: Community Servings

Community Servings

18 Marbury Terrace
Boston, MA 02130

For individuals and families in Massachusetts suffering from and living with chronic illness, Community Servings provides homemade, delivered meals and nutritional programs. Volunteers can prepare and deliver meals, provide assistance for special events or perform administrative work. One of the most popular Thanksgiving events, Pie in the Sky, allows people like you and I to sell pies to friends and family to raise funds for Community Servings Programs. Each pie provides a week’s worth of home delivered meals to an individual or family in need.

Photo Credit: Boston Living Center

Boston Living Center

29 Stanhope Street,
Boston, MA 02116

The Boston Living Center serves meals to members of the community living with HIV/AIDS. Volunteers can prepare meals, greet guests entering the center, and assist in serving meals and with cleanup. If you have specialized skills to share, such as computer training or hair styling, you can also volunteer in the computer lab or salon.

New England Center for Homeless Veterans

17 Court Street
Boston, MA 02108

The New England Center for Homeless Veterans offers programming and services to veterans in the greater Boston area. Volunteer opportunities include preparing and serving meals for daily lunches and dinners.

Cristy is a Boston-based blogger in constant pursuit of fun activities in the city. Read more of her work at http://bostonurbansafari.blogspot.com