Lights, ornaments, special events, family dinners and presents—there are so many things we look forward to during the holiday season. But it’s easy to forget that we’re not all equally fortunate. There are many families and individuals in the Ann Arbor area that are currently struggling to make do—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The holidays season is always a great time to donate and volunteer to local organizations, but what with a national pandemic, it has become even more important. COVID-19 has left many unemployed, homeless and unable to make ends meet.
That’s why we’ve rounded up a few ways you can help the community during the 2020 holiday season. Whether you are just looking for a few places to donate money, are interested in donating household items and food, or want to spend a day volunteering at an organization in need, you’ll find a few ways to help below.
Due to the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus, the urgent needs of the listed nonprofits may change throughout the holiday season. We recommend calling before donating to any nonprofit to see where you can be of the most help.
Reach Out to People That You Know
While we definitely encourage you to spend time donating and volunteering this holiday season, we also encourage you to reach out to the people you know who may need a little holiday cheer. The past several months have been difficult for many and a quick phone call or video chat can do wonders. So this season, make sure to call your loved ones or reach out to your neighbors to see if they need anything. Sometimes the simplest thing you can do to lend a helping hand is to let others know that you’re there.
Make a Donation
There are many ways to help during the pandemic, but donating things like money, food, clothes and even toys have proven invaluable during COVID-19. And as the holidays and colder weather grow closer, giving what you can is more important than ever.
Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation
AAACF is a philanthropic organization that is focused on enriching the quality of life in Washtenaw County. They do this by accepting donations from people all around the community and use those funds to address community needs and to support local nonprofits. A donation to the AAACF is actually a donation to hundreds of nonprofit organizations all across the county, from local food kitchens to youth charities and more. Click here to learn more about donating.
Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels is a local nonprofit that works to reduce hunger and food insecurity for our homebound, adult neighbors in the Ann Arbor area who, because of their health, are unable to shop and prepare nutritious meals for themselves. During COVID-19, their services have proven even more invaluable, with many immunocompromised people having to stay home. Click here to learn more about donating monetarily.
While families of all races and ethnicities are affected by poverty, some groups still face economic and legal barriers that limit their earnings. CAN’s main goal is to try to eliminate the wealth gap in our county by providing education, after-school programs, stabilization and more to underprivileged members of our community. During COVID-19, they’ve been doing even more by rallying to provide more food and basic resources than ever before. Click here to learn more about everything they are doing to help people in our community right now—and how you can donate.
Dawn Farm is a Michigan addiction treatment center that focuses on community as the most important source of healing and recovery support. They’ve been meeting the Washtenaw County community’s needs with compassion, creativity and hope since 1973, and they haven’t let a pandemic stop them! While they’ve made adjustments to how many people can live in their residential programs, they haven’t stopped reaching out to people in need throughout the community. Click here to learn more about donating financially to Dawn Farm.
Food Gatherers is one of the largest and most well-known nonprofit organizations in Ann Arbor, working to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes in our community. They distribute 7.8 million pounds of food annually through 170 partners and programs serving Washtenaw County. They are always grateful for financial donations as it helps them continue their mission of feeding anyone and everyone in need in the area. You can learn more about making a donation to Food Gatherers, here.
Hope Clinic does it all. They support those in need across Ann Arbor by providing free care for the whole person. That means they provide medical and dental services, free food, care and prayer to anyone who needs it throughout our county. Last year alone they met more than 60,000 requests for help. COVID-19 has greatly impacted how they help people across our community. They have had to close food pantries, have increased their free meal services and have tripled the amount of groceries they are giving away. They need support from community members like you to keep it going. Click here to donate financially.
House by the Side of the Road is a charity working to provide adequate clothing and small household items at no charge to children and adults. That means they are serving everyone around the community, from families struggling after a house fire to the homeless and those struggling with illnesses like COVID-19. You can donate to help House by the Side of the Road by clicking here. These donations usually go to support the House’s expenses like office supplies, utilities and rent.
Jim Toy Community Center is a charitable organization serving the LGBTQ+ community of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and the rest of Washtenaw County. They act as a resource center that provides information, education, social events and advocacy by and for the Queer and Ally community in the area. They are always accepting donations to help them continue their mission. Click here to learn more and to make your monetary gift.
Ozone House is the only organization in Washtenaw County that provides free, voluntary and confidential support for youth and their families as well as shelter, housing and support for youth ages 10-20 who are living independently, are homeless or at risk. COVID-19 has impacted many of their programs and has left them unable to provide the amount of support that they normally would like to. Click here to learn more about their mission and to donate today.
Packard Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center and meets all federal requirements to offer health care services to people who are uninsured, isolated and/or medically vulnerable. By serving everyone who comes through their doors, they strive to build a healthy community in which every individual has dependable, quality health care. This is even more important during COVID-19. They are currently seeking donations to help with their coronavirus response efforts. Click here to donate.
The mission of Peace Neighborhood Center is to provide programs for children, families and individuals who are affected by social and economic problems so that they can find options, improve skills and make choices that lead to self-sufficiency and community involvement. COVID-19 has affected many of the Peace Neighborhood Center’s families in three major areas: food insecurity, academic support and lost wages. Click here to donate to help assist local families dealing with the non-health-related impacts of COVID-19.
SafeHouse Center serves to provide safety, support, advocacy and resources for any survivor of sexual assault or domestic violence and the children involved, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. COVID-19 has postponed or cancelled many of their major annual fundraisers and they are in need of donations in order to continue providing service to sexual assault and domestic violence survivors across Washtenaw County. You can make a donation, here.
The Shelter Association of Washtenaw County at the Delonis Center provides temporary shelter and connections in a safe and caring environment. Over the past six months, they have served more than 650 people experiencing homelessness across all of their locations. But their ability to offer its Winter Shelter Programs is at risk this year due to a lack of funding and shelter space. They are currently looking for monetary donations and information on larger spaces around Ann Arbor that can host several hundreds of people safely during the coming winter months. Click here for more information and to contact them if you have information on a shelter site.
Throughout the pandemic, small businesses throughout the community have been hit hard. To help them, local organizations came together to create the Washtenaw Small Business Emergency Relief Fund, where local businesses could apply for grants up to $5,000. To date, they have received requests for more than $4.7 million in funding. Click here to donate what you can and help support the small businesses that make our county so great.
In 1973, Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels began with a gift of $8,000 and 16 hungry neighbors. To this day, this local Meals on Wheels organization provides meals for homebound individuals, which include a friendly visit, a bit of conversation, assurance that clients are safe and well and additional services like pet food delivery, minor home repairs, a personal care pantry, weekly produce deliveries and case management. Click here to make a financial donation.
Photo courtesy of Food Gatherers
CAN’s food pantry is in desperate need of things like canned vegetables, whole grains, pantry staples and more. Click here for a full list of their current needs. You can donate these items and more to one of their emergency food pantries across Washtenaw County.
In addition to financial donations, you are also welcome to donate food to Dawn Farm. Right now they are accepting shelf-stable food. You can coordinate a drop-off or schedule a pick-up of your items by calling Tracy at (734) 485-8725.
Food Gatherers is continuing to accept food donations at their warehouse. Their current needs include non-perishable canned and dry goods along with high-protein items, cereal, kid-friendly foods, baby formula, soups, stews and canned meat/fish. You can drop off your donation at their warehouse on Carrot Way, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Click here to learn more and to stay updated on their most urgent needs.
Donating Clothing & Blankets
In order to provide free clothing to those in need all across Ann Arbor, House by the Side of the Road needs plenty of donations. You can donate your gently used clothing, no matter the size, by visiting their headquarters on State Street. Click here to learn more.
For the past 25 years, Reinhart Realtors has teamed up with our agents and the people of Washtenaw County to collect winter coat donations throughout the month of November. From November 1st through November 30th, you can bring new and gently used coats to any of our Charles Reinhart Sales Offices to donate to people in need.
The Ypsilanti Community School Clothes Closet provides amenities for children and youth in need who are enrolled in the Ypsilanti Community School District. They are always looking for gently used clothing to pass along to those in need, especially during the colder months. Call (734) 221-1210 for information on donating.
Photo courtesy of The Hope Clinic
Throughout the pandemic, many homebound Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels clients have requested various household items and toiletries. To meet those needs, they have set up purple donation bins outside of their office on Traverwood Drive where new packages of toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, laundry detergent, toothpaste, shampoo and more can be donated. Click here to see their entire list of current needs and donation instructions.
In addition to taking monetary and food donations, CAN is also accepting things like deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, hand soap, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper and more. Click here for an updated list of their most needed items.
Food Gatherers accepts donations of personal care items like soap, shampoo, disposable razors, dental care products and more. Click here for a full list of their current needs and information on how to donate.
Hope Clinic is always looking for donations of things like toilet paper, dish soap, laundry detergent, Kleenex, deodorant and more. They are also in need of baby care items like diapers, formula and baby food. You can find a full list of items they are currently in need of here, along with COVID-19 donation drop-off hours and guidelines.
Ozone House supports youth in the community at risk as well as their families—including new mothers in need. They are always looking for donations of diapers and formula as well as items to make up kits to give to new Ozone House youth. Typical kits include hygiene and move-in items. Click here for more information and for a list of their current urgent needs.
Ozone House is full of at-risk youth who need support throughout the holidays. Lift their spirits a little bit by donating a present of toys, books or even clothing. You can donate gifts to specific students through a giving tree list across Washtenaw County or collect and donate items from their specific wishlist on their website. Click here to learn more and to read any current COVID-19 donation guidelines.
The Marine’s popular holiday charity, Toys for Tots, has a huge impact on Washtenaw County every year. In 2019, they distributed more than 30,000 toys throughout the area, and they hope to distribute even more this year! Click here to learn about donating and their current COVID-19 policies.
The need for blood and plasma is constant during the pandemic. If you are healthy and willing, consider making an appointment to donate blood to a local blood bank!
The American Red Cross is one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the United States, providing emergency assistance, disaster relief and disaster preparedness education all across the country. During COVID-19, they are desperately in need of blood donations. Click here to make an appointment to donate blood. And if you have had COVID-19 and have recovered, your plasma could help current coronavirus patients in need. Click here to learn more about antibody testing and donating plasma.
Versiti Blood Center is a national leader in innovative blood health solutions. Their country-wide network is home to the world-renowned Blood Research Institute, where they innovate new ways to diagnose and treat different health issues. You can donate blood by making an appointment, here. They are also looking for those who have had COVID-19 previously and recovered to donate plasma. Click here to learn more about donating convalescent plasma.
Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels
Even during a pandemic, there are still plenty of ways you can help nonprofit organizations in person. While these volunteer opportunities may look a little different than usual—with masks and social distancing requirements—you’ll still be able to make a difference.
Volunteers are an integral part of the Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels process. Not only do they help put together food packages for those in need; they also deliver them and check on homebound adults in the Ann Arbor area, to make sure they are doing alright. For many of the Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels participants, the volunteers are the only person they see all day. For more information on volunteering with Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels, click here.
CAN of Washtenaw County is always looking for new volunteers to help with their food programs, out-of-school programs, garden projects and so much more. Click here to learn more about all of their volunteer opportunities as well as their current COVID-19 policies that will help keep you safe.
The Food Gatherers Community Kitchen is open for a limited number of volunteers. If you have had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 48 hours, have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or have traveled on an airplane in the last 14 days, you are not eligible to volunteer. Click here for more information on volunteering with Food Gatherers and to register.
Because of the sheer amount of services Hope Clinic provides to Ann Arbor community members, including medical, dental, food, care and prayer—they are in constant need of volunteers of all types. They are especially looking for volunteers with special professional skills. Click here to learn more and to read through their current volunteer guidelines.
During the pandemic, SafeHouse Center is currently looking for volunteers for their response team and their support group—specifically men and Spanish-speaking volunteers. Click here to learn more about volunteering with SafeHouse, to sign up, and to read about their current COVID-19 policies.
As the amount of homebound Americans increases throughout the pandemic, the higher the need is for programs like Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels, who donates much-needed meals and friendly check-ins to people throughout our community. Click here if you are interested in volunteering with Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels and to read their current COVID-19 volunteer guidelines.
How will you help during the holidays?
While we know we haven’t outlined every nonprofit organization and opportunity to help in the Ann Arbor area, we hope this helps you get started. If you know about a local organization in need this holiday season, let us know about them in the comments below!