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10 volunteer options during the holidays in Toronto

Posted by Robyn Urback / December 18, 2012

christmas volunteer torontoVolunteer opportunities during the holidays in Toronto are not limited to the popular Daily Bread food sorts and Mission Christmas dinner distribution. There are plenty (too many?) of other groups and organizations in the city that could use a helping hand or two, especially since charity services tend to be under extra strain during the holiday season. If you'd rather make a contribution beyond just an extra can of peas, check out these 10 volunteer opportunities for 2012 in Toronto.

Central Neighbourhood House
Operating on Ontario Street right by Dundas and Parliament, Central Neighbourhood House does a little bit of everything, including lending a hand to new Canadians and providing assistance to seniors in the community. While CNH could always an extra volunteer or two, of course, it is currently looking for volunteers who can help out with delivering small holiday gifts to clients' homes. Access to a car is a plus. Contact: 416-925-4363,

Holiday Helpers
Holiday Helpers lets you play Santa this season, albeit without the sleigh (must provide your own) and soaring cholesterol level. This non-profit organization delivers Christmas packages to low income families, and relies on volunteers for wrapping and delivery. More information can be found on the website in the hyperlink above. Contact: 416-214-3659,

Canadian Mental Health Association CMHA's holiday volunteer program is a little different. Instead of donating your time for the season, the public is asked to make a small donation for which a CMHA staff member will visit a client in his or her home and bring a few thoughtful holiday items. Call it donating "your" time. Donations can start at $25. Contact: 416-789-7957,

Yonge Street Mission
Volunteering for the Yonge Street Mission can be more than just serving meals. The not-for-profit organization needs volunteers to help staff its Food Market, its Toy Market, to deliver packages to seniors, and offer up some home-baked treats. These positions usually fill up fast, so if you're keen on helping the Mission, contact them soon. Contact: 416-929-9614,

Native Women's Resource Centre of Toronto
On Gerrard between Jarvis and Parliament, the Native Women's Resource Centre of Toronto is looking for a few extra hands to help out throughout the holidays. Catering to the needs of Aboriginal women and their kids, the centre needs volunteers to help out especially with its community daily lunch. Ongoing opportunities (as in, you're already tied up for this December) include tutoring and working directly with clients. Contact: 416-963-9963,

Riverdale Housing Action Group
With its Christmas party slated for December 20, the Riverdale Housing Action Group is looking for volunteers who can help wrap presents, organize inventory, and maybe even perform a song or two at the annual holiday event. The group provides affordable housing for low-income women and their kids, and is always looking for people who can volunteer their time for fundraising efforts. Contact: 416-469-3278,

Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities
The Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities is putting together the last of its Holiday Wishes packages. Volunteers can help to craft and deliver the boxes to needy families, and also help out with hospice visits and assist with meals on wheels. Contact: 416-847-4141,

Sistering's drop-in centre offers a safe daytime space for marginalized, homeless, or low-income women in Toronto. Its upcoming events include a hot holiday meal and gift-giving distribution, both of which could use a little help from volunteers. Potential volunteers are usually screened before participation. Contact:

Horizons for Youth
Like many Toronto shelters, Horizons for Youth may be under added strain this holiday, and could probably use a few extra volunteers for doling out meals and general centre upkeep. Serving homeless at at-risk youth, Horizons could also use toiletry and clothing donations, in addition to volunteer manpower. 416-781-9898 x 27

Photo via the Yonge St. Mission on Facebook



James Eberhardt / December 18, 2012 at 11:59 am
With so many other viable options, please consider not volunteering with the Salvation Army, considering their very public negative opinions towards the LBGT community.
Paul / December 18, 2012 at 12:10 pm
Thankfully. the Canadian branch of the Salvation Army hasn't asked for any exemptions from the Human Rights Code, which is what binds them to recognize same-sex benefits for employees, etc. The SA in the United States does ask for that sort of exemption from American law, which makes the umbrella organization not-so-good.

Tough call. They do good work, but use faith-based reasons to discriminate.

Alvin Gongora / December 18, 2012 at 12:39 pm
The Yonge Street Mission si a good place to volunteer and contribute to their causes.
dog replying to a comment from James Eberhardt / December 18, 2012 at 02:10 pm
agreed, be clearly aware of the salvation army's very religious mission and values, and discrimination of the LGBT community.

mission & values:

position statements:

"The Salvation Army believes that God’s will for the expression of sexual intimacy is revealed in the Bible, and that living fully in accordance with biblical standards calls for chastity outside of heterosexual marriage"
phuong / December 18, 2012 at 02:46 pm
great article!
Bryanna replying to a comment from James Eberhardt / December 18, 2012 at 03:16 pm
Dan / December 18, 2012 at 03:32 pm
Thanks dog for linking to the Salvation Army's stance on these issues. There are hundreds of ways to volunteer in this city- please don't let your time and efforts discriminate against others.
TSK / December 18, 2012 at 06:33 pm
Not that I agree or disagree but it would help if you posted the entire section:

The Salvation Army believes that God’s will for the expression of sexual intimacy is revealed in the Bible, and that living fully in accordance with biblical standards calls for chastity outside of heterosexual marriage and faithfulness within it. We do not believe that same-sex attraction is blameworthy and we oppose the vilification and mistreatment of gays and lesbians. We believe that we are accountable for the ways in which we express our sexuality. While recognizing the challenge that this presents, The Salvation Army believes firmly in the power of God’s grace to enable all to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him.

I don't see what place they have commenting on the subject matter either way.
Shar / December 18, 2012 at 07:02 pm
Great article & reminder!!! AND their are many *Animal Rescue Organizations* in Toronto & the surrounding areas to volunteer at including the local Humane Society, Animal Services & Shelters.

Volunteering is an awesome way to help others & u receive so much in return, it's truly a Win-Win experience that results in blessings for ALL involved. It's also great therapy & grounding for the many stressors we all face in our daily lives - assisting others is INspirational & UPlifting for the Heart & Soul!
Anon / December 18, 2012 at 08:29 pm
don't forget - those of you with admin experience, not for profit organizations can always use your help too! processing donations/sending out thank you letters this time of year can be very overwhelming and a lot of organizations rely on volunteers to help :)
P.S-it's looks great on your resume! most organizations are not just busy during the Christmas season - Christmas can last well in to January
Annon / December 19, 2012 at 03:36 pm
The SA is a church, what exactly did you expect?
It's an opportunity to help those in need not worry about political issues.
me replying to a comment from Annon / December 20, 2012 at 02:45 am
not everyone is aware of the SA's religious mission and values. there are many other non-religious organizations to volunteer with to help those in need.
Francis / December 21, 2012 at 11:33 am
First off, to the people on this board SCREECHING about not supporting the Salvation Army because of their mission statement and making this political, ENOUGH!!!!! If the LGBT community is sooooo open minded and accepting of all, and expects that back, then LET THE SALVATION ARMY BE. They should be of no irritation to you because, as you claim, being OPEN MINDED allows you to look past it and focus rather on all the good work they ARE DOING for people everyday, around the world. And if you are so offended, go find another charity that supports your views and beliefs. It has become more and more clear that all the people SCREAMING in our faces about how open minded and accepting they are and always yelling "why-can't-everyone-else-be-so-open-and-accepting", are actually some of the most vicious, closed minded and judgmental people I have ever had the displeasure of knowing. You don't like what a charity is doing, MOVE ON. There are plenty of charities out there that don't align with everyone's point-of-view, so get over it. The Salvation Army does amazing work and it's disgusting to see people here getting all fanatical and rabid because they have religious connotations in their work. So because you "don't like it", we should STRIKE THEM DOWN, even after all the good work they do, all over the world?
Just so you know, the message being sent, loud and clear is: "The LGBT community is so open minded...BUT ONLY if it pertains to FOLLOWING what we say and believe. If you go against it, you are a heathen, horrible, and NO NO NO NO, we will NOT see it any other way, but OUR way. And because you are not going along with us, you must be ruined and destroyed... even though you have an amazing history of good will, assistance and helping people in dire need!"
Just absolutely appalling and completely SELFISH.
Someone, please, CONFISCATE these whiners' soap boxes!!!
me replying to a comment from Francis / December 21, 2012 at 01:24 pm
you seem to be the only one "SCREAMING".

support the SA, if you won't, as no one is stopping you. i can't speak for everyone, but it's good to make an educated and informed decision where your money goes in terms of support. many people are unaware of SA's religious mission, values, and beliefs, as well as their position statements, so they end up supporting an organization they may fundamentally disagree with. just the same as i wouldn't support the westboro church, i wouldn't support SA.

so, please, get off your annoying soapbox, and quit your immature ranting and raving.
me replying to a comment from ya / December 21, 2012 at 01:27 pm
this isn't about gay, straight,'s about making an informed and educated decision. it's good to make people aware of the SA's positions, as they might not already be. if you notice, there are many other positions they take and support that are not LGBT related, but which people may not support. be educated and informed...ignorance is not bliss.

support whoever you want, but do it in an informed manner.
me replying to a comment from Me / December 21, 2012 at 01:28 pm
boo hoo! how cute. i think many are idiotphobe.
Desiree replying to a comment from me / December 21, 2012 at 03:39 pm
Me...If an adult decides to devote their time to volunteering, I’m SURE whomever would do their due diligence and homework before they went blindly into volunteering for any ol charity. It really does seem like you are the one SCREAMING for everyone to boycott the SA because of their religious beliefs...Stop, it’s about charity and giving; SA has done so for a long time. Find another charity to donate your time and stop sneering at a charity that has helped out so many. In fact you should just stop coming onto this website knowing what they stand for, if it irritates you that bad.
Francis replying to a comment from me / December 21, 2012 at 04:14 pm
Yes, thank goodness for are the MASS informer.
Take your hate, your judgements and your nasty attitude somewhere else. Why don't you funnel all that toxic energy and try and use it for good, say...volunteer work?

Sorry, but no gold stars for you, dear, on your big "reveal" about the Salvation Army. And to rub it in a bit more, the SA is a wonderful charity, who has and continues to help MILLIONS of people around the world.

And what have you done today?? Oh, that's went on a Salvation Army blog-thread and said..."look, look, look, they are SOOOO bad!"

Reading your replies I see you are nothing more than a complete and utter buffoon and therefore worth no more of my time.

me replying to a comment from Desiree / December 21, 2012 at 07:18 pm
not screaming at all. i don't care who volunteers and/or donates money to an organization--it could be westboro church or the KKK--as long as it's informed. unfortunately, while people may be aware of the work that the SA does, not everyone is clearly informed of their position statements, which are two different things.

why would i have a problem with blogTO? they seem reasonable to me.
me replying to a comment from Francis / December 21, 2012 at 07:24 pm
i do volunteer my time and money, just not with SA. no hate, but certainly judgement regarding SA's positions.

why would i want a gold star? it's not like what i'm saying is investigative journalism; rather, it's something that not everyone is aware of. you seem overly defensive, that someone may not support your religious charity. give it a break.

i've worked today, of which a portion of my pay goes to charity. you also seem surprisingly defensive, though i'm not sure about what...that someone doesn't support your charity? seems rather petty.

the insults also really contribute to your insightful opinion. do you get these angry IRL when people have a conversation about stuff you don't like or disagree with. have some egg nog, and enjoy the SA if you want (i don't care, since it seems you're fully aware and supportive of their positions anyway...good on you!)
me replying to a comment from Desiree / December 21, 2012 at 07:28 pm
by the way, desiree, when you say "it really does seem like you are the one SCREAMING for everyone to boycott the SA because of their religious beliefs", it's apparent you didn't read my post in its entirety, otherwise you would've clearly read:

"support whoever you want, but do it in an informed manner."

Steven / December 21, 2012 at 08:30 pm
S - T - O - P

The article on blogto simply points out 10 volunteer options for the holidays. Stop your name calling and get rid of your prissy attitudes.

There are many people that need our assistance right now. If you can assist great! If you enjoy helping others, perhaps you may wish to consider doing some volunteering year round. Wonderful.

If you don't like one of the 10 options above, be grateful there are 9 more listed.

There is no to continue bitching here. Words hurt. Try helping those in need instead.

Merry Christmas!
Adriana / December 22, 2012 at 02:11 am
Volunteer have done great job. As we know fitness is the most important thing during holidays. For maintaining fitness we need to do exercise regularly.
Marc / December 22, 2012 at 12:15 pm
Too bad you can't feed the homeless with opinions.
me replying to a comment from ya / December 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm
the first few comments, yes. the position statements, no.

merry christmas! :)
Missnita / December 11, 2013 at 01:14 am
Great article. Salvation Army has a beautiful history and hope it stays true to its origins. Def supporting them.
john / December 4, 2014 at 11:13 am
with every religion has there view and if we judge them on the view then we are just as bad as the rest i know the god of my understanding want me to help my brothers and sister no matter what they are so i will help in my area Salvation Army no if and about it
fjei / December 10, 2014 at 06:07 pm
merry christmas? or happy holidays? okay, okay, sorry .... can't we all just get along!?
Kim / December 10, 2014 at 08:57 pm
The ignorance and hatred exhibited in the comments here are proof that the issue of homophobia should not be ignored. Those who are defending the Salvation Army here think they can ignore discrimination simply because they aren't the targets of it. That's not a charitable approach and flies in the face of the caring attitudes that religions are supposed to espouse.

And this issue is years old, and BlogTO both renews and aggravates the situation by re-posting the same article without an edit or update.
HappyHappy replying to a comment from dog / December 11, 2014 at 10:59 pm
Thanks for the share Dog. May I add:

as recent as 2013: The Salvation Army continues to remove links from its website to religious ministries providing so-called "ex-gay" conversion therapy, such as Harvest USA and Pure Life Ministries. These links were previously provided as resources under the Salvation Army's section on dealing with "sexual addictions."

Yes Charity Is great, no we can't compromise the good of one group to help another. LGBT youth are driven from their homes, often depressed, and sometimes suicidal because of this rhetoric. Seems counter productive to help cause the problem you're trying to solve.

There's some great charities listed above. Choose a charity that truly believes that everyone is equal and deserving of respect and compassion.

Happy Holidays Toronto.
Other Cities: Montreal