How to Give Back This Holiday Season

There are plenty of ways to support area nonprofits, from donating wish-list items and organizing food drives to wrapping presents.
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Want to make a difference this winter? Read on to see what Arlington nonprofits need in the way of volunteers and donations. (Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash)

Giving Tuesday may be behind us, but there are dozens of nonprofits in and around Arlington that continue to need help every day of the year. We reached out to a handful of local organizations to find out how community members can make the biggest impact this holiday season. Here’s what they said:

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The Arlington Community Foundation has created a Nonprofit Holiday Wish Catalog, featuring the year-end needs of 30 local organizations. (Photo courtesy of Arlington Community Foundation)

Arlington Community Foundation

Arlington Community Foundation helps individuals, businesses and organizations in Arlington carry out their charitable giving via one-time gifts, as well as permanent legacy funds. 

How you can help: “We are currently hosting the third annual Nonprofit Holiday Wish Catalog, featuring the year-end needs of 30 Arlington nonprofits in one easy-to-navigate and easy-to-donate place. Thanks to generous donors and word-of-mouth, the first two years each raised over $100,000 for local organizations. An easy way volunteers can help us reach our goal this year is to simply share the wish catalog on social media, in emails and elsewhere.”

Volunteering from home: “In addition to sharing the wish catalog, there will be a volunteer opportunity in early 2023 to help review scholarship applications for our annual scholarship program. To learn more about this opportunity, email Nick Knock at”

“We know you’re busy, especially during the holiday season, so we just wanted to say thank you for taking a little time to learn about us. Have a happy and safe holiday season!”


Arlington Free Clinic is looking for volunteers to help with Spanish-language interpreting, counseling and other services. (Photo courtesy of Arlington Free Clinic)

Arlington Free Clinic

Arlington Free Clinic provides free, high-quality medical and dental care to low-income, uninsured Arlington County adults. 

How you can help: “Check out our Amazon wish list! Our dental team tries to send home dental supplies with every patient, and items like blood-pressure cuffs are always in high demand to help patients monitor their health at home. You can also attend our virtual community tour to learn about what Arlington Free Clinic does, whom we serve and how we do it. And consider becoming a volunteer or telling your friends about our volunteer program. We are in high need of Spanish language interpreters, psychiatrists, licensed counselors, dentists and dental assistants.”

What’s needed the most: “Our community resource navigator distributes an increased number of gift cards during the holiday season to help patients meet basic needs. Twenty-dollar gift cards to grocery stores and Target are very helpful for our patients.”

Volunteering from home: “While we have been steadily returning to onsite services, interpreting is still predominantly being done remotely either via phone or video call, depending on the appointment type. You can also hold a drive for items on our Amazon wish list and help us start the new year off strong!”

Donations can be mailed directly to the clinic at 2921 11th Street S., Arlington VA, 22204, or dropped off Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Questions about volunteering? Email

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Deliver groceries, wrap presents and find other ways to help the community this winter with APAH. (Photo by Jeff Heeney Photography)

Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH)

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is committed to developing innovative, attractive and safe apartment buildings. 

How you can help: “The two biggest volunteer needs right now are grocery distributions and APAH’s Dec. 17 Holiday Magic event, which provides donated gifts and gift cards to the more than 500 children who call an APAH property home. During the event, parents who live at APAH properties can “shop” for a present while the kids enjoy entertainment and visits from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Volunteers are needed to help with the gift room, treat table and even be Santa’s helper! Sign up here. APAH also hosts onsite grocery distributions with our partner, AFAC. Interested volunteers can sign up to participate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.”

What’s needed the most: “Donations of toys, gift cards or monetary gifts. Through Dec. 14, APAH is collecting unwrapped toys for kids ages 0-6, with registries at TargetWalmart, and Amazon. The Amazon registry also includes gift cards for kids ages 7-18. General donations to APAH are also appreciated and help support resident services programming, including connecting residents to emergency assistance—which during the winter frequently includes help with heating bills.”

Volunteering from home: APAH does not currently have at-home volunteer opportunities, although donations and shopping for Holiday Magic gifts off of our registries can happen from the comfort of home!”

“APAH is incredibly grateful for the support of its friends and neighbors. Without neighbors who share our beliefs, we don’t get to build these much needed apartment communities. To receive updates from APAH, sign up for our monthly eNews at”

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AFAC provides free food to some 2,400 families per week. (Photo courtesy of AFAC)

Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC)

The Arlington Food Assistance Center feeds community members in need by providing dignified access to supplemental groceries, directly and free of charge.

How you can help: “We have limited opportunities on-site for the remainder of the year, but we encourage the community to provide us with donated food. Organizing a holiday food drive is a great way to spread cheer. You can go to our website and find customizable templates, our list of most-wanted items, and our drop-off hours.”

What’s needed the most: “In addition to food, which provides our 2,400 weekly clients with variety and choice of offerings, donating funds allows us to purchase our weekly menu choices at wholesale prices. We purchase 65% of the food that we provide to our clients and donations from a generous community helps us keep up with rising food costs.”

Volunteering from home: “Hosting a neighborhood food drive or having one in your apartment building, school, house of worship, business, or any other gathering is a great way to get involved at AFAC.”

Learn more about how to register a food donation, donate online, or commit to being a regular volunteer at


PathForward (formerly A-SPAN) envisions an inclusive and equitable community where all neighbors live stable, secure and independent lives, free from the threat of homelessness. 

How you can help: PathForward is happy to accept volunteer assistance in a variety of ways. With our hypothermia shelter open and the cold weather upon us, coat, hat, glove, and blanket drives are always welcome. At the center, we also have the opportunity to serve meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and to organize the clothing closet where clients are able to get whatever clothing they need free of charge.”

What’s needed the most: “This holiday season we are in need of meal support. We have an incredible team in the kitchen that provides three meals a day, 365 days a year. However, as we see an increase of people at the Homeless Service Center, hot meal donations are always a great help to the team. We only ask that any hot meal donations be enough to serve at least 50 people.”

Volunteering from home: “From participating in our Homeless Bagged Meal Program, to baking cookies for our clients, to knitting blankets or accessories, we welcome it all! Volunteers are encouraged to choose an activity they like, and then reach out to our volunteer coordinator to schedule a drop-off time.”

PathForward is open and flexible to any ideas our volunteers may have. If you think of something not listed here, please just reach out to PathForward’s Volunteer Coordinator Nina Alomar at or 703-228-7815.

W L Field Hockey Fundraiser For Doorways

The field hockey team at Washington-Liberty High School recently held a fundraiser for Doorways, which offers services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and to individuals experiencing homelessness. (Photo courtesy of Doorways)


Doorways provides advocacy, shelter, housing and services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as for youth and families experiencing homelessness.

How you can help: “Help your neighbors living in Doorways’ shelters and supportive housing feel more at home this holiday season by conducting a donation drive at your office, place of worship, school or other group to collect gift cards (Target and Visa preferred), as well as home and personal-care items. Contact us at 703-504-9400 or view our list of urgently needed items. Children and youth volunteers and their caregivers are encouraged to visit Doorways’ Kids’ Corner, and adult volunteers interested in longer-term service opportunities can visit”

What’s needed the most: “More and more members of the Arlington community are needing emergency shelter (safe housing) to escape intimate partner violence. In just the past three months, Doorways has already served half the total number of survivors served the whole previous year. As we’re on track to more than double the number of survivors we serve, we need your support. Give safe harbor, healing and hope against harm at”

Volunteering from home: “Volunteers can lead or participate in donation drives and fundraisers from anywhere! Create your own fundraiser on Facebook. Host an online donation drive by directing your donors to our online wish list.

“If you need support related to domestic or sexual violence, please call Doorways’ 24-hour free and confidential hotline at 703-237-0881 to speak with an advocate. We are always here to listen and offer support, safety planning, information, and referrals to services, including counseling. You are not alone.”

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Categories: Community