This time of year, families often want to help local nonprofits, hoping to show children the holidays mean more than just presents. "While this is a...

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This time of year, families often want to help local nonprofits, hoping to show children the holidays mean more than just presents.

“While this is a phenomenal outpouring of goodwill, the simple fact is there aren’t enough volunteer projects to meet demand on the few days a year when most people want to volunteer,” noted Jared Erlandson, public-relations manager for United Way of King County, which links more than 25,000 people each year with volunteer opportunities.

December is often busy for nonprofits, and organizers have little time to train new volunteers. This is especially true for families with young children; most groups want kids at least ages 10 or 12.

If parents feel stymied, Erlandson suggests they choose a worthy cause to help in January or February, when charities still need help but don’t have the surfeit of volunteers. “The impact of their philanthropic gift would be greater,” he said.

For those who really want to help now, here are some family-friendly holiday volunteer opportunities listed on United Way of King County’s Web site (families with teens will find more options as well). Some welcome kids as young as 5. Call to arrange shifts.

For more information on adopting a family or sponsoring a wishing tree or book/food drive, go to

Kent Food Bank & Emergency Services: Help with food line, sort donations and restock supplies. Children welcome with parent. Closed-toe shoes required. Call ahead for a shift. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 18-19 (holiday baskets), 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 20 (toy distribution). 515 W. Harrison St., Suite 107, Kent, 253-520-3550.

Compass Center: Wrap gifts for hundreds of homeless clients in the Puget Sound region. Call for wrapping party dates; bring a roll of wrapping paper, tape and scissors. No training or age requirements. Adults need to accompany small children. 210 Alaskan Way, Seattle, 206-357-3108 or

Jingle Bell Run & Walk: This annual fundraiser, with more than 10,000 runners and walkers to benefit the Arthritis Foundation, utilizes 400 volunteers. Several shifts and jobs to choose from, minimum age is 10; 6 a.m.-noon Dec. 10, Westlake Center in downtown Seattle. Contact the Foundation by Friday, 206-547-2707, Ext. 103 or

Atlantic Street Center: Volunteers help set up, plan and implement craft projects and cleanup for the Winterfest Craft Festival, a multicultural event focusing on winter holidays from around the world. Minimum volunteer age is 13. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 2, 7054 32nd Ave. S., Seattle, 206-329-2050 or

Dunshee House: Help customers find holiday trees, wreaths and garland at two lots as part of the Seattle AIDS Support Group’s annual fundraiser. The sale runs through Dec. 20. Noon-9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays; and noon-6 p.m. Sundays. Sign up for three-hour shifts; age 5 and up welcome with parent. 115 16th Ave., Seattle or 303 17th Ave. E., Seattle. 206-322-2437 or

Volunteer Chore Services : Help create Shoeboxes of Joy, which are delivered to low-income elders and adults with disabilities in King County receiving services through Catholic Community Services.

Donors fill a wrapped shoebox with a variety of useful items, such as stamps, prepaid phone cards, grocery or other gift certificates, flashlights, night lights, batteries, calculators, disposable cameras, stationery, scarves, gloves, toiletries, playing cards, calendars and food items. Call for more information or to let the group know how many boxes to expect. Drop off boxes by Dec. 6 at Catholic Community Family Centers in Seattle, Bellevue or Kent. 425-284-2240 or

Treehouse: Sort, tag and organize donations; help at check-in and check-out; or restock items during one of the busiest times at The Wearhouse, a retail-like store offering used and new items to foster families. Extra holiday help is needed from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Volunteers must be 12 or older; adults must accompany children under 18. The Wearhouse, 2100 24th Ave. S., Seattle, 206-267-5117 or

Stephanie Dunnewind: