11/12/2018 06:00 GMT | Updated 11/12/2018 06:00 GMT

6 Ways You Can Volunteer This Christmas - And How To Sign Up

HumanKind Advent Calendar 2018: From helping abandoned animals to cooking for homeless people ❤️

HuffPost UK

HuffPost: HumanKind brings you an advent calendar of kindness, celebrating good deeds and the people doing them, in order to inspire and bring hope this festive season. Find out more about the series, and uncover new stories daily here.

More than nine million people are considering volunteering over the festive period, according to new statistics from the Royal Voluntary Service, with 1.2 million intending to volunteer on Christmas Day.

Of those who plan to volunteer, nearly three quarters (74 per cent) intend to donate at least three hours of their time during the festivities. It’s rewarding to volunteer, and it could also impact positively on health. “There is some evidence to show that people who volunteer and donate to charities are more satisfied, have more positive self-esteem and generally have a greater sense of wellbeing,” psychologist Anthony Cassidy, who works with AXA PPP healthcare, told HuffPost UK. “They also are more likely to have social support, healthier lifestyles and suffer less illness.”

Volunteering is important all year round, but for those who have free time over Christmas here are some ways you can give back. Just make sure you sign up sooner rather than later.

[Read more: HuffPost’s kindness advent calendar will inspire you this Christmas – actor Michael Sheen explains why it’s so important]

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1. Crisis at Christmas

What it does: It’s a national charity for single homeless people. It is dedicated to ending homelessness by delivering life-changing services and campaigning for change.

Opportunities this Christmas: Every year the charity runs Crisis at Christmas. This year it will take place from 22-29 December and more than 11,000 volunteers will be needed.

The charity is looking for a wide range of volunteers, from people who chat to guests, serve food, sort bedding; to service volunteers, including medical professionals, hairdressers and caterers, all of whom give guests access to services they usually miss out on. People have to attend one training session before they volunteer. 

To sign up, click here.

2. The Salvation Army

What it does: A worldwide Christian church and registered charity dedicated to caring for people who are vulnerable or in need. It works with some of the most disadvantaged people in communities including homeless people and older people.

Opportunities this Christmas: Volunteers can get involved with everything from sorting donated presents for its Christmas present appeal, to cooking and serving festive meals for vulnerable or lonely people, and helping out at winter night shelters.

Charity shops also get busy over Christmas and are in need of volunteers, particularly people who can get creative with festive window displays and enjoy interacting with others.

Contact your local Salvation Army church, centre or charity shop directly to register your interest.

3. The Trussell Trust

What it does: It provides emergency food to people in crisis through a network of UK foodbanks and partners with churches and communities to open new foodbanks nationwide.

Opportunities this Christmas: December is the busiest month of the year for foodbanks across the charity’s network, so any extra help is really appreciated. There are a number of volunteering opportunities available at foodbanks in the lead up to Christmas. The best way to find out what is available near you is to contact your local foodbank (contact details can be found via the website).

Volunteer roles in the lead up to Christmas include:

:: Helping to pack Christmas hampers alongside the standard emergency food supply.

:: Helping sort, weigh and store food donations in the foodbank warehouse.

:: Helping out at supermarket collection days.

:: Meeting people referred to the foodbank and sitting with them to chat about their needs and what other support is available locally.

Click here to sign up to become a volunteer.

4. Cats Protection

What it does: It’s the UK’s leading feline welfare charity, helping hundreds of thousands of cats and kittens every year.

Opportunities this Christmas: Cats Protection involves volunteers throughout the year but it particularly needs a helping hand over Christmas.

Cat care volunteers provide cats and kittens with hands-on care, attention and enrichment and play an important role in keeping cats happy and healthy until they are ready to be rehomed. They still need care 365 days a year including during the festive period.

Volunteers can make a real difference by feeding, cleaning and spending time with the cats.

No particular skills or experience are required apart from a love of cats. Training is provided so if you interested in getting involved then get in touch as soon as you can.

With 36 adoption centres across the UK, there are many opportunities to get involved. Find out more here. 

5. Royal Voluntary Service

What it does: It supports older people all over the country to stay independent at home and active in their communities.

Opportunities this Christmas: The charity’s volunteering opportunities tend to be longer term, however if people sign up now they might be able to become a volunteer by Christmas.

Volunteering could mean driving someone to a Christmas event or helping them to get food in for the Christmas period. They could also sign up to be a trolley volunteer – providing refreshments and company on ward to patients having a stay in hospital over Christmas (and beyond).

Sign up to become a volunteer here

6. FoodCycle

What it does: Combines surplus food, spare kitchen space and volunteers to create nutritious, community meals for people who are hungry and lonely. FoodCycle runs 38 community-powered projects across the UK, operating in cities in the North of England, East Anglia, Birmingham, London and the South West.

Opportunities this Christmas: The Christmas period can be especially difficult for FoodCycle guests and it’s also a challenging time for volunteers to keep their projects running.

Each week, volunteers collect food from supermarkets and local retailers, take it to a venue (such as a community centre) and cook a healthy, vegetarian, three-course meal for the community.

The charity would love to welcome new volunteers who hate food waste but love people and want to make a difference in their local community. You can sign up here: volunteer.foodcycle.org.uk

HumanKind is HuffPost’s celebration of kindness, featuring people who do incredible things for others or the planet – transforming lives through small but significant acts. Get involved by joining us on Facebook. You can also nominate those who deserve to be shouted about by filling in this form or emailing natasha.hinde@huffpost.com.