It’s the most wonderful time to volunt-year!

Sophie Smallhorn and Samantha Michaels

Twinkling lights encircle trees. Red-ribboned wreaths cling to doors. Mariah Carey belts on the radio. Traditions such as ice skating, gift-wrapping and watching the Nutcracker revitalize the American holiday spirit. Undoubtedly, December brings a timeless atmosphere of joy and gratitude. However, some are trudging through the holidays wistfully, unable to fully rejoice because they are dealing with financial stress due to the pandemic. The COVID-19 recession has left over 11 million people currently unemployed, which makes acting with generosity during this year’s holiday season all the more important. Multiple Redwood students have found COVID-19 safe ways to give back to the community. 

Inspired by her childhood hobby, junior Gwyneth Liebhauser crafts fleece tie blankets for organizations that give them to homeless families. The simple design of these blankets’ enables her to produce around 30 blankets per organization, each load taking about a month. She recently delivered to Children of Shelters, an organization aiming to provide educational opportunities to the 2,500 children in San Francisco living in shelters. Not only does blanket-making provide Liebhauser with a break after school, but it also gives her a sense of personal fulfillment. 

  “I’ve been a camp counselor, so I know that [kids] are so [intuitively] happy. I love that I am able to make their day just a little bit better by giving them a blanket,” Liebhauser said. 

Sophomore Sydney Moseley is also an avid volunteer who recently worked her first shift at the Marin Warehouse, a pop-up for the San Francisco Food Bank. Food pantries are Moseley’s first choice of community service because of the frequent volunteering opportunities especially in a recession. Her goal is to complete 100 volunteer hours by next April in order to earn a presidential service award, so she volunteers regularly. Another benefit of volunteering at food pantries is witnessing the appreciation from those in need. 

“[The food banks are] the most meaningful to me because I can directly see the people that I’m helping. They’re people who live among us, and we just wouldn’t even realize they needed this,” Moseley said.

Accompanying Moseley at the SF Marin Food Bank are juniors Lauren and Claire Mckechnie who also decided to make the most out of their newfound free time by giving back during the holiday season. Although the Mckechnie twins’ schedules are typically crammed with various sports practices and overflowing amounts of homework after school, quarantine has given them the opportunity to dedicate this new time towards a positive cause. After watching a news segment detailing the importance of food banks, they felt inspired to contact the SF Marin location to become volunteers. The sisters now sign up every other Friday to deliver food to people in need and are incredibly grateful for the experience. 

“Their [food bank recipients] lives are basically dependent on the food, [we bring] so it is really rewarding to know that our work is unbelievably appreciated and that we made a difference in someone’s life that day,” said Claire Mckechnie. 

Lastly, but certainly not least, junior Kendall Templeton continues to keep her volunteering tradition alive through Adopt-a-Family. Templeton has been participating in the program for over two years now and has gone through the process with both her family and her local gymnastics team. The adopted families are not the only ones being rewarded, however, as Templeton also receives Christmas cheer in the form of gratification from helping others. 

“It’s just rewarding to feel like you are helping out people that might not be as lucky or that might not be able to have as great of a Christmas as you. It’s just trying to make the holidays a better time for everyone,” Templeton said.