Giving Hearts, Giving Back 13

Six Thoughtful Ways to Volunteer and Donate During the Holidays

This month, otherwise known as the busiest time of the year, people may be looking for a way to stop the hustle and bustle—at least for a little while—and gather together with friends and family members to give back to the community.

From donating needed items to volunteering time at events, here are six ways that Chandler residents of all ages can help out during December. 

For Our City Chandler

For Our City Chandler is a collaborative group of various entities (government, nonprofit, faith-based, businesses and school personnel) who comes together regularly to address issues in Chandler and provide support for the community. Since 2012, the nonprofits that provide holiday assistance have worked together to streamline and improve this process as much as possible. Representatives meet to plan their holiday events, pre-register families and share their registration lists, collaborate on food and gift drives, and share resources when possible; this helps cuts down on duplication of services and donations, which has allowed each agency to better serve families in need. 

Chandler Fire Health & Medical’s Annual Toy Drive

When: 2-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9

Where: Chandler Fashion Center, south side, near the food courts

Details: In exchange for a donation of a new unwrapped toy, families can enjoy a ride on a fire truck through the mall’s parking lot. The collected toys will be donated to the Chandler CARE Center and distributed at the organization’s annual December Holiday Assistance Day. Organizers are looking for gift donations for all ages, from toddlers to teens.

Chandler CARE Center Ongoing Toy Drive 

When: 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Dec. 4-14

Where: Chandler CARE Center, 777 E. Galveston St., Chandler.

Details: Families who are unable to go to the Annual Toy Drive at Chandler Fashion Center may drop off new unused toys at the Chandler CARE Center. To schedule a donation outside of the posted hours, call 480.812.7900.

December Holiday Assistance Day

When: 8:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16

Where: Chandler CARE Center, 777 E. Galveston St., Chandler.

Details: Volunteers from the community are always needed to help with tasks like setting up craft tables, bagging gifts for kids and helping families carry items to their car. Minors are welcome to help when accompanied by a parent/guardian.

Step Up USA

Step Up USA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with one key mission: To elevate human kindness through easy and fun volunteer opportunities for kids, teens and adults. Founder Jill Smyros is a lifelong volunteer and knows the importance of giving back—a value  that she is passing along to her young son, Ty. In addition to offering a number of ways for people to give back throughout the year, Step Up USA has two key events scheduled during December.

  1. 1. Senior Center Holiday Party & Talent Show
When: 2-3:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10
Where: An assisted living facility in Mesa; “Like” Step Up on Facebook at to see updates on the location. Details: Bring holiday cheer to residents of an assisted living facility; kids, teens and adults can help with the holiday party complete with cookie decorating, ornament designing and lots of holiday song caroling.
  2. 2. 4th Annual “Making Spirits Bright” event
When: 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17
Where: Step Up Headquarters, 3529 E. Fandango Drive, Gilbert
Details: Volunteers are needed to stuff hundreds of care bags filled with small items including books, stuffed animals, fuzzy socks and toothbrushes. The bags will then be distributed to hospice patients and homeless children throughout the Valley. Those who are unable to attend but would still like to donate items are welcome to do so. Donation requests include small new or lightly used blankets, stuffed animals, books and new toothbrushes. They may be dropped off from now until the event and can be left on the porch.

911 W. Steven Martin Police Toy Drive

For Phoenix radio personality W. Steven Martin, the holidays always meant receiving hundreds of requests for help from listeners of his radio program. In 1989, local law enforcement officers were enlisted to distribute toys to children and grant the wishes of hundreds of needy families. Police officers stopped by to select gifts from a stockpile of toys for children and adolescents from families in neighborhoods the officers knew well. The belief was that by allowing young people to see the police in a new light of giving and caring, that bonds would be formed between law enforcement and young victims of crime and poverty. Over time, the 911 W. Steven Martin Police Toy Drive has grown substantially; now, hundreds of officers distribute thousands of toys to kids around the state.

When: Throughout the month of December, up until Christmas

Where: Toys may be dropped off at any Valley Chevrolet dealership, in addition to a number of other places in Chandler. Check for details on where to donate.

Details: The website includes a list of the most-needed items this year for different ages of boys and girls; gift cards, larger-sized bikes, movie passes and good quality stuffed animals are also needed.