When the holidays arrive, and festivities take up all free time, it’s easy to forget about those in need of extra support during Michigan’s harsh winter months. Although we may have the best intentions during the season of giving, it can be hard to know where to start. In East Lansing, there are numerous organizations dedicated to helping those in need and guiding those who want to donate or volunteer their services. Three organizations that work to help people year-round are Gateway Community Services, Haven House and Volunteers
Established in 1970, Gateway Community Services functions as a teen shelter for those in need of a place to stay. It is the only homeless teen shelter in Lansing for ages of 16-20. In addition to offering crisis hotlines, they works diligently to help LGBTQ+ youth find a place to stay if necessary, with professionals available
for counseling. For more information, visit gatewayservices.org.
Haven House, which opened in 1983, provides emergency housing for one- and two-parent families. This organization works to help families regain self-sufficiency and draws volunteers from the community to participate. Volunteers can help make dinner, work in the office or organize games with children. To look for volunteer opportunities, go to havenhouseel.org.
The oldest organization of these three is Volunteers of America, which was established in 1896. Providing a variety of services, this organization is committed to helping local people in need of assistance over the holidays. Volunteers of America offers food for those in need of a meal and shelter for veterans, seniors and families in the East Lansing area. For more information, visit voami.org.
For students looking to simply donate, many of these services provide lists of needed items; popular items are diapers, toiletries, canned food and winter clothing. There are many organizations on campus that hold fundraisers like canned-food drives during the winter months, so students can donate in dorm lobbies or hubs on campus like the Main Library or Wells Hall.
Volunteering is also a fantastic way to get involved without having to spend money. If you’re looking for an opportunity to meet new people in the Lansing area while helping a great cause, check out the websites provided on this page. Organizations are always looking for eager volunteers with positive attitudes to help during the busy winter months, when homeless shelters become busy.
While winter does increase the importance of homeless shelters, it is important to remember that giving back is not just fashionable during the holiday season. The colder temperatures bring a greater need for shelter; these organizations and many others offer services year-round.