After the haste of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, members of Hattiesburg and The University of Southern Mississippi are in full holiday swing as volunteer opportunities grow and the giving spirits are lit. From food drives to donating books and toys, Hattiesburg offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities to those seeking to serve the community and beyond.
The Salvation Army offers a variety of methods to volunteer, whether help is needed to distribute meals to the less fortunate or to organize donated items. The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program provides new clothing and toys for children of in-need families through the support of donors and citizens annually. Volunteers can also help with Holiday Meals, where food boxes are prepared and given out to families for the holidays.
The University of Southern Mississippi will participate in the holiday season with the Student Government Association’s annual philanthropy event “Lighting the Way of the Holidays” this Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. on the south lawn of the Aubrey K. Lucas Administration Building. Festivities include musical performances by the Southern Bell Tones, the Afro- American Student Organization gospel choir and Spirit of Southern, lighting of the Southern Miss Christmas tree in the front of cam- pus and a variety of activities for all ages.
“This year we hope to get the community and the campus more involved,” said Victoria Robert- son, co-director of Lighting the Way. “Every year the event gets a little bit larger and we hope for this to continue. We look forward to lighting the tree and seeing all the lanterns lit up around the area. Lighting the Way is a great tradition at Southern Mississippi, and we are excited to start off the holiday season.”
With each Lighting the Way event, SGA sponsors a local charity. This year, SGA will sell lanterns to support Homes of Hope for Children, a nonprofit organization meant to serve children in crisis. SGA’s goal is to raise around $2,000 for Homes of Hope for Children.
“We wanted to choose a philanthropy that was local to the area and the community,” said SGA Chief of Staff Katherine Brewer. “SGA is excited to be given the chance to give back to the community.”
This event is free and open to the public. University and community members are encouraged to attend Lighting the Way and support the SGA and Homes of Hope for Children.
The Hattiesburg Zoo will host a series of holiday events called Jingle in the Jungle as a way to provide families an enjoyable visit. Christmas-related events like “Vintage Holiday Nights: A Magical Christmas Event,” as well as train rides and education- al camps, will be held at the zoo throughout December.
Extra Table is a nonprofit organization committed to end hunger in Mississippi. This year, Extra Table wishes to provide local feeding agencies in the Pine Belt with healthy food to feed the hungry. The organization launched its “Fifty in Fifteen” initiative, a 12-month campaign to send 50 tons of food to soup kitchens and food pantries in the area by the end of the year. Volunteers are encouraged to do- nate food to the Extra Table in sup- port of its initiative.
The Historic Saenger Theater in downtown Hattiesburg has a holiday lineup that will illuminate the holiday cheer. “The Forgotten Carols Musical,” which tells a historic
Christmas story, will be Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Saenger Theater.
The Hattiesburg Jaycees will present the annual Hattiesburg Christmas Parade “’Twas the Lights Before Christmas” this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Following the parade, the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting will take place in Town Square Park.
With volunteer service activities and holiday events, the city and university are setting the spirit for the Christmas season. A number of local charities and organizations are always seeking community members’ time and effort to give back, giving some students the advantage to gain volunteer hours and stay busy during the break.
Volunteer Hattiesburg, a service agency meant to mobilize citizens of the Southeast, offers a list of volunteer opportunities in the area for people seeking to give back to the community.