Published: 16/12/2004, Volume II4, No. 5936 Page 33

Many people take time over Christmas to help with charities. In fact a spokesman for CSV, the UK's largest volunteering and training organisation, warns that you may enjoy it so much that you'll be hooked: 'We know from experience that quite a high percentage go on to volunteer again because they get sucked into it and end up doing it all year round.' The charities listed below will welcome any time you can donate.

Crisis

What it does: Crisis is the national charity for single homeless people and works year-round across the UK.

Who it needs: It is urgently appealing for 3,000 volunteers, including specialist volunteers such as doctors, nurses, podiatrists and dentists, to help homeless people this Christmas. Last year, more than 1,200 homeless and vulnerable people visited the Crisis Open Christmas shelters in London. Volunteers are needed for a range of shifts and hours on 23-30 December.

Contact: The volunteer hotline is 020-7426 3872, www. crisis. org. uk

Salvation Army

What it does: The Salvation Army is one of the largest providers of social care in the UK.

Who it needs: Volunteer areas range from helping at a centre on events leading up to Christmas and on Christmas Day, wrapping presents for its pass the parcel Christmas toy appeal, preparing food, driving minibuses, providing entertainment for Christmas functions and taking food and small gifts to people who may be sleeping rough.

Contact: 020-7367 4500

St Mungo's

What it does: St Mungo's is best known for its hostels and work for London's rough sleepers. It helped more than 1,000 people on the streets last year.

Who it needs: Volunteers help show homeless people that they are not forgotten.

London-based companies will decorate hostels and provide gifts for residents. St Mungo's is now looking for people who can commit to becoming activity volunteers - usually coming in once a week to help run activity sessions (from art to surfing the web, bingo and cycle maintenance).

Contact: 020-7549 8244

Samaritans

What it does: Samaritans offers 24-hour confidential emotional support to anyone in emotional distress by phone, e-mail, face-to-face and letter.

It responds to more than 4.8 million contacts each year in 203 branches across the UK and Ireland.

Who it needs: Branches need volunteers to help to fundraise and raise awareness of services.

Contact: 08705-627 282