The holiday season is synonymous with gift-giving and sharing with others who may be less fortunate than you. This act of kindness can take on many forms; one might volunteer to serve hot food in a soup kitchen, another might donate warm clothing or kids’ toys. Whatever your preferred mode of giving, there are ample opportunities in and around the city to share your holiday spirit with others. We’ve searched around and put together this list of the standard holiday do-gooding plus some other opportunities that could be considered a little more out-of-the-box.
1. Provide Holiday Help to the Food Bank of New York City
From dinner preparation in Flatbush to a Christmas Eve party in the Bronx, for more than 30 years the Food Bank of New York City has been one of the largest hunger relief organizations working to end hunger throughout the five boroughs, where nearly one in five New Yorkers relies on them for food and other resources. All you have to do to get involved is to create a profile online, search their opportunities and sign up. Not only is the Food Bank of New York City great during the holiday season, but they continue to share the love all year round. Why not give back more than once a year? It’s good for your soul and for others around you. Learn more about this program by visiting their website here.
If you’d like to support the Food Bank and you just don’t have time to volunteer you can also provide monetary support by purchasing your holiday cards from them as well.
2. Grand Central Food Program
This food program sponsored by the Coalition for the Homeless has been around since 1985, and was started the day after a homeless woman died from starvation in Grand Central Terminal. Since then it has become the largest mobile soup kitchen in New York. The program includes the three vans that deliver healthy meals throughout the city making 23 stops per day, bringing what they can to those struggling to survive. The vans operate all year round and their volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization. If you’re interested in being a part of this wonderful project it’s probably a volunteer commitment that will extend beyond the winter months, but if you still want to get involved in the short term, they also have an annual holiday coat drive. Visit their website here to learn about all of their volunteer opportunities.
3. HOPE for New York
HOPE for New York‘s mission is to organize volunteers and financial resources to support non-profit programs that provide food, clothing and other necessities to those in need. They also raise awareness amongst the community about the services they provide. This organization has a very user-friendly search engine that makes it super easy to find places to volunteer during the holiday season throughout the city. Their website is also home to a plethora of other resources for individuals looking to do good for themselves and their community.
4. New York Cares Coat Drive
New York Cares provides interested parties with several donation methods, making it easy to share the gift of warmth. You can either give money or actual coats depending on your interests. There are 300 public collection sites throughout the New York metropolitan area, and you can search for the one that’s closest to you using their interactive map. Bonus: Even Uber is lending a hand this year. To launch their UberRush program, anyone in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens can request a bike messenger to pick up their coats free of charge during business hours between 9:00am and 4:00pm Find out more here.
5. New York Cares Winter Wishes
New York Cares doesn’t only make it easy to donate coats, they also have a well-established gift-giving program where they’ve partnered with hundreds of nonprofits to bring gifts to disadvantaged children, teens and families. Don’t know what to buy? Well, they’ve got you covered—you can browse their Amazon Wish List to pick something special. After you’ve purchased your item, it will be shipped straight to the organization.
6. Family to Family – Getting your Kids to Donate (Kids to Kids)
Family to Family has an annual “empathy campaign,” where they ask kids in the US to give up one of the gifts they have asked for from Santa. It’s then the parents’ job to take their child shopping to buy the gift they will be donating to a child in need. Once the gift has been picked out, parents simply email Family to Family and they will link them up with a local shelter where the unwrapped present can be dropped off.
7. Only Make Believe
If you waited too long this year to organize your volunteer or gift-giving efforts pre-holiday, don’t worry. Only Make Believe is a really cool organization located here in New York City that creates costumes for special theater performances for children staying in hospitals and care facilities. All you need to do is gather up your excess crafts, ribbons or other festive decorations, along with any old CDs, fabric or craft items, and drop them off directly. It’s a great way to give back to the community, reduce holiday trash and spread the love well into the new year. Find out more by visiting their website here.