Here’s where to volunteer and donate in NYC this holiday season

Posted On Tue, November 3, 2020 By

Posted On Tue, November 3, 2020 By In City Living, Features, holidays, Top Stories

Photo by Ethan Covey for Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

This year has been tough on all New Yorkers, but especially those unemployed, hungry, and experiencing homelessness. While every holiday season is a chance to give back to your community, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made helping those in need this year more important than ever. Ahead, find out where to volunteer and donate across the city, whether it’s contributing to Thanksgiving food drives, delivering holiday meals, making greeting cards for seniors, or donating to coat drives. Please note, each organization has put in place protocols related to COVID-19 that need to be followed, including mask and social distancing requirements.

Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen
Throughout the ongoing health crisis, New York City’s largest soup kitchen continues to feed hundreds of our homeless neighbors. According to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, their weekly average pantry meals served increased from 840 meals per week in 2019 to an astonishing 22,000 meals per week this year. Volunteers are needed on a nearly daily basis at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen to help prepare and distribute meals as part of their grab-and-go program. You can also sign up to participate in their annual Fast-a-Thon on November 19, a pledge to eat just one meal like many of the Soup Kitchen guests do every day, to help raise money for the organization, and to raise awareness about food insecurity. Donations are always needed, with $15 helping prepare a Thanksgiving meal for five, $28 sponsoring a guest’s meals for all of December, $120 providing turkeys for five families.


Photo by David ‘Dee’ Delgado/Bloomberg for City Harvest

City Harvest
In response to COVID-19, City Harvest, the city’s largest food rescue organization, has significantly scaled up operations to meet demand. In July, we learned that group has rescued more than 42 million pounds of food since March, a 92 percent increase from the same period last year. This year, the group and the Daily News have teamed up to host a food drive that will run from October 20 through January 22, 2021, with the goal of collecting one million pounds of nutritious food to be delivered to soup kitchens, pantries, and other food programs across the city this holiday season.

Those interested in participating can hold their own food drive within their communities and City Harvest will pick up items. Participants can also drop off non-perishable (ie: canned fruit, vegetables, proteins, peanut butter, hot and cold cereal, soups) at FDNY firehouses ad NYPD precincts. Financial contributions are also encouraged and can be made here.

The Campaign Against Hunger
The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH) has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to provide emergency meals to New Yorkers in need and has served 330,000 families this year alone. The Bed-Stuy-based group has launched Project Turkey, an effort to provide at least 650 turkeys to families in need this Thanksgiving. Donate $15 or more to help TCAH reach its goal and feed hundreds of families this holiday. You can also host your own Thanksgiving food drive by collecting holiday foods like boxed mashed potatoes and canned cranberry sauce, yams, pumpkins, and more. Make a financial contribution to TCAH here.

Food Bank for New York City
The Food Bank for NYC has temporarily suspended its onsite volunteer programs because of the pandemic. But the group is still encouraging people to donate to help them provide meals during the “hungriest holiday yet” in the city. From the start of Food Bank’s COVID-19 response in March to about June, the group distributed 21 million meals to food-insecure New Yorkers.


Photo by Rommel Demano for God’s Love We Deliver

God’s Love We Deliver
For 35 years, God’s Love We Deliver has provided nutritious, medically tailored meals to New Yorkers who are too ill to shop or cook for themselves. Throughout the health crisis, the organization has continued to serve the city’s most vulnerable residents, taking on 3,200 new clients since March. This year, God’s Love We Deliver is looking for volunteers with cars to deliver meals on Thanksgiving morning. Additional opportunities include meal prep, packaging, and distribution of the holiday meals and Winter Feast meals. Find all the group’s volunteer events here.

On November 22, the group will host its 27th annual Race to Deliver fundraiser.  Because this year’s 5K race is virtual due to COVID, those interested in participating can be located anywhere. As always, donations are also appreciated.


Photo courtesy of Citymeals of Wheels

Citymeals on Wheels
Citymeals delivers weekend and holiday meals to older New Yorkers. Since the start of the pandemic, the group has delivered more than one million meals to homebound seniors and added 3,000 additional meal recipients to its delivery program. Volunteer opportunities include meal delivery, kitchen helpers, talking to seniors on the phone, and making handmade greeting cards. This year, Citymeals has launched its annual holiday card program featuring cards with designs that celebrate some beloved New York City places. Each pack of five cards costs under $40 and delivers a full box of food and special treats to a senior New Yorker in need, just in time for the holidays.


Photo: Jeffrey Lau Photography

The Bowery Mission

The Bowery Mission’s 141st Thanksgiving will definitely look different this year, but the goal of serving holiday meals to as many people as possible remains. The traditional tables with guests can’t happen because of the coronavirus, but hot Thanksgiving meals will be served for takeout. The Bowery Mission is not opening this year’s Thanksgiving event to public volunteers, but donations will help provide meals this holiday season, with each meal costing just $1.59. Find all volunteer opportunities here.

Gobble Gobble Give NYC
Typically an event with hundreds of volunteers working closely together and delivering meals, this year’s Gobble Gobble Give will be different because of the pandemic. But the tradition of helping neighbors in need on Thanksgiving will continue with a massive collection and distribution effort at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. On November 26 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Gobble Gobble Give will accept drop-off curbside donations, including canned and packaged foods, toiletries, baby items, new clothing, blankets, children’s toys, and PPE like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. The donations will be distributed to shelters, group homes, families in need, and New Yorkers experiencing homelessness on the street. Sign up for a time drop off donations and what type of donations you will give here.


Courtesy of Neighbors Together

Neighbors Together
The Brooklyn-based soup kitchen and social service center launched its annual 30 Thanksgivings campaign, which raises funds for meals served between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. You can join as an individual or a team to help Neighbors Together serve the community. In addition to this campaign, you can donate to Neighbors Together here and find volunteer opportunities through its Community Cafe here.

New York Cares
Since 1988, New York Cares has helped distribute more than two million coats during its annual coat drive. This year, the organization is focusing on providing coats to communities most affected by the pandemic, including in East Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Central Queens. Every $20 donated buys a coat for a New Yorker in need; purchase one here. In addition to its annual drive, New York Cares compiles thousands of open volunteer opportunities online the city, including delivering meals to seniors, packing holiday pantry bags, and preparing to-go meals.

Feeding NYC
Every November, Feeding NYC aims to provide as many Thanksgiving dinners as possible for families living in shelters. For $35, you can feed an entire family for Thanksgiving with one box, which includes a turkey, stuffing, gravy, vegetables, juices, and dessert. This year, the group hopes to feed over 5,000 families across the five boroughs. Learn more and donate here.

Community groups
Local neighborhood groups continue to help vulnerable food-insecure New Yorkers get food, in addition to access to other services like education help, childcare, and job placement. Mutual Aid NYC has put together a crowd-sourced directory of resources by each neighborhood along with contact information. Since March, volunteer-run groups have collected donations to provide contactless deliveries of grocery and more.

Donate blood
While temporary blood shortages are not uncommon during the holiday season, the coronavirus pandemic has created a prolonged shortage in New York and across the country. According to the New York Blood Center, the healthcare system requires 1,500 donations each day to treat patients, including trauma victims, cancer patients, and newborn babies. Because most blood drives have been canceled due to the pandemic, donations are at just 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels. You can make an appointment to donate blood, here.

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