Where to volunteer in NYC: Food banks, shelters, soup kitchens, and more

Posted On Wed, November 23, 2016 By

Posted On Wed, November 23, 2016 By In City Living, Features, holidays

Image by acfb.org

The holiday season is the time of year when seeing friends and family is hard to avoid. We also find ourselves with more vacation days during these winter months. However, even though these two holiday realities suggest cheer and relaxation, they don’t always mean we’re taking the necessary time to slow down and appreciate what really matters. Instead of just eating and drinking your way through the next weeks, why not harness the holiday spirit and take a pause to help your fellow New Yorkers in need? There are hundreds of opportunities to volunteer from now through the New Year, and the list we’ve compiled below is a good place to start.

god's love we deliver, holiday volunteering nyc

1. God’s Love We Deliver
The mission of God’s Love We Deliver is to improve the health and well-being of men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition. Their efforts include preparing and delivering nutritious, high-quality meals to people who, because of their illness, are unable to provide or prepare meals for themselves. Check out their different volunteer opportunities to find out how you can lend a hand this year.

2. Citymeals on Wheels
There are various groups of people who need love this holiday season including our homebound elderly neighbors. Citymeals on Wheels is committed to provide this group with nourishing meals and vital companionship. In addition to delivering food their holiday volunteer opportunities include making greeting cards, and attending their holiday benefit concert.

3. The Grand Central Food Program
Sponsored by the Coalition for the Homeless, The Grand Central Food Program was started in 1985 after a homeless woman died from starvation in Grand Central Terminal. Since then it has become the largest mobile soup kitchen in New York, and unlike traditional soup kitchens, the organization brings food and resources directly to a person. The organization includes three vans that deliver healthy meals throughout the city, making 23 stops per day. Their efforts are needed by the homeless year round and they encourage volunteers to commit beyond just the holiday season. In addition to help needed delivering goods, the program also needs volunteers to monitor shelters and help with their annual holiday toy drive.

holiday volunteering nyc

4. Help the Actors Theatre Workshop
The Actors Theatre Workshop has been providing New York City’s homeless children with a very special experience through their 12-week after school theatre and education program. Their program is called Builders of the New World (BNW), and their holiday celebrations kick-off their upcoming winter session. They are currently looking for volunteers for their two-day holiday celebration and creative classes servicing more than 100 children living in temporary housing facilities. The events take place on Tuesday, December 13 and Wednesday, December 14. There are several ways you can help this year, including joining a project team in November to prepare parties and get the word out, helping decorate the theatre on Saturdays prior to the event, and mentoring children in attendance on the 13th and 14th. Learn more about these opportunities here.

5. Food Bank NYC
For over 30 years the Food Bank for NYC has been the city’s major hunger-relief organization working tirelessly to end hunger throughout the five boroughs. Their mission is to end hunger by organizing food, information, and support for community survival, and there are many opportunities for you to lend a hand. They are looking for volunteers to help with bank distribution set-up and holiday meal prep and service in several locations over the next few months. Check out their complete calendar of events to find a time and location that works for you.

6. Hope for New York
Hope for New York is a non-profit organization whose mission is to mobilize volunteers and financial resources to support non-profit affiliates serving the poor and marginalized in New York City. They offer a variety of volunteer opportunities throughout the winter months, so if you’re unable to commit time on Thanksgiving or Christmas, no worries, these folks need a hand all year. They are looking for volunteers in several different capacities, including preparing dinner for women in recovery, sharing a meal with an elderly resident, and prepping and serving holiday meals. You can learn more about the various, options, times, and locations on their website.

7. Operation Santa Claus
While most of us have warm holiday events with friends and family to look forward to, there are many needy children without the same anticipatory glow. However, this doesn’t always dampen their spirits—as proven by the thousands of “Dear Santa” letters that arrive at post offices all over the country. With help from the USPS, every year warm-hearted folks bring Operation Santa Claus to life by responding to the sweet “Dear Santa” letters. If you’re interested in spreading holiday love with your words, you can find out more information about where and when to pick up the letters here.


8. The Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen
The Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen is open every day at 10:30 am and feeds hundreds of hungry and homeless New Yorkers on a daily basis. Though the organization has already filled its volunteer needs for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, they still need help throughout the winter season. Find out more information here.

9. City Harvest
City Harvest was founded in 1982 and was run entirely by volunteers who connected neighborhood restaurants to food programs serving people in need. City Harvest volunteers remain a crucial part of their operations and there are many different ways both individuals and groups can help out. The organization needs help with everything from their Mobile Markets to their nutrition education courses, again making this a great opportunity to start volunteering beyond the holiday season. Read more about their services and volunteer needs here.

10. BARC
For all of you animal lovers out there BARC (Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition) in Williamsburg has a welcoming volunteer program that can fit easily into anybody’s busy schedule. Dog walking hours are offered several days a week in both the morning and evening. Visit their website for more information.

11. St. Joe’s Soup Kitchen
St. Joe’s Soup Kitchen is an independent organization run completely by volunteers and they serve 400-500 meals every Saturday to New York City’s homeless community. They have been in operation for almost 40 years and their success has been made possible through the hard work of their volunteers, local businesses, and the generosity of the local community. They serve food every Saturday and need volunteers for both the morning and afternoon shifts. Find out details here.

The Grand Central Food Program, holiday volunteering nyc

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