As part of the first ever “NYC Bloggers Do the Holidays,” Give & Get will be your ultimate guide to volunteering in NYC during the holiday season. At the end of this post you’ll find a list of 12 other dedicated New York blogs participating. Read them all, and you’ll have all your bases covered when it comes to this holiday season in NYC…
If you’re looking to give back to NYC this holiday season, you’ve come to the right place. From volunteering your time to donating presents, I’ve got you covered. There are endless opportunities available in this city, and this guide should provide a way to get you started…
- An easy way to give back during the holiday season is, well, to give. Today (December 1st) starts Operation Santa in NYC, which is a program run by the US Postal Service. Each year, thousands of needy children write letters to Santa, asking for things that their families cannot afford to buy them, from video games and toys to warm clothing and diapers for their siblings. Operation Santa allows people to answer these children’s letters and send them the gifts that they would have otherwise gone without. You can head to the James A. Farley Building on 8th Avenue to pick up a letter between now and Christmas Eve.
- New York Cares runs a ‘Winter Wishes‘ program, which is similar to Operation Santa, but they also allow team giving which enables you and your coworkers or friends to fulfill a TON of wishes (individuals can take up to 20 letters, teams can take a lot more). They screen over 32,000 letters from children, teens, and families living in New York City.
There are also many places in the city that have holiday parties and drives, where you can donate gifts and celebrate at the same time! Here are just a few:
- Toy Drive at the Village Pourhouse : On December 8th, head to the Village Pourhouse with a new toy to donate and you’ll receive a drink on the house! You can get details and RSVP with OneBrick, who is hosting the event. UPDATED 12/1/10: This years toy drive will take place on Tuesday, December 14th-same place, same deal!
- UJA Federation of NY has some great opportunities listed for holiday giving, including a Holiday Gift Bag Delivery on December 16th at the JASA center (Jewish Association for Services for the Aged) in Chelsea. They need volunteers to organize drives for supplies to put inside the gift bags (in advance), and you can help deliver the gifts to homebound seniors that night. On December 20th, you can help throw a Chanukah party at Selfhelp (organization for Holocaust Survivors) in Pelham Parkway, Bronx. Go to the UJA website for all the details and contact info: Go to site>>
- Inner-City Scholarship Fund is having a Christmas Party on December 12th, thrown by their junior committee for the kids in grades 1-3. There will be ornament decorating, card-making stations and other activities for kids to participate in. Volunteers who wish to sign up should email ICSFJC@gmail.com with “Christmas Party” in the subject line, and you’ll receive more details as the event approaches.
For Santa’s Little Helpers…
The holiday season is a great time to introduce your kids to the world of volunteering. At a time when they are being showered with gifts and love, it’s nice to take some time to explain that not all children are able to enjoy the holidays. Some activities you can do with your little ones that don’t take a lot of time, can go a long way in showing them that they can help other people have a better holiday:
- Your children can spend some time making ‘Happy Holidays’ cards, that you can drop off at a local senior center or organization that visits homebound seniors, hospitals, or other places where people may be lonely and need some cheering up. It’s a fun, inexpensive project you can do together.
- When you go shopping for gifts, allow your child to pick out one gift to give to someone else. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it will make them feel good knowing that another kid will get the awesome gift they picked out (see above for places to donate toys..)
- Check out Mommy Poppins post “Holiday Charity and Volunteering with Kids in NYC” for more kid-friendly ideas.
Rudolph helped lead Santa’s sleigh through the night, and you can lead your own volunteer project just like him. Organizing a drive to collect goods is a great way to give back without having to spend money. Always remember to call ahead to any place you intend to donate to make sure they can take your collection!
- Hold a food drive in your office, apartment building, or local community center (for do’s and don’ts of collection, see my previous post about coat drives). You can use the NYC Coalition Against Hunger website to locate a food pantry or soup kitchen by zip code. (this is also a great resource for finding volunteer opportunities nearby).
- Start a coat drive; it’s easy and helps clear space in your closet-a win-win I think. You can donate to a local church or synagogue, shelters, Goodwill or Salvation Army store, OR, you can get in on New York Cares Annual Coat Drive action by hosting a drive yourself and then delivering your coats to their Manhattan warehouse. New York Cares will provide you with flyers and posters for your drive, or if you choose to donate elsewhere, you can download flyers here from me.
- Brooklyn Based had a great post about giving back in Brooklyn, from volunteering time to donating goods. Check out the “Causes We Can Believe In” post.
One of the best ways to give back is to give your time to someone else. A few hours volunteering costs nothing but time, and it means a lot to the people you’re giving it to. I’ve mentioned a few places already that have special holiday volunteer events, but there are endless opportunities in NYC to give back all year round. Here are just a few organizations that make it really easy to find a project. Feel free to look at some of my previous posts to read about specific projects I’ve done.
- New York Cares is the most well-known volunteer organization in NYC, and for good reason. According to their website, more than 48,000 people volunteer year after year, giving their time to over 400,000 disadvantaged New Yorkers. After a short orientation, you can choose from hundreds of projects to participate in. Go to their website for more information. At the very least, New York Cares website can be used to give you an idea of what is available.
- Street Project has a limited group of opportunities, making it less overwhelming if you have a hard time deciding what type of activity you want to do, and besides setting up your account, there isn’t much you have to do before signing up for your first project.
- NYC Service allows you to search for different activities by borough, area of interest, and level of priority; there are a lot of opportunities for people with special skills such as accountants, artists, grant writers, etc.
- One Brick has various “commitment-free volunteering” opportunities listed by day, and most projects occur after regular work hours, enabling busy professionals to volunteer during the week or on weekends.
Got stuff to get rid of? If its in good condition, you can probably donate it; from cell phones to bed linens to pet supplies. Here are some links to help find a place to donate near you:
- Ann Sullivan-Go Green! lists places by item, and it’s a huge list. Always call ahead..
- NYC Stuff Exchange website is NYC.gov’s gift to donating. You can search by zip code, borough, or vendor.
If you are an organization that has holiday volunteering projects you’d like to share, post them below in the comment box!
NYC Bloggers Do the Holidays
Click on each of these links to read from great blogs, for and by New Yorkers. Read them all and you’ll be an NYC Holiday expert in no time…
Brooklyn Based: Home for the Holidays
the improvised life: unwrapping the holidays
Manhattan User’s Guide: The Gift Guide
Mommy Poppins: Offbeat and Multicultural Family Holiday Events
NY Barfly: It’s the Holidays, Time to Drink
NewYorkology: Big-ticket holiday shows: Nutcracker, Rockettes, Wintuk
offManhattan: Ten Holiday Getaways Near NYC
Patell & Waterman’s History of New York: A little history with your holidays
The Strong Buzz: Holiday Eats Old and New
WFMU’s Beware of the Blog: Happy Freakin’ Holidays Playlist
Walking Off the Big Apple: The Thin Man Walk: A New York Holiday Adventure with Nick and Nora Charles
If you have a NYC blog or website and would like to participate in a future group post, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org