Tag Archives: nyc stuff exchange

‘Tis the Season to Volunteer

1 Dec

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…

For Santa’s…

  • 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.

For Rudolph’s…

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.

For Elves…

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.

Just Give…

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:

 

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

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

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If you have a NYC blog or website and would like to participate in a future group post, email me at info@giveandgetnyc.com

 

 

How to Have A Successful Coat Drive

19 Nov

A great way to volunteer your time during the winter is to organize a coat drive. I had one last year and it was very successful: I was able to donate over 60 coats to Homes for the Homeless, an organization that assists homeless families in NYC. Through the process, I learned some do’s and don’ts for hosting a coat drive…

Before you start collecting, you may need to get permission from your landlord, boss, or whoever else may be in charge of the space where you intend to put a coat drive box. I live in a building that has a co-op board and building manager, all of whom had to approve a written proposal that I was asked to submit. I also collected coats at work, and so I needed my managers to give me the okay, since it would undoubtedly lead to (and it did), a large number of coats sitting around for a few days in the office. Some of the questions you should be prepared to answer:

-Where do you intend to store the coats after the box fills up?

-What do you intend to do with coats not suitable for donation?

-Where are you donating the coats?

The answers will vary from person to person, but just be prepared for someone to be annoyed with you and your box full of donations. There is always someone who will rain on your giving parade.

If you plan on having the donation box in your home, be careful where you are advertising your drive: putting an ad on Craigslist or posting flyers on the street may bring some undesirable people your way, and I don’t recommend it. Instead, you can keep the drive small, and tell all your friends and family to bring their donations to your apartment. Alternatively, maybe there is a community center nearby, a bodega, or some other public space, where you can offer to host the drive and take responsibility for clearing out donations.

Now that you have a space to put your box, you have to find one big enough to hold your donations. You can buy boxes at a store like Staples, but that’s going to cost you money and who wants to spend money when you don’t have to? Think about stuff that comes in big boxes: refrigerators, furniture, clothing. Now think of stores that sell these items and give them a call, asking if they have any large boxes (in good condition) they want to get rid of. Chances are, you’ll be able to snag a few boxes and re-use them for your drive. Refrigerator not included.

The next step is finding a place to donate all of the coats you collect. You should have this decision made before you start; if you’re arranging for a pick-up date, you’ll want that day to coincide with the day after your drive ends, so that you’re not storing boxes of stranger’s coats in your home for too long. If you’re donating to another drive, like New York Cares, you can take coats as you get them to drop-off sites, so that you don’t have to worry about storage. Either way, know where the coats are going. I’ll list some places at the end of the post that you can call and ask if they are in need of coat donations.

You should now be ready to start collecting coats! You can click here to download (free) flyers for your drive, and I’ll even personalize it for you if you ask nicely. You can post these flyers in your building or office, or email them to family and friends. Get the word out in advance, so that people have time to look through their closets and say goodbye to their precious coats. Set a definitive time span for your drive, and make sure you’ve mentioned that only RE-USEABLE, GENTLY-USED COATS should be donated. You can also mention on your flyer or email those things that shouldn’t be donated: ¬†gloves, hats, abandoned kittens, garbage, etc. You’d be surprised to find out what some people will put in an unattended box, so it’s wise to be specific…And it’s always a good idea provide contact information for anyone who has questions about what to donate, where their donations are going, etc.

Other things to know:

-Did I mention you can download free flyers here?

-To make your donation box more appealing to prospective donators, wrap it in some festive wrapping paper. Don’t put out a box that is fortified with a roll of duct tape and sagging-its an eyesore and not good for business…

-Tell people where the coats will be donated. It makes the drive more personal to each person if they can say: “Hey, I helped out the Salvation Army today,” instead of “I put my coat in an unmarked box and have no idea where its going. I think the lady on the 6th floor may be stealing coats for resale.”

-After your drive is finished, follow-up with an email or another flyer that says how many coats were collected. If you receive a thank you letter from the organization that received the donation, photocopy and share it. People like to know they’ve made a difference, and it feels good to know you were a part of something.

Find a Place to Donate(Always call ahead before showing up with coats):

NYC Stuff Exchange (will help you find places in your zip code)

New York Cares Coat Drive (December 1-31)

Covenant House

Salvation Army

You can also check with local churches, shelters, synagogues, and other community-centered places to see if they are in need of coats this winter.

There are tons of places to donate, so don’t think that this list is exhaustive. If you’re an organization that is in need of coat donations, please reply below with your information and location!

Email or comment with any additional suggestions for hosting a successful coat drive,or tell us about your own drive and how it went!

Happy Collecting!



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