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G&G For the Holidays: Gifts That Give Back

1 Dec

This post is part of the second annual NYC Bloggers Do the Holidays, where a group of New York’s top bloggers join forces to bring you the best that this city has to offer for the holiday season! Check out the list of participating bloggers below. Read them all, and you’ll have no problem navigating this city and taking it for all it’s worth…After the jump, check out my contribution: Gifts that Give Back.

‘the improvised life’: Design (or Hack) Your Own Holiday E-Cards

Manhattan User’s Guide: The Gift Guide: 21 Over $21

Markets of New York: Festive Food at New York’s Holiday Markets

Patell and Waterman’s History of New York: Christmas with Andy Warhol

We Heart Astoria: The Best Places To Shop Local – WHA Holiday Gift Guide


Last year I gave you some tips on where to volunteer all month long (I’ve gone back and updated what I could, so be sure to check it out, and volunteer!). This year, Give and Get will be your guide to shopping for a cause-places to buy gifts while also giving back to your favorite NYC charities. Anyone who receives emails from major retailers is aware of the growing trend of incorporating charitable giving into everyday shopping, especially during this time of year. I’ve tried to compile a list of those who are making contributions to local, New York-based charities, in addition to non-profits who are offering online catalogs that benefit their own organization directly. I’ve also thrown in a few alternative gift ideas that are great for that rich relative who has everything…Read on, my friends, and get ready to knock out your gift list and good deed for the day at the same time.

For people who love kids…

– Retailers owned by participating Friends of Baby Buggy will donate 10% of proceeds to Baby Buggy, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing New York City’s families in need with essential equipment, clothing, and products for their infants and young children. You’ll need a special code at checkout to make sure the donation is made-listed below:

  • Gift Hero: Carries gifts for age 0-10. Code: BUGGY2010
  • Kirna Zabete: Soho shop that carries designers such as Lanvin, Givenchy, Celine, Proenza Schouler and more. Code: KZLOVESBABYBUGGY
  • Baby CZ: A luxury line of cashmere, cotton and silk clothes & accessories for babies, children and women. Code: BUGGY
  • Felix Rey: An ultra-feiminine luxury accessories brand. Code: BUGGY10

For food-loving NYC locals…

God’s Love We Deliver, a popular non-profit organization that delivers food daily to home-bound New Yorkers, delivers more than just meals during the holiday season. Clients receive gift baskets full of delicious treats (and meals), all delivered in shopping bags decorated by school children. You can purchase gifts from their holiday catalog, including GLWD aprons and oven mitts, wine glasses and more, with proceeds benefiting the organization. With demand for their services up 21% in just the first three months of the current fiscal year, a purchase from here will be more important than ever before.


Going once, going twice…

Bidding For Good is an online auction platform that allows non-profit organizations to set up fundraising auctions for themselves that maximize their reach and potential to raise more money. You can search by cause and/or state, or just by auction items, which range from restaurant gift certificates to all-inclusive vacations, all benefiting a specific charity! This is a great site to use if you’re a fan of Ebay, or want to find a specific cause to give to while you shop..The auctions run for a few weeks, so be sure to check back for new causes and items throughout the month. Currently running is an auction to benefit the West Side YMCA Teen Center; it’s running until December 10th at 9pm- bid now!


For your tchotchke-loving friend or coworkers…

Exit 9 has been called a cross between a museum gift shop and a kitschy toy store. After passing by last weekend, I can confirm that it is in fact, just that. You’ll be able to find gag gifts, iPod accessories, children’s craft kits and everything in between. My favorite were the bandaids that look like strips of bacon (which I got for my 6-yr old nephew). More importantly, they’re encouraging people to shop locally while supporting local charities. During their ’12 Days of Charity’ promotion (December 1st-12th) you’ll be able to choose which of the eight local non-profit organizations they’ve listed will receive 10% of profits. Organizations include: BARC Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition, GenerationOn, God’s Love We Deliver, LES Girls Club, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Public School 58Public School 261, Transportation Alternatives. You can shop online, or find even more merchandise at one of their two retail locations (in Brooklyn and on the LES)


For the person who has everything and enough money to buy it if they don’t…

– Let’s call this person Charlie. Charlie is the hardest person to get gifts for. Unless it’s perishable, you’re likely getting him something he already has, or doesn’t want. In the past few years, I’ve taken a departure from the traditional gifts and began to give donations in other people’s names. It’s a really personal gesture that will (hopefully) make them much more appreciative of your gift than last year’s wine stopper or coaster set. More specific ideas for your Charlie:

  • Does your Charlie love the outdoors? Make a donation to MillionTreesNYC or Fresh Air Fund. An avid gardner? Help fund a project on ioby (‘in our backyards’). Whatever you choose, just be sure to Charlie that you’ve made a donation in his honor. Check out ‘the improvised life‘ blog for more tips on double-duty gifts and cards, and Cards That Give, a great source for charity greeting cards.
  • If you want to get a little more sentimental, you can request/pick up a letter to Santa (depending on your budget-gifts requested are usually under $40-maybe more than one). You can fulfill a child’s wish by sending them their gift from Santa on Charlie’s behalf. Give the child’s letter to Charlie with a note that says something along the lines of “In lieu of a gift, I’ve given this little girl the Barbie she always wanted and couldn’t afford, on your behalf..” You can get these letters from the James A Farley Building in midtown. (New York Cares runs a similar program but registration has closed)
  • If your Charlie is a little more global-minded, you can gift something even bigger, with long-lasting effects. Heifer International allows you to donate sheep, llamas, goats and more, to impoverished children and families around the world, and help them receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant. After your donation, you’ll have the opportunity to create a printable gift card or e-card to tell Charlie that you’ve honored him with a Heifer gift. (Update: It’s been brought to my attention that there are differing opinions regarding HI’s practices and their ethical merit. Read here about another point of view. Charity Navigator is one place to check on how donations are distributed by NPOs- know who you’re donating to before you donate, always)


So there you have it.. some different places to cross people off your list while giving back to some NYC non-profits. Did I miss something? It’s likely! If you’ve got something to add, please comment below or email to


Gobble Gobble Give.

11 Nov

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and you know what that means: you’ll soon be eating the biggest, most delicious meal of the year followed by a  delightfully acceptable food coma immediately afterward. Unfortunately,  not everyone in this city will be able to celebrate and give thanks,  because they may not be able to afford the basic necessities, let alone a stuffed turkey with all the fixin’s. Luckily, there are a lot of  organizations that will be delivering food over the next week leading up to (and on) Thanksgiving day. Here are a few that may need your help:


Yorkville Common Pantry: Located on the Upper East Side/East Harlem line, this is one of the city’s largest food pantries. Every year they have a Turkey Drive that runs from late August all the way up to Thanksgiving Day. A $30 donation is enough to give Thanksgiving Dinner to a family of 5; YCP serves about 2,000 families in need, so as you can imagine, they need a lot of turkeys. They may also need a hand organizing and distributing the donations from their pantry. Please contact Stefana Soitos at 917-720-9722, or at for more information about donating turkeys, and visit the website for information about the abundant volunteer opportunities they have available.


God’s Love We Deliver: They need delivery volunteers to deliver their clients’ meals and Thanksgiving baskets all over NYC and parts of New Jersey on the morning of Thursday, November 25th.  You must have a car and a partner to deliver. Please contact Emily at for details. Sidenote: They will also be delivering their Winter Holiday meal on Friday, December 24th (aka Christmas Eve day). If you want to plan ahead, email Emily and let her know you’ll be able to help out.


City Meals-On-Wheels: Much like God’s Love, Meals-On-Wheels will likely need help preparing and delivering meals next week to the home-bound clients that they serve. Visit their website for more information about volunteering, and let them know you’re able to help on Thanksgiving.


Coalition for the Homeless: This organization delivers food, clothing and blankets by truck to 31 stops in Manhattan and the Bronx. The Grand Central Food program has three vans that operate 6:30-9:30 p.m. every night of the year, including Thanksgiving. Visit the website to see the full routes, and for more information about volunteering, please email


St John’s Bread and Life: This pantry is located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. There are a slew of volunteer opportunities available, so contact them and find out where they may need some extra hands next week (or in general!): the main Soup Kitchen serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, the food pantry is open 5 days a week, and the Mobile Soup Kitchen -a compact, mobile extension of Bread and Life- serves daily hot meals and provides outreach services to a number of New York City’s most impoverished communities located in East New York, Brownsville, Jackson Heights, Coney Island and Williamsburg.


Love Kitchen: Join the NYC Urban Project on Saturday, November 20th, as they pack and serve 500 lunches for those in need of a meal in Washington Heights for “Feed 500” from 9am-5pm. You’ll not only be packing the lunches, but you’ll take to the streets to deliver them while sharing a story or two. This is more than a food delivery to the needy; this is an attempt to connect you to the people that you’re helping, taking away the barrier of coming from different places, and just enjoying a meal. Visit the Urban Project website for more details about what you’ll need, and if you’re interested in volunteering please contact . You can go solo or with a group, and if the 9-5 shift seems like too much, you’re also able to choose between a morning or afternoon shift.


Church of the Holy Trinity: On the days leading up to Thanksgiving, Holy Trinity will need volunteers to prepare and package food. On Thanksgiving day, volunteers heat and prepare food for takeout, and deliver meals to recipients’ homes. Shifts are spread out over various days and hours, so it looks like a good fit for someone with a busy 9-5 type job. To volunteer, email Lydia Colon. If you miss out on Thanksgiving, check out their website for more year-round opportunities.


Updated 11/11 Feeding NYC: They need over 300 people to help assemble, pack and deliver meals for Thanksgiving, and are hoping to reach 8,000 families this year. Visit their website to read more about the organization, and fill out this form to sign up for volunteering on November 23rd during one of the 5 shifts available. If you can’t make it on the 23rd, you can go to the Hudson Terrace on November 18th instead; Feeding NYC will be having a cocktail party to help raise money for all the Thanksgiving meals they’ll be giving out (tickets are $35 or $105. Details here)


Updated 11/23: Time Out New York listed some more opportunities on their website. Check it out for some last minute ideas!


So there you have it. Before you sit down for the gluttony that is a Thanksgiving Day feast, take a few hours to give back to others less fortunate than you. Trust me, it’ll make you feel truly thankful for all that you have.


Are you an organization that needs volunteers for the holidays? Do you know of opportunities available? Contact me at or comment below so I can add to this post!

Giving to Go

10 Jul

So sometimes at my office we order lunch as a group and everyone eats together, and as a thank you for working hard and making money, the company foots the bill. It becomes very apparent when the food arrives that no one held back when ordering, and the amount of food is significantly more abundant than it would have been had everyone been asked to pay for themselves. “Get an extra pizza, just in case” “Let’s get a couple orders of fries, you know, just for the table” “Eggrolls for everyone! We’re rich!” The result is a ridiculous amount of leftovers that eventually get thrown out.

The problem is that I hate seeing perfectly good food go to waste. On previous occasions, I would combat this problem by eating myself into a food coma; unfortunately, putting your head down on your desk and napping for an hour isn’t as acceptable as it used to be in say, 2nd grade.

My next attempt to save waste was taking leftovers home and eating them for dinner with my boyfriend. There were many problems with this, however. First and most important, is that I ride a bike to and from work. Dangerous as it is riding in NYC, the danger increased ten-fold when I hung bags of pad thai and spring rolls from my handlebars and attempted to navigate through midtown. Also, everyone thought I was crazy. I became the office garbage disposal; I once came back from the restroom to find a half-eaten sandwich on my desk with a note: ‘I thought you might want this -xo’. No, I don’t want your soggy chips and pickles. Mission aborted.

Then I realized one day this past winter, while walking to the subway (I’m not THAT committed of a biker to ride in the cold) that each day, I pass at least one person begging for food and money. It’s a sad reality of living in NYC.  So the next time everyone ordered lunch, I brought one meal with me for my walk home and not surprisingly, there was someone in the subway entrance asking for money. I asked him if he was hungry, and when he said yes I asked if he liked chinese food. He laughed and said yes, so I gave him my General Tso’s Chicken with an egg roll on the side. After that day, I began packing bags of food each time we had leftovers, and handed them out on my way home. Between where I work and home, Herald Square and the 1/2/3 Stop at 72nd Street, I can usually unload 2 or 3 meals. If I can’t find anyone I wind up bringing it home, but I usually have no trouble finding someone hungry.

I’m not sure if this is okay-I know that it would be better to point these people in the direction of a shelter or somewhere to get a hot, free meal. And I have. Is it rude to give someone your leftovers? I don’t think so. They’re hungry. I have food. Seems okay to me. It’s not like I’m having dinner parties with friends and feeding them my co-worker’s scraps.

So maybe you want to try this yourself; here are some tips I can offer based solely on my own experiences:

-Put everything in a bag. I once gave a man an apple and bottle of water while he was begging for change; he thanked me and asked if I had a bag he could put it in-he couldn’t hold his change cup and the apple/water at the same time. It’s not like they can put it in the fridge for later, you know? Bag it.

Don’t go on a 2am crusade through the park by yourself; be safe and smart about who you’re approaching and where. It may be a good idea to avoid the guy wearing wireless headphones who swears to himself and warns anyone within earshot about the impending doom of the Apocalypse.

-If you can, include a fork, knife, and some napkins. Just because they’re hungry doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to eat like a civilized human being.

– Giving them the original containers is best, as I’ve seen homeless people use tupperware and other recycled containers to gather water or other things that they can then save for later.

-Don’t just throw food at someone-ask first. Also, I tend to only approach people with signs or other things that clearly indicate they are in need; it’s probably pretty embarrassing to approach someone who turns out to just be tying their shoe on the ground.

-There are organizations who travel the city handing out food every day, like the Coalition for the Homeless, or the Bowery Mission. If you’re not comfortable doing this solo, get hooked up with one of these agencies and join their fleet.

Have you done this before? If so, what happened? Please feel free to post any questions or comments.

Pantry Party at Whiskey Tavern

1 Jun

Give and Get NYC will be hosting a Pantry Party on June 12th at 6:30pm. Bring at least 3 non-perishable food donations (from your pantry..or the supermarket-your choice). In return, you’ll get three tickets that are each good for $1 off any drink, or $3 off any pitcher of beer. You can’t combine the tickets, so stay for a while and have a few drinks on the back patio while you eat some fried pickles and tater tots. Yes, tater tots.
All donations will be going towards City Harvest’s ‘Feed the Kids’ food drive. It’s going to be a tough summer for hundreds of thousands of NYC kids who don’t always have enough to eat – a number that is growing. The food you bring on June 12th will help to ensure that emergency food programs are fully stocked this summer. Below are some suggestions of the most needed foods, but anything non-perishable will do.

* canned fruit
* canned vegetables
* peanut butter (plastic jars)
* mac and cheese (packaged)
* hot and cold cereal (packaged, family-sized)

Please RSVP on the Give and Get NYC Facebook Page, or by emailing (subject line PANTRY PARTY) so that I know how many awesome donations to expect. If you invite friends, pass along this link so they can RSVP individually too.. Hope to see you there!

Whiskey Tavern is located at 79 Baxter St. You can take the R, Q, N, W, or 6 to Canal or 4, 5, J, M, Z to Brooklyn Bridge.

Sorting with Room To Grow

25 Mar

What: sort through donated clothing, through New York Cares

Where: Room to Grow, East Midtown

When: Tuesday, 5:30-7:30pm

Room to Grow is a Manhattan-based non-profit supporting babies in poverty throughout their first three years of life, providing parents with one-on-one parenting support and essential baby items throughout their children’s critical stages of development. As such, they receive a LOT of donations from the generous public, large corporations, and retail stores; someone needs to go through everything and separate the good from the bad, and definitely get rid of the ugly. That’s where you come in, new volunteer!

When you first arrive at Room to Grow, you’ll take a seat on the couch and listen to some simple instructions. Since they have so many different offerings there (toys, clothing, books,etc), your instructions may be different than mine but the idea is the same: keep anything that looks new, get rid of anything you wouldn’t buy in a store yourself. Our task for the night was to do a preliminary sorting of clothing donations, separating everything by age and taking out anything that wasn’t wearable. It wasn’t difficult, and the time flew by as I picked through bag after bag of adorable baby clothing. Anything that I was unsure of, I held up and waited for one of the staff or head volunteers to give a thumbs up or thumbs down. The simple, repetitive task was actually one of the most calming activities I’ve participated in after a long day of work, second only to my brownie-stuffing experience at God’s Love We Deliver. My foot falling asleep every 5 minutes was the only reminder that I was, in fact, still conscious- otherwise, it was quite meditative.

The place itself was immaculate (get a 3D tour here), and I think I’d actually prefer to shop for clothing here than in a retail store; its a relaxed, organized environment with everything one would need to outfit a baby for a few years, all in one room. Also, its free (which is a pretty amazing deal). They are also VERY thorough; after our initial sort, the next group will give everything a second look before putting it on the rack. Anything that doesn’t make the cut moves further down the donation chain; Good Will and the Salvation Army for the less than perfect items, and those that can’t be salvaged? Their fate is to become insulation for houses. Other things to know:

  • Be prepared to sit on the floor for two hours, or at the very least, be hunched over a pile of donations for an extended period of time (read: bad back or bad knees-> call before going to see what the day’s project is).
  • If you’ve got baby fever but aren’t ready to have a baby, do not volunteer here. The power of tiny outfits on a woman is bizarre and the enigmatic force thrives here, so beware. I mean, have you seen how tiny those shoes are?!
  • If you donate, know that anything you give will in some way be used, by someone, or something. However, if your kid has a propensity for spaghetti flinging and drooling uncontrollably (pretty much sums up my childhood…and college), and now you’re looking to get rid of their “gently used” vomit-covered onesies, give it to someone else. Room to Grow only uses like-new donations, and for good reason.
  • This isn’t just a place for poverty-stricken women to pick out cute outfits; it’s a lot more than that. Its a support system made up social workers, providing information and necessities to parents who have been referred by a selected group of prenatal programs in the city. For more information, visit their website. And of course, you can volunteer directly with them.