Funny how Thanksgiving goes hand-in-hand with simply giving. Humans have an innate capacity for goodness, and giving thanks and the giving of one’s time have reciprocal effects: they heighten each other, together expanding well-being and happiness. In a season where gratitude is the focus, it’s no wonder so many people choose to also serve selflessly. If you’re wondering where you can volunteer your time this season, here are eight ways to give thanks by giving back this holiday season.
New York Cares
New York Cares is like an umbrella organization for all things volunteering. You go to their website, fill out a quick search to find the issues that speak to you, and are led to the volunteer opportunities that match those issues. After an orientation, your selfless service can begin. It can be anything from helping people with tax prep to reading to children to working with a food pantry. This holiday season, why not participate in the organization’s annual coat drive? It may seem like a small act, but it makes a huge impact on someone in need of warmth during a blustery New York winter.
114 East 39th Street
New York, NY 10016
“Every child has the right to feel valued and validated as a human being.” This is one of the five principles of Pajama Program, an organization that provides pajamas and books to children in need. Too many children go to sleep in a bed that’s not their own, in a shelter that’s not their home. The ritual of changing into their own pajamas and reading a book to spark their imagination can do wonders for a child’s sense of security and self-worth. As a volunteer, you can donate books and pajamas, start your own pajama drive, sponsor a reading program, or simply read to children at the center. Delivering the feeling of being cared for helps children have a good night, which leads to a better day and, ultimately, a better life.
PLOT for Youth
For those thinking about becoming a mentor to at-risk youth, PLOT (Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow) is a great way to begin. PLOT for Youth is an organization which links youth in Brooklyn, ages 9-21, who are at risk for becoming involved in the criminal justice system to positive mentors who inspire and guide them. PLOT chooses mentors who have similar life experiences as their mentees and can commit for at least a year, and the pair spend between 4-6 hours per month together. This builds trust and a strong foundation of positive role modeling, helping the mentee become more confident, inspired, and optimistic about their own life and future. The application for mentorship is thorough, ensuring the right fit, and can be found on PLOT’s website.
Meal Delivery Organizations
Grand Central Food Program
Coalition for the Homeless
129 Fulton Street
New York, NY 10038
God’s Love We Deliver
166 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10013
Citymeals on Wheels
355 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Every night for the past 33 years, the Grand Central Food Program (GCFP) has provided over 1,000 meals to the homeless throughout NYC. Begun the day after a homeless woman died of starvation in Grand Central Terminal, the GCFP is today the largest mobile soup kitchen in America. Volunteers of GCFP drive directly to the homeless and deliver healthy meals, which, for many, is their only meal of the day. During cold weather, they also deliver hats, gloves, scarves, and blankets. Get involved by contacting the Coalition for the Homeless, GCFP’s parent organization, where you can also find out about their annual Holiday Toy Drive, making the holiday season a little brighter for children in need.
The mission of God’s Love We Deliver is to bring nutritious, high-quality meals directly to people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses. This they do with a bang, delivering over 7,000 meals each weekday, a feat which cannot be accomplished without the help of thousands of volunteers who cook, package, and deliver meals. At Thanksgiving, volunteers with cars are especially needed to help deliver all over the city, so give a call if you’ve got the wheels – or even if you don’t.
If you’ve got a heart for the elderly, Citymeals on Wheels is the food delivery charity for you. Not only is Citymeals on Wheels dedicated to providing meals for elderly individuals, they provide companionship as well. Many of these people don’t leave their homes due to disability or lack of resources, and some are reported as not even having anyone to talk with. By volunteering with Citymeals on Wheels, you’ll not only be providing much-needed nutrition to the city’s elderly, but you’ll be sharing hope and happiness as well.
Animal Care Centers of NYC
86 North 1st Street, Brooklyn
Even if animals are dear to your heart but not to your building regulations, they can still be a part of your life. By volunteering with an animal shelter in NYC, you can spend time with, care for, and even assist in the adoption process of dogs, cats, and rabbits in need. If you’re unable to adopt or foster yourself, step into Barc Shelter in Brooklyn and take a dog for a walk- go ahead, pretend it’s your own. For more committed volunteering, the Animal Care Centers of NYC offer opportunities to provide exercise, attention, and comfort to their animals, with subsequent possibilities for grooming, maintaining kennels, writing bios, assisting in adoption counseling, and more.
Put your innate goodness to good use this holiday season – give a coat, share a meal, help a young person in need. Watch as not only their face lights up, but your life does, too.