Ways to Give Back in the Spirit of the Holidays

by Lauren Verini

The holidays are filled with festive parties, delicious treats and beautifully wrapped presents. It’s everyone’s favorite time of the year but its important to remember what the true spirit of the holidays are all about–giving.  Even for those of us who don’t have much, there are numerous ways to give back to help spread the holiday cheer to those less fortunate.

Choose your favorite charity and donate: There are thousands of charities out there that need help 365 days out of the year. While we may not be able to donate on a regular basis, take this special time of the year to donate to a charity that speaks to you. Websites like www.JustGive.org and www.CNNYC.org are great places to start. Also, look out for a special article soon on our top 18 charity picks.

Holiday Greeting Cards that Give Back: Purchase your holiday greeting cards this year through the Robin Hood Foundation, an organization that partners with over 200 poverty-fighting non-profits in the city. All profits from the cards will go directly back towards these worthy programs to help put food on the table for those without.

Give a Gift to a Stranger:  Every child deserves a present during the holidays. The Salvation Army’s Angel Giving Tree, New York Care’s Winter Wishes, and the Marine’s Toys for Tots programs are all great ways to purchase gifts for under privileged children. It’s simple–pick a name, buy a present off a child’s “wish” list and put a smile on their face this holiday season.

Give What You Can: One mans trash is another mans treasure! Sift through your closet for clothing you haven’t worn in a while or just doesn’t fit, and donate it to the Salvation Army, you can find the nearest drop off location on their website. To donate winter coats specifically, check out New York Cares’ annual coat drive going on through December 31. It’s not just clothes–you can donate food too. Go through your pantry for any extra canned food you don’t need and donate to a food shelter like Food Bank for New York City  or New York City Coalition Against Hunger–every little bit helps!

Donate Your Time: Some would say that the most valuable thing we can donate is our time. Visit a local homeless shelter or food pantry to help make a hot meal for someone and spend time with them. Many people don’t have family or friends to spend the holidays with and giving just a little bit of your time can make someone’s holiday a special one. Food Bank for New York City needs volunteers daily for their soup kitchen and food pantry, and New York’s City Meals organization, which delivers food to the elderly all throughout the city, is also accepting volunteers. For additional volunteer opportunities in the area, visit www.nycservice.org and www.volunteermatch.org.

Help an Animal in Need: There are thousands of dogs and cats in need of a good home, especially during the cold winter months. If you’re in the market for a pet, the holidays are a great time to rescue one from a local shelter like Animal Haven, Animal Care & Control of NYC, and Bideawee. You can also donate to the Humane Society of New York through their website. Visit their “wish” list section where you can see specific items like pet food, paper towels and pet toys that are needed.

Party for a Cause: If you’re going out to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, why not choose an event that will be both fun and supporting a worthy cause? The 12 Bars of Christmas is a bar crawl on December 17 in the West Village that raises funds for Food Bank NYC; tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Also on December 17, dog lovers can bring their pups to the North Pole Holiday Dog Party at Happy Paws to help raise funds for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Tickets for each dog are $10.

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