Donate, Serve, Volunteer: Six Ways to Make a Difference This Thanksgiving Season

Volunteers celebrating at a Thanksgiving food drive on Thanksgiving

It's almost Thanksgiving! Yesssssssssssss. This is my personal favorite holiday of the year, by the way, because its entirely about food, friends and family, with almost zero shopping. Except to buy the food. And I love food shopping. And food eating. Anyway… because the Thanksgiving holiday is really only a single (albeit usually long) meal, the day, and the long weekend that follows, also offers you and your family ample opportunity to show your gratitude for your plenitude by giving back to the community. Here, then, are just a few local ideas for volunteering on the actual day, as well other opportunities to do the right thing throughout the holiday season. 

Volunteers from City harvest showing off their collection of canned goods for Thanskgiving

City Harvest

Each year the great City Harvest helps feed more than 1.4 million of your fellow New Yorkers facing hunger, passing along rescued food that would have otherwise been thrown away (over 136,000 pounds every day!) to community centers, shelters, church groups, senior homes and the like. There are lots of ways you can get involved with City Harvest, via financial donations (93 cents of every dollar goes directly to those in need), volunteering your time at various points in the "food chain", or by bringing as much non-persishable food as you carry to any number of City Harvest drop-off centers during their annual Food Drive, co-sponsored by The Daily News and running now through January 16. For a list of drop-off sites, information on how to organize a food drive at your school or workplace, and a look at how you can volunteer this Thanksgiving, please see here.


Two vans from God's Love We Deliver ready for Thanskgiving deliveries

God's Love We Deliver

Bringing good, nutritious meals and a whole lot of love to the homes of New Yorkers too ravaged by illness to fully support themselves… that is the mission of the wonderful God's Love We Deliver. Since its founding in 1985, during the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic, God's Love We Deliver has cooked and delivered more than 15 million meals in all, and this year will serve some 4,600 meals every day to those who can't prepare their own food, whether just for themselves or for their children, too. The number of active volunteers with this vital organization already tops 8,000 people annually, but there's always an extra need on Thanksgiving Day itself, both in their Brooklyn kitchen, the temporary home while they renovate their usual Soho location, and at distribution centers throughout Manhattan. To learn how you and your family can get involved with God's Love We Deliver volunteering see here.    

Logo for the New York Cares Coat Drive beginning November 17th

New York Cares Coat Drive

One of the easiest, most immediately impactful ways to give this and every year is by going through your closet and donating your gently-used winter coats to the annual New York Cares Coat Drive. Last year New York Cares collected some 78,000 coats that would have otherwise gone un- (or under-) used by the likes of you, and distributed them to your fellow citizens who needed something warm to get through the winter. This year the Coat Drive begins on November 17, and as usual there will be some 300 drop-off sites in handy locations around the city (check back in a few days to their website, here, for the complete list). Of course, in addition to the Coat Drive, New York Cares does a lot more this holiday season and all year long, and you can find plenty of other volunteer opportunities here as well.

FeedingNYC hand delivers over 3,000 Thanksgiving meals each year


On a slightly smaller scale (except to those who receive the food; then there's nothing small about it), the folks at FeedingNYC have been hand-delivering some 3,000 Thanksgiving dinners every year these past few years to people in need throughout the city. This year, working with the Dream Big Foundation, FeedingNYC is jumping the gun a bit by bringing together nearly 400 volunteers on Tuesday, November 25, to Chelsea Piers, where they'll (you'll?) help pack up and deliver full Thanksgiving meals to thousands of local families and shelters. And because FeedingNYC is organizing the whole thing two days prior to Thanksgiving, that means you can help out here, and then chip in later in the week somewhere else as well! You'll find more information about FeedingNYC and the FeedingNYC Thanksgiving dinner program here.

Food Bank NYC is preparing for a virtual Food drive for Thanksgiving 2014

Food Bank For NYC

Food Bank For NYC has been one of the city's major hunger-relief organizations since its founding in 1983, and it provides all sorts of goods and services to New Yorkers in need throughout the year. But it's during the holiday season, starting now and running through the New Year, that the Food Bank's ingenious Virtual Food Drive tends to be the most fruitful. Here's how it works: individuals or organizations set up an account on the Food Bank For NYC's website, and solicit funds (or, "virtual canned goods") from friends, relatives, co-workers, whomever. The Food Bank then uses the money you've raised to feed local families, parlaying their economies of scale to get far more food-bang for each buck. In fact, Food Bank For NYC estimates that each dollar donated to a Virtual Food Drive can provide a healthy, fulfilling meal to as many as five people. For more information on Food Bank For NYC, and to set up your own Virtual Food Drive.

Students smiling, offering free summer meals for children at the NYC Coalition Against Hunger

NYC Coalition Against Hunger

Finally, if you're thinking about committing your time, energy, skills, and brainpower on a long-term basis toward helping the more 2 million New Yorkers living in poverty, living daily without enough food (a terrible problem that seems unlikely to go away on its own), maybe you want to explore what the NYC Coalition Against Hunger is all about. What the NYCCAH does is help connect talented, willing individuals with food pantries and kitchens, not as prep cooks or box packers (as valuable as those services may be), but rather as, for example, web designers, grant writers, and accountants. The NYCCAH is also always on the lookout for activist-minded individuals who can volunteer in advocacy and outreach efforts, to ensure that those who are eligible for and deserve assistance are getting it. Letter-writing campaigns, petitions, lobbying efforts: the city needs sharp minds and passionate people to join in the fight. Learn more about NYC Coalition Against Hunger volunteer opportuntinies here

Posted in NYC Events | Tagged