Top five ways to volunteer during holidays

November 19, 2012

It’s that time of year again. Halloween has passed, and the winter holidays are around the corner. As the weather gets cooler and we start to strut down the city streets in boots and winter jackets, we realize there is a lot to be thankful for. With the excitement the season brings, it is easy to forget that many people do not have the luxury of enjoying turkey and homemade pumpkin pie with their families. With hundreds of programs and opportunities available in New York, it is easy help those who are less fortunate. Grab your friends and find a way to volunteer in the community. Here are the top five ways to give back this season.

Courtesy of Ed Yourdon

1. Visit a homeless shelter

Bringing food to the poor and putting a smile on someone’s face could be the best gift of all this time of year. The Bowery Mission at 227 Bowery in New York City is currently holding an online signup for Thanksgiving volunteers. Volunteers can cook and serve healthy meals or start a fund to raise money for the residents currently living at the Bowery Mission.

Gloria Lee/ WSN

2. Clean up the environment

Head out into the fresh, fall air and watch the beautiful leaves drop daintily from the trees. Clean these leaves off the sidewalks and while you’re at it, pick up pieces of trash. There is nothing better than seeing a clean park and sidewalk, so show your appreciation for the city by keeping it clean. To get involved in a group volunteer project in a New York City park, check out MillionTreesNYC, a volunteer organization that cleans up and plants trees in city parks.

Gloria Lee/ WSN

3. Organize a food drive

Grab your friends and make a grocery list. Purchase non-perishable food items and festive desserts. Food Bank NYC and City Harvest both accept food donations at various locations in New York. If you are interested in starting your own food drive, check out YouGiveGoods, an online platform that helps users organize collections.

Courtesy of Commander, US 7th Fleet

4. Volunteer at a hospital

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation has hospital and nursing home locations throughout the city. As a volunteer, there are a variety of important services you can take part in such as playing with children and babies, tutoring pediatric patients, gardening and landscaping and helping patients read and write letters. The HHC welcomes new volunteers and is always open to donations.

5. Volunteer at a soup kitchen

A soup kitchen trip never fails to provide someone with a hot meal and leave you with a warm heart and immense pride. While it may not be the most exciting way to give back, going to the soup kitchen to serve a meal or two is one of the best ways you can help during Thanksgiving. On Saturdays, The Church of St. Joseph in Greenwich Village always has volunteers prepare meals for the hungry. Other opportunities are available at Community Kitchen and Food Pantry in Harlem, which serves over 10,000 meals every month.

Looking for more opportunities? Visit nycservice.org to sign up for various volunteer projects in the city.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 19 print edition. Kimberly Schu is a staff writer. Email her at features@nyunews.com.

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