By Kristina Bostley
The holiday season is a time for giving thanks and remembering to count our blessings. It’s a time to bring joy and cheer to our families, friends, and neighbors, to make sure they know they are loved and cared for. But for those less fortunate, the holidays can be a stressful time as families struggle to keep a roof over their heads, serve holiday meals, stay warm, and give gifts to children. It’s an important reminder amidst the chaos of holiday shopping, decorating, and get-togethers to reach out to those in our community who need a little bit more help this time of year. There are several organizations and volunteer opportunities that are seeking help to make the season a bit brighter for everyone.
NY Methodist Hospital
The hospital is no place to spend a holiday, but unfortunately, some hospital patients have no other choice. Volunteers at NY Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, can give the gift of song to patients in the pediatric, oncology, and physical rehabilitation units. It’s a great way to warm up your vocal cords and live the dream of door-to-door Christmas caroling, while also brightening the day for long-term hospital patients. Volunteers must be 16 years of age or older and can apply online by visiting their website, www.nym.org.
Services for the UnderServed
Services for the UnderServed (SUS) is seeking your service in helping to bring the holiday spirit to people with their Holiday Stocking Project. SUS provides services to veterans, people in need of housing, and people with developmental disabilities and behavioral health issues. Because many of the people they help don’t have families to celebrate with, the nonprofit accepts donations of stockings stuffed with small gifts such as gift cards, toiletries, toys, hats, scarves, and books that they then distribute. Participants are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm their donation, and drop off the stockings by December 5 to their New York office. For more information, visit their website at sus.org/holiday-stocking-project.
New York Mission Society
Imagine a child waking up on Christmas morning to a sole gift underneath the tree. Now imagine that you wrapped that present and brought the smile to that child’s face on Christmas morning. You have the chance to do exactly that by attending New York Mission Society’s annual toy drive on December 12-13, 2014. The society distributes toys to 1,500 children in New York City and is looking for people to help wrap the donated gifts. Visit facebook.com/nycmissionsociety for more information.
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s New York Affiliate will be multitasking this holiday season. Volunteers with the nonprofit organization will be wrapping gifts at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square in Manhattan on December 14, 2014, while simultaneously raising awareness for pancreatic cancer. The network was formed in 1999 to help educate people about pancreatic cancer, whether they have been diagnosed with the disease or know a family member or friend who has it. There is a signup form on VolunteerMatch.org at www.volunteermatch.org/search/opp1854390.jsp.
Grandparent Resource Center
The Grandparent Resource Center in New York is looking for volunteers to help with their annual toy drive. The center is part of the NYC Department for the Aging and supports grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. They are asking for volunteers to communicate with the community to request toy donations. Volunteers will reach out to existing contacts and try to discover new donors for the drive, and they will coordinate the toy drop-off to the Grandparent Resource Center in New York City. To volunteer, fill out the form at this web address: bit.ly/1tlJ2fp.
The Brook (Common Ground)
Common Ground commissioned the building of The Brook in the Bronx to provide housing for adults who are low-income or homeless, several of whom are affected by terminal or mental disease. The six-story building opened in 2010 and encourages its residents to become a community to provide support to one another. New York Cares has teamed up with The Brook to provide a special holiday meal to residents and is asking for volunteers to help serve the meal. To lend a hand on December 18, visit www.newyorkcares.org/projects/holiday-dinner-common-ground-brook and sign up.
Operation Santa Claus
Each year, thousands of children across the nation sit down, evaluate their behavior the previous year, and write a plea to the big man in town: Santa Claus. Post offices are flooded with letters to Santa during the holiday season, and it is impossible for one man to answer all the mail from all the children across the country (even if he does have an army of elves to help him). Operation Santa Claus matches letters to writers so that no letter goes unanswered during the holiday season. Select post offices are participating in the initiative this year, including the Newark Post Office in New Jersey and the James A. Farley Post Office in Manhattan, New York. After contacting one of these post offices, brush up on your penmanship to answer a child’s wish to Santa Claus this Christmas. Visit operationlettertosanta.com for more information.