‘Tis The Season To Give Back: 5 Volunteer Opportunities In New York City

Colleen Woodward
Colleen is a24-year-old recent college grad and NYC newbie who enjoys writing about her day to day life epiphanies (which hopefully help others around her). She's enjoys exploring all of the coffee shops Brooklyn has to offer, spending way too much time binge watching shows on Netflix and snuggling her dog (well, really any dog). Instagram: @Collwoodward Twitter: @Collwoodward LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/colleenwoodward

Tis’ the season of pure joy, decorating Christmas trees, baking holiday cookies and searching for the perfect gift for our loved ones. In the midst of all the Christmas songs and spiked egg nog, we usually have the urge to give back somehow — whether it’s buying presents for kids who may not be receiving any this year, or buying items off of every person’s wish list.

Luckily, there are a million different ways to give back with your time rather than your bank account. From Brooklyn to Manhattan and every borough in between, there are tons of places to volunteer, give back, and bring smiles to those who could use a little extra holiday cheer. So, we’ve compiled a list of places and ideas of ways for you to give back all over the city this holiday season (and hopefully beyond!).


1. New York Cares

New York Cares provides dozens of ways for New Yorkers to give back during the holidays, as well as all year round. Volunteers devote time to education, immediate needs (like hunger), and bettering public spaces. Here is a list of ways you can get involved ASAP:

Give holiday gifts!

You can sign up via New York Cares website to get a handwritten letter from a child, teen, or senior. Each letter comes with approximately a $40.00 commitment, but you can sign up individually or with a group of your friends to tackle the gift wish list together! The amount you would spend on helping with a gift list (especially with a group of your friends), probably equates to the amount of coffees you buy in a week. So, skip the venti coffee and grab a wish list instead!

Get involved in the coat drive:

So, if you have one or two winter coats that you know you’re going to get rid of, donate to them! As an added bonus, NY Cares is partnering with Zipcar on this project, so if you donate a coat to the address shown on the site, you’ll earn $15.00 in free driving from Zipcar!


2. BARC Shelter

Brooklyn’s BARC Shelter is always looking for volunteers. This is high on my priority list as a dog lover, and is one way to give back without spending money on your end. You can volunteer to dog walk (again, something you can do with a group of friends or co-workers), as well as working in the cat loft section of the shelter if you’re more of a cat person!


3. Christmas Tree Brooklyn

If you’re like me and need that homey feel of a real Christmas tree in your small apartment, then go purchase it with Christmas Tree Brooklyn. Along with a tree delivered to your door, by clicking a charity of your choice here, Christmas Tree Brooklyn will donate 10% to a charity of your choice — animals, at-risk youths, or veterans all in the city of New York. A simple way to make sure those in need are getting the support they deserve!


4. City Meals On Wheels

If you have a car (not necessary, but helpful!), this is the perfect volunteer opportunity for you. On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, City Meals on Wheels is looking for volunteers to help deliver nourishing meals to NYC’s home bound elderly. The meals are hand-delivered, which in my opinion makes the act of volunteering your time feel even better when you can see the person being helped that same day.


5. Coalition For The Homeless

Available year round to the homeless citizens of NYC, Coalition For The Homeless sets up food programs, shelter monitoring, emergency drives (think back to school for the kids), and for our current season, a holiday toy drive. You can sign up to volunteer for any of the above here. There were 62,306 homeless people on the streets of NYC just in the month of October. The organization states that 15,769 homeless families will sleep in homeless shelters tonight. Those aren’t just adults, but young children as well. We can’t make those numbers drop overnight, but we can volunteer and bring a little joy to their lives!