This is a special time of year. While no different for those in need, many of us are especially aware of our good fortune and the grace shown to us during the holidays. While we are preparing for feasts and gift giving, enjoying the lights, music and pure jubilation of the city, we cannot help but notice that not everyone is able to join in.
That is why Giving Back has been a hallmark of the ChristmastimeIn guide since its inception. Here you will find practical advice on how to help someone in need right now as well as more planned giving and volunteering. We are adding entries to our events calendar that benefit important cultural and social services in the city and are donating a portion of our advertising space to the support of causes and charities that affect New Yorkers and the larger world community.
Check in here to learn about the many ways you can be part of giving back this holiday season.
Most native New Yorkers turn a blind eye to panhandlers. Conversely, some have a daily relationship with the homeless person who drifts around their block. Years ago a dear friend of mine starting off in the ad world and scraping together her savings to pay rent and save for the future made a habit of giving a dollar to the homeless man who stood sadly by her subway stop. After a time, she got a small raise and decided she could afford to give the homeless man a small raise too. A rare human being. Many New Yorkers suspect that the person walking through the subway with a cup and a sad and beautifully elocuted story may be suspect. If you think the person asking for your change is using intimidating tactics or is just too good at their speech to be true, do as New Yorkers do and ignore it. Feeling guilty? Find a better place to donate, an organization you know is legitimate and actually do it. New York's Better Business Bureau is a good source to check on a charity in the city. Then if you decide you need to pass someone by, you can be sure that you have legitimately helped someone in need and your contribution will be used responsibly. We repeat that if you come across someone in danger and need of immediate assistance, please call 311, the city non-emergency number for city services. They will be able to help and have a special homeless division.
VolunteerNYC.org is the Mayor's Volunteer Center of NYC. This is a great website to match your interests and time to the needs of the greater NY community. There are opportunities to volunteer and to donate cash or items to various groups and organizations. To see single day events while you are in the city, check their calendar. We'll be posting many of these events and other charity events in our events calendar under Giving Back.
New York Cares has many ways to help including the annual New York Coat Drive and Winter Wishes. Winter Wishes provides gifts to over 30,000 children at the holidays and runs November through mid-December. If you are an early shopper Winter Wishes is a great one for you — most gifts need to arrive my mid-December to be given out at children's holiday parties close to Christmas Day. Gifts for teenagers are often particularly needed.
New York Coat Drive needs your help every year. Homeless people do not have a place to store warm clothing over the warmer months and growing children cannot fit into last year's winter coat. Cash donations also keep NY Cares Coat Drive going. More ways to assist can be found at the NY Cares website. Many of the drop off locations are in bus and train stations making it easy for day-trippers to drop off a lightly used warm coat on the way to a holiday event in the city. Check the website as we approach December for stores and other locations accepting coats.
Homelessness is a shocking problem and though there are homeless around us in all communities, most people confront the issue first in the city. There are many misconceptions at being homeless. One of the truly awful statistics is that 2/3 of people sleeping in shelters tonight are children and families. Many people who are homeless are working hard and have jobs but do not have an address they can call home. This is a more hidden group than those you will see on the subways or sleeping on grates but it is a reality. The good news is that you can make a difference and that acting really does change someone's life. Please check out the Coalition for the Homeless to learn how to donate, read the annual report and learn more about the facts behind homelessness. There are so many ways to help, you will find one that is right for you.
If you see someone who is homeless and in need of help, you can call 311, NYC non-emergency number to notify someone who will provide assistance. There is no need to wring your hands when there is so much help at hand.
The homeless are not the only population that the city's food organizations serve. Many other hard working people struggle to put enough food on the table each day and provide nutritious meals to their families. In a city famous for dining out, the restaurant and culinary world has been generous and smart in finding ways to get food to those in need. Two notable organizations are Citymeals-on-Wheels and City Harvest. Citymeals-on-Wheels was founded by Gael Greene and James Beard in 1981 after reading a newspaper article about homebound elderly New Yorkers with nothing to eat on weekends and holidays. City Harvest, funded in 1982, is a food rescue program that has solved the issues of excess supply from restaurants, caterers and other food industry suppliers.
VolunteerNYC.org and NY Cares can provide more information about other areas of need that may be of interest to you and your family including Healthcare, Education, Culture & the Arts, Youth, Parks & Recreation and Drug & Alcohol Addiction. Future updates on this site will address many of these areas as well.
East Bronx (includes Little Italy)West Bronx (includes Riverdale)Downtown Bronx (Yankee Stadium/Courthouse area)Other
Downtown Brooklyn (Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill)Prospect Park Area (Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights)Williamsburg area (includes Greenpoint)Fort Greene/Clinton HillBay Ridge, Dyker HeightsDUMBOOther
Midtown (30th to 59th, east and west sides including Murray Hill)Upper West Side (60th to 114th, Central Park West to Hudson River)Upper East Side (60th-96th, Fifth to East River)Harlem & Uptown (north of 96th on east side, and 115th on west side)Greenwich Village/Chelsea , between 30th and Houston St. (Greenwich Village, East Village, West Village, NoHo, Chelsea, Gramercy, Union Square, Flatiron)Downtown, below Houston Street (SoHo, Tribeca, Chinatown, Little Italy, Lower East Side, Wall St/Financial DistrictOther
Astoria/RavenswoodLong Island City area (includes Sunnyside)FlushingFlushing Meadows Corona Park areaJamaica, Queens area (Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens)Other
St. George (ferry landing)RichmondtownTottenvilleOther