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Holiday volunteer opportunities in New York City

Get into the spirit of the holiday season by checking out these worthy local volunteer opportunities.

Hurricane Sandy relief efforts

Over the past month, the outpouring of support for NYC has been truly heartwarming. But there’s still a lot of work to do. And if there’s a season for bolstering the well-being of your fellow New Yorkers, this is it. A host of organizations, including Occupy Sandy Recovery (interoccupy.net/occupysandy) and City Harvest (cityharvest.org/hurricanesandy), are looking for volunteers to help those affected by the storm in the Rockaways, Staten Island, Coney Island and elsewhere. For a comprehensive guide on how you can chip in, click here.

Volunteer contact for Occupy Sandy Recovery: Sign up on interoccupy.net/occupysandy/volunteer.

Only Make Believe

Have DIY skills and a heart? Only Make Believe is a nonprofit that puts on interactive theater for children in hospitals and care facilities, and it needs folks to create costumes and props. Join the Cape Crusade to construct capes for performances (you can do this from home and on your own schedule), or (for a donation of $200 or more) gather a group of five to 15 friends and host a shindig for the kids after a show. 1133 Broadway at 26th St, suite 723 (646-336-1500, onlymakebelieve.org)

Volunteer contact: Melissa Moschitto (mmoschitto@onlymakebelieve.org)

Salvation Army Times Square Corps

Starting Tuesday November 27, do-gooders pour into Times Square to raise funds for Salvation Army programs and services in town. Become an official “bell ringer” (you’ve heard and loved/hated their sonic calling cards before) and spread some Christmas cheer while you’re gathering donations. 315 W 47th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (salvationarmyny.org)

Volunteer contact: Molly Gordy (molly.gordy@use.salvationarmy.org)


Knitting enthusiasts, consider this your call to arms: Visions at Selis Manor hosts a weekly knitting group (Mon 1:30–3pm) for blind or visually impaired adults. As a volunteer, you’ll assist with reading patterns, identifying needles and sorting colors. 135 W 23rd St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (646-486-4444, visionsvcb.org)

Volunteer contact: Natasha Deleon (ndeleon@visionsvcb.org)


This Jewish organization is committed to helping the elderly with their day-to-day lives and fostering connections among generations. Spend a night of Hanukkah with a DOROT senior between December 9 and 13, or volunteer for two or three hours of gift wrapping at the Barnes & Noble on West 82nd Street and Broadway (Dec 17, 18). There are also opportunities to make holiday-package runs and celebrate a senior’s birthday. 171 W 85th St between Amsterdam and Columbus Aves (212-769-2850, dorotusa.org)

Volunteer contact: Sign up on dorotusa.org.

St. John’s Bread and Life

Help combat hunger and poverty in Brooklyn and Queens at Bread and Life, which is looking for groups to serve breakfast (8–9:30am) and lunch (10:30am–noon). If doling out food isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to pitch in, including clerical work, data entry, computer assistance or whatever other talents you can offer. 795 Lexington Ave between Malcolm X Blvd and Patchen Ave, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn (718-574-0058, breadandlife.org)

Volunteer contact: Jennifer Stephen (jstephen@breadandlife.org)

Encore Community Services

This 35-year-old organization serves Manhattan’s elderly community living between 14th and 110th Streets. Short-term opportunities include visiting seniors in their homes, hospitals or nursing homes; escorting and shopping; delivering meals; and assisting with a range of functions at the senior center, including answering phones and helping with fund-raising events. St. Malachy’s, the Actors’ Chapel, 239 W 49th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave (212-581-2910, ext 110; encorecommunityservices.org)

Volunteer contact: volunteer@encorecommunityservices.org