Holiday volunteering guide

Even if you can't make a long-term commitment, these organizations can use your help now.



Add +

This Jewish organization is committed to helping the elderly with their day-to-day lives and fostering connections among the generations. You can spend a night of Hanukkah with a DOROT senior between December 1 and 8, or volunteer for three hours of gift wrapping at the Barnes & Noble on 82nd Street on various days throughout the month. There are also opportunities to make holiday package runs and to celebrate a senior's birthday. 171 W 85th St between Amsterdam and Columbus Aves (212-769-2850,
Volunteer contact: Sign up on

Salvation Army Times Square Corps
Throughout December, Salvation Army volunteers pour into Times Square to raise funds for Salvation Army programs and services in the area. Become an official "bell ringer" (you've seen them and loved/hated them before) and spread some Christmas cheer while you're gathering donations. 315 W 47th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (
Volunteer contact: Jennifer Groff (212-337-7324,

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,
Volunteer contact: Jennifer Stephen (

Bowery Mission
Meal-service volunteer slots are booked out until 2012, but you can cook at home and bring potluck dishes to at the LES mission throughout the week. 227 Bowery between Rivington and Stanton Sts (212-674-3456,
Volunteer contact: Matt Krivich (  

New York Cares
This is one of the easiest organizations to volunteer for: just go online, find a program that suits your schedule and interests, and sign up. There are up to 1,200 opportunities each month throughout the five boroughs from art projects to community gardening. A one-hour orientation is required for all new volunteers. 214 W 29th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (212-228-5000,
Volunteer contact:
Sign up on

Only Make Believe
Have DIY skills you want to lend to a good cause? Only Make Believe is a nonprofit that creates and performs interactive theater for children in hospitals and care facilities, and they need volunteers who can help create costumes. Join the "Cape Crusade" to help create capes for performances (you can do this from home or on your own schedule), or gather a group of five to 15 friends to decorate a playroom or performance area and host a party for the kids after a show. 1133 Broadway at 26th St, suite 723 (646-336-1500,
Volunteer contact: Melissa Moschitto (

Cathedral Community Cares
You don't have to be religious to get involved at Cathedral Community Cares (CCC), an organization operating at the UWS's Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Along with a full slate of volunteer opportunities, CCC has a few options for one-timers or people whose schedules don't allow for a steady commitment: On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 1pm, volunteers distribute clothing (you must be able to lift boxes); on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am to 2pm volunteers organize the clothing closet and sort through new donations; on Sundays volunteers assist in the soup kitchen from 9--11am or 11am--1pm. Call ahead to take part in any of these activities. 1047 Amsterdam Ave at 111th St (212-316-7585,
Volunteer contact: Rasna Sethi (

Encore Community Services
This 30-year-old organization serves the elderly community of midtown. Short-term opportunities include visiting seniors in their homes, hospitals or nursing homes; escorting and shopping for seniors; and helping out 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;
Volunteer contact: E-mail

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,
Volunteer contact: Natasha Deleon (

The name only tells half the story—in addition to delivering food to the elderly and frail, the organization also provides support and companionship to its clients. Each weekend, individuals and teams of volunteers deliver meals throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. If you have more time and fancy yourself a good chatter (or, better yet, listener), you can visit seniors, write letters or take part in weekly phone calls. 355 Lexington Ave between 40th and 41st Sts (212-687-1234,
Volunteer contact: E-mail

Toys for Tots
This program is run by the Marine Corps, so you know it's a tight operation. Volunteers are needed during the pre-Christmas rush to pick up and deliver boxes of toys for children, and also to assist with distribution at the Toys for Tots warehouse. Over December 2--4, you can also donate new toys by dropping them off at any Build-A-Bear locations.
Volunteer contact: E-mail

Users say