Thanksgiving volunteering in New York City

You're thankful---so what? Put your hairnet and serving spoon where your mouth is by helping out at local charitable dinners.

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RECOMMENDED: Thanksgiving in New York guide

If you're a musical giver


Volunteers act as waiters in the restaurant-style dinner program at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, schlepping plates for a three-hour shift every Tuesday, including a Thanksgiving meal on November 22 (5:45--7pm). Between dinner and cleanup, voluteers are encouraged to grab a plate, sit down and chat with visitors. Also needed: piano players who can provide light entertainment during the Thanksgiving meal (and on regular Tuesdays as well). A party atmosphere is exactly what the pilgrims were going for. 351 E 74th St at First Ave (212-288-6743, janhus.org)
Volunteer contact: Amy Conley (amy@janhus.org)

If you're a multitasking do-gooder


Thanksgiving at Bed-Stuy's St. John's Bread & Life falls on November 23, and the all-day affair promises a visit from some of St. John's University's Red Storm basketball stars. While hot chocolate and donuts are available outside, the kitchen serves from 10am until 1:30pm, and volunteer spots are filling up—they use helpers to clean, unpack food, and greet visitors. Hope you're organized. 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)

If you're street savvy


More than 2,000 homebound New Yorkers will receive special hand-decorated bags and Thanksgiving baskets in addition to their usual three-course meal from God's Love We Deliver. And while GLWD is fully staffed with food-prep volunteers for Thanksgiving, extra help is still needed on the delivery end. You can read a map, right? 166 Sixth Ave at Spring St (212-294-8100, godslovewedeliver.org)
Volunteer contact: Volunteers can sign up on godslovewedeliver.org. 

If you're a hungry helper


New York Cares, the city's largest volunteer organization, has dozens of programs you can take part in over Thanksgiving week—from serving meals to running children's art projects. All volunteers are required to go through a one-hour orientation before signing up for a program; the orientations, which can be booked online, take place every Monday through Thursday. 214 W 29th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (212-228-5000, newyorkcares.org)
Volunteer contact: Wes Moe (info@newyorkcares.org)

If you're a sweet type


On average, 1,000 hungry New Yorkers come to the Welcome Table at Church of St. Francis Xavier every Sunday (1--3pm), when the cafeteria in Hurtado Hall becomes an aid center. Says one volunteer, "The most coveted service position is sugar girl, because everyone comes up to you with their coffee and goes, 'Gimme some sugar!'" Shifts are already filled for a special Thanksgiving Day meal but if you have your own wheels, you can deliver food baskets (10:45am--1pm). 55 W 15th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-627-2100, sfxavier.org)
Volunteer contact: Christine Raglan (sfxwelcometable@gmail.com)

If you're a last-minute type


Every Wednesday evening throughout the year, Greenpoint Reformed Church serves a hot meal to between 60 and 80 folks in need. Wednesday 23 is no different—a full Thanksgiving meal, made with ingredients donated by various CSA programs, will be served buffet-style in the church's hall (6--7pm). Help is needed in all areas, and copastor Ann Kansfield promises to accommodate any volunteers who show up. 136 Milton St between Franklin St and Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-383-5941, greenpointchurch.org)
Volunteer contact: Ann Kansfield, pastor@greenpointchurch.org

If you're a proponent of healthy eating


The 31-year-old Yorkville Common Pantry (which is currently based in Harlem) offers both packaged groceries and hot meals for low-income families year-round; on an average weekday, it serves dinner to around 350 people. Nutrition is an important consideration, and the program coordinators are mindful of providing vegetables and low-sodium foods. For this year's Thanksgiving meal (Wed 23 4--7pm), volunteers are needed to serve food and hand out groceries from the pantry. 8 E 109th St between Fifth and Madison Aves (212-410-2264, ycp.org)
Volunteer contact: Liz Nellis, lnellis@ycp.org

If you're going home for Thanksgiving


Rather than just hand out meals for locals in need, Brownsville, Brooklyn--based Neighbors Together also coordinates social services (housing, food stamps, health care, legal assistance) for its members, in an effort to address the root causes of hunger and poverty. In order to ensure next Thursday's meal runs smoothly, Neighbors Together needs extra help for its weekday meals in the days leading up to Thanksgiving (Mon 21--Wed 23 lunch 11:30am--2:30pm, dinner 3:30--6:30pm). 2094 Fulton St at Thomas Boyland St, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn (718-498-7256, neighborstogether.org)
Volunteer contact: Denny Marsh, denny@neighborstogether.org

If you've waited tables


Though originally founded in 1985 to provide nutritional and social services to HIV-positive folks, The Momentum Project has since evolved to cater to anyone with food-security issues living in NYC. This November's holiday meal (Nov 22 4--6pm) is exclusively for HIV/AIDS patients and will be served with some panache: The four-course dinner will feature restaurant-style table service for the first course, followed by a lavish buffet with dishes like glazed ham with pineapple and green bean amandine. Servers will be needed for both the appetizer and dessert courses, and the buffet lines, and additional help is required to assemble pantry bags (which include fresh produce, canned food and dairy products) and to set tables. Church of St. Paul the Apostle, 405 W 59th St at Columbus Ave (212-691-8100, themomentumproject.org)
Volunteer contact: Charles Vaccaro, cvaccaro@themomentumproject.org

If you're the office organizer


No help is needed to get the word out about this place: Bowery Mission has been serving Thanksgiving meals to its community for the past 132 years. According to one volunteer coordinator, "a lot of people have made volunteering here their holiday tradition. They are very vigilant about watching when our online registration goes live and making sure they get their slot." Despite the fact that most of those 900 spots have already been filled, the church still requires specific last-minute donations like turkeys, yams, frozen veggies, macaroni and stuffing, not to mention personal-care items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors) for the "Blessing Bags," which are distributed to attendees. It's not too late to start a toiletries drive at your workplace; donations will be accepted right up until Turkey Day. 227 Bowery between Rivington and Stanton Sts (212-674-3456, bowery.org)
Volunteer contact: Matt Krivich, mkrivich@bowery.org

If you're a selfless shopper


Since it doesn't yet have a physical space, the Bronx-based Real Life Church is partnering with The Point, a community center in Hunts Point, to host its second annual Thanksgiving dinner (Thu 24 11am--4pm). In addition to a hot meal, attendees will also be able to shop for free winter clothes, donated by nonprofits Dress for Success (dressforsuccess.org) and the NYC Clothing Bank (newyorkcityclothingbank.org). Help is needed to serve the food and volunteers are also encouraged to donate personal-care essentials. 940 Garrison Avenue at Manida St, Bronx (718-644-8523, reallifechurchnyc.org)
Volunteer contact: Pastor Reggie, reallifepastors@gmail.com

If you live near the beach


The Coney Island Lighthouse Mission was founded in 2002 and is now the area's largest emergency food provider. Due to growing attendance since the center's inception, the annual Thanksgiving Day hot meal (Thu 24 noon--2pm) will be served in a slightly larger facility, the Carey Gardens Community Center (2315 Surf Ave at W 23rd St, Coney Island, Brooklyn). Over 40 volunteers will be needed to set up, serve, and clean for the 200--300 folks expected. 2114 Mermaid Ave between W 21st and W 22nd Sts, Coney Island, Brooklyn (718-415-1170, actsnyc.org)
Volunteer contact: Reverend Vincent Fusco, coneylighthouse@aol.com

If you're an animal lover


Soft hearts and soft beds go hand in hand at Rational Animal's Mother's Comfort Project. The nonprofit organization makes and delivers toys and beds to New York's municipal animal shelters, and is hosting a special Thanksgiving sewing event on November 20 from noon to 4pm. No prior stitching experience is necessary. You'll sleep soundly knowing you've helped NYC's shelter-bound animals do the same. FLIRT Brooklyn, 303 Third Ave between 1st and Carroll Sts, Park Slope, Brooklyn (646-450-6509, rational-animal.org)
Volunteer contact: R.S.V.P. to Maggie, Maggie@rational-animal.org

Most organizations require volunteers to register in advance.

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