I always find myself not only feeling grateful this time of year, but also a little guilty. I’m blessed with an amazing husband, healthy and happy children, a caring brother, a gaggle of wonderful friends and extended family, and a great dog. Add in all the material things and, well, I’m pretty darn blessed (even if I did work my butt off to get where I am). There are a lot less fortunate people in the world, many of them right here in Westchester County.
That’s why I’m pretty big into volunteering throughout the year. Something about the holidays makes me always want to do a little more. I’m striving to teach Maisie the importance of giving back. We’re starting out small. I mean, she’s only two, after all, but she regularly helps me cook for our next-door neighbor who is battling breast cancer.
There are so many ways people of all ages can help. You can work with the elderly. You can cook food. You can deliver food. You can serve food. You can donate gift. You can wrap gifts. You get the idea. Volunteering is not only a great thing to do for others, but it can also be a nice thing to pull your own family together. My mom and I did a lot of stuff together when I was a kid.
I’m not preaching here. We all do what we can, when we can. If you’re interested in doing something to help others this season, here are a few possibilities.
One fabulous resource is The United Way. If you’re interested in volunteering as a family, it has all sorts of suggestions.
There are many opportunities to volunteer during the holidays. Specific needs are listed below:
Last year, I helped out at the CSA holiday party in Mount Vernon, a part of the Westchester Coalition for the Hungry and Homeless. It’s a corporation composed of autonomous food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and the like. I was pregnant at the party last year—and hormonal. I kept tearing up watching all the little kids gingerly carrying the trays of food and delivering them to waiting folks. This group can always use volunteers of all ages. There are various soup kitchens across the county, all in need of volunteers.
A friend of mine recently introduced me to a group called Cluster Community Services, located in Yonkers. It provides all sorts of services and programs to families including help and housing for the mentally ill, mediation services, housing support, summer camps, and various other programs for kids. Around the holidays, it has a party for their mental health residents as well as for their after school children. The organization welcomes donations of toys and books for elementary-age children and gift cards for teens. It also accepts gifts of men’s or women’s toiletries for its mental health residents. And if you can play the piano, come on down! Cluster has a piano at one of its facilities and welcomes folks to come in to play for the residents.
Maybe you’re too busy to donate your time, but perhaps you can spare a few dollars or items in your pantry. Maisie’s school is doing a food drive and so is the local grocery store. Look around.
Truth? We all feel overwhelmed—running this one here and that one there, picking up groceries, stuffing a turkey or two—but, in the end, we can all find a few extra minutes to help out. So little can mean so much to so many.
Help make the holidays magic for the young patients of Open Door. Come to one or more of its holiday gift-wrapping events.
The Child Abuse Prevention Center is looking for volunteers to donate their time to wrap gifts at Chef Central in Hartsdale. This is an annual fundraiser event that benefits many families at risk for child abuse and neglect in Westchester County. It has three- to four-hour shifts available from Nov 27 through Dec 24.
HoO, Ho, Ho!. Merry Christmas! Volunteers are needed for toy delivery, pick-ups, and sorting for the holidays from December 11 through December 13. Help bring joy to kids in need this Christmas!
Holiday bells are ringing loud and clear! Volunteers can sign up to register White Plains residents who will need Christmas supplies and toys.
Sunday, December Dec 20 is time to fill those boxes with Christmas supplies and toys for distribution. Christmas Holiday Distribution is on December 21 and 22. Come volunteer to give out those boxes of Christmas supplies and toys to the poor and homeless.
Help people sign up for the supplies and the gifts they will need for the upcoming Holiday.
For the three Jewish holidays children, teens, adults, and families can deliver a package of food and visit a frail senior for one hour.
The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November, and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.
Sky View is looking to enhance its Jewish residents’ spiritual wellbeing. It is looking for volunteers to perform services for Jewish holidays, Friday Shabbat, and to make room visits to its Jewish residents for spiritual support.
The center needs volunteers to help distribute Christmas toys, food, and meals to needy families during the week of December 5 through December 12.
The center is seeking volunteers to help with its holiday bake sale on December 5. This event helps raise funds for Sarah Neuman Center and patient and client services. Volunteers can either help by donating baked goods to be sold at the fair, or assist on the day of the sale by helping with set-up/clean-up, decorations, delivering plants, serving, and sales.