Helping The Needy: How to Volunteer and Donate to Help Your Fellow New Yorker in Need


By Donna Duarte-Ladd

How to Volunteer and Donate to Help Your Fellow New Yorker in Need

Many of us are counting our blessings in what has been a trying year. The pandemic has created new hardships and continuing challenges for our most vulnerable neighbors for many New Yorkers. If looking to volunteer or donate this season and into the New Year, here are organizations that are in need and can use a helping hand.

Psst…Check out our post on Family Holiday Traditions: Bring Extra Magic to Your Holiday Season

Play Santa and Donate Toys to the Coalition for the Homeless

Every Christmas, The Coalition for the Homeless gives thousands of kids toys. Due to Covid, the Coalition is working with a skeleton crew and is asking for gifts to be purchased via their Amazon Wish List for gifts for the thousands of Homeless Kids in New York City. This drive ends soon — December 14th.

Relief for Restaurant Workers

The pandemic has hurt many businesses in New York, and the restaurant industry is one of the hardest to be hit. In partnership with the Robin hood Foundation, ROAR is awarding grants to part-time and full-time workers, many of who have lost a tremendous amount of their yearly wages during the pandemic. This grant is on a first-come, first-served basis to restaurant workers facing economic hardship. Each grant is a one-time $500 award, and due to the unemployment rates being high in Queens and Bronx applicants, these boroughs are currently given priority. 

Help Deliver Contactless Deliveries to the Most Vulnerable

We all know how darn hard it was to get to a market at the beginning of the pandemic. Many of us couldn’t leave the kids, and bringing them to the market was not ideal. Imagine if you are unable to get out at all? Invisible Hands is a non-profit where if you are healthy, practicing social distancing, and Covid-free, you can help your community by performing deliveries in New York. First, you join; afterward, once you set up the Slack community channel that services your area, you can start shopping for a person in need. Kind of like InstaCart, but free for the person in need, and you give the gift of your time to your community. Win-win for all. 

Donate Blood

The pandemic has changed how people give blood as blood drives heald typically within the community throughout the year have been canceled. This has caused a deficit in how much blood we have in hospitals. NYC healthcare system needs 1500 donations a day to keep up with the demand. To donate blood, click here to find the nearest location or mobile drive.

Give NYC Women and Girls Much Needed Feminine Hygiene and Feminine Products

Shop Food Bank NYC’s Amazon Wish List and help provide feminine hygiene products and other essentials for the city’s 1 million women and girls living in poverty. Make sure after you add to your cart to check the shipping address to deliver to Food Bank For New York City ATTN: Receiving’s Gift Registry Address.

Volunteer and Help Frail New Yorkers via Citymeals on Wheels

Citymeals on Wheels has volunteer opportunities to deliver meals, help in the kitchen, make homemade cards, and check in on frail New Yorkers. 

Donate Your Time and Pack up Food

City Harvest is New York City’s largest food rescue organization that feeds more than 1.5 million New Yorkers. Volunteers are needed to help pre-pack produce and pantry packs for easy distribution to City Harvest partner agencies and their Mobile Markets. Check here to read their Covid safety protocols, policies, and procedures. 

Give the Gift of Warmth by Donating a Coat

In the past, you may have seen the bins where a gently worn coat could be deposited and then given to New Yorker in need. This year the New York Care Coat Drive will be receiving donations directly via their community partners. It is pretty easy; using this map, you find the nearest drop-off spot, the coats they need are listed, and drop off a washed (in high temperature) coat. Make sure you call ahead to ensure the community partner is open and still accepting coats. Can’t drop off? A donation of $20 will provide one coat for a New Yorker in need. 

Volunteer and Help Cook or Deliver Meals

God Love, We Deliver-Covid Free Volunteers are needed to help cook, package, and deliver meals; you can also sponsor a Holiday Meal if you are refraining from physically volunteering right now. 

Drop Food, Clothing, and other Essentials Off at These Community ‘Stores’

You may have spotted a refrigerator at a corner or a street nook. Most are colorful; all are filled with free food and designated areas for dry and can foods. These community-led refrigerators have been helping many New Yorkers through the pandemic. Popular drop off’s are produced, grains, fruits, and even baby food. 

While some are known only within the community — fridges from  A New World In Our Heartsgreenpointfridge and the friendly fridge can be found via Instagram. On IG, you can find updates, info on arrival, or what is needed in their area and throughout the city. 

Another way to give is at some of the free stores popping up around the city. While many are not formal ‘stores,’ neighbors help each other by leaving free items for the take. There are also organizations like the North Brooklyn Free Store that are opening up chain like stores that offer the opportunity to donate your cherished clothing, books, school supplies, and other essentials for people in need. 

Drop Off Winter Gear and Unwrapped Toys

People of the Sun Middle Passage Collective at Medgar Evers seek unwrapped toys, new socks, gloves, scarves, and other winter gear.

Donations can be dropped off at 147 Rockaway Ave. (between Fulton & Herkimer) between Tuesdays and Saturdays any time after 3 pm. Donors are urged to call the location before delivering packages. The telephone number is 718-342-6257. For more information, contact 718-659-4999. Checks will also be accepted and made out to MEC/Ancestors of the Middle Passage Collective.

Sun Middle Passage Collective at Medgar Evers
147 Rockaway Ave.
Brooklyn 11233

This story first appeared on

More from Around NYC