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Where To Volunteer During the Holiday Season

By Nicole Levy | November 2, 2015 10:05am
 Raise your hand to volunteer this holiday season.
Raise your hand to volunteer this holiday season.
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So you're thinking about lending a helping hand this holiday season — after elbowing a few too many tourists in Times Square and refusing to cede your subway seat every time you probably should have.

We've rounded up a few ways to make amends for those moments of self-centeredness, sorted by the type of volunteer opportunity that appeals to your personality and preferences.

Thanksgiving-centric volunteer opportunities

Spending Time With Others In Need
Teaching and Tutoring
Volunteering with Animals
Working With Your Hands
Office Work

If you want to volunteer this Thanksgiving:

► Deliver a Thanksgiving meal, and a Chanukah gift, to an older New Yorker, and spend an hour visiting with them on Nov. 22 through DOROT, a nonprofit serving the elderly in the Jewish and wider communities. Pick up the meal and get a brief orientation at Congregation Rodeph Sholom at 7 W. 83rd St. on the Upper West Side between 10 and 11:30 a.m. You can register online here by Nov. 16, but take note: This program isn't appropriate for families with young children.

► Serve a holiday meal to older adults at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House's annual Thanksgiving Dinner Dance on Nov. 23 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. To apply to be a volunteer at the settlement house on the Upper East Side, call Anthony Snowden at 212-218-0487 or email him at asnowden@lenoxhill.org. 

► Serve a meal on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, at senior centers around the city through the Latino Center on Aging. A list of participating centers can be found here, as well as the contact information to add your name to the list of volunteers. Groups, including families with kids, are invited to sign up together. 

► Help out with the Harlem Education Activities Fund's annual Thanksgiving potluck for students and their families on Nov. 19 at the nonprofit's headquarters (2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.) in Harlem. HEAF, which supports underserved public school students on their way to becoming successful college graduates, is looking for volunteers to assist in setting up for the event, serve food and clean up. One volunteer shift begins at 6 p.m., another at 7:30 p.m. Those interested should fill out this application and send an email to volunteer@heaf.org.

► Help feed the homeless at a Bowery Residents' Committee program in Brooklyn, the Lower East Side, Chelsea or Harlem from Nov. 18 to Nov. 25. Tasks assigned include set-up for a meal, light prep work, meal service, interacting with diners, and clean up. Right now, group activities are booked to capacity, so you'll have to sign up for this opportunity as an individual. To get started signing up, fill out this new volunteer registration form, noting your particular interest in Thanksgiving events. 

► Join in a piano sing-along at the Cobble Hill Health Center on Nov. 19. You'll be transporting residents to and from the recreation room where the festivities take place and serving refreshments, and you're encouraged to add your voice to the chorus. 

If you like spending quality time with people:

► Chat about the last Republican presidential debate with people living with visual impairments on Wednesday mornings at VISIONS at Selis Manor, in Chelsea.

► Shake your tailfeathers with or cheer on the kids of BronxWorks Jackson Avenue, a transitional housing facility, in its Dance Explorers program on Thursday evenings.

If you like teaching and tutoring:

► Help first- and second-graders with their homework at P.S. 41 in New Dorp, Staten Island on Monday afternoons from 3:15 to 4 p.m. through a program organized by the Police Athletic League

► Teach English-as-a-second-language summer classes for non-native speakers living in Morningside Heights, Manhattan. Volunteer in the mornings or evenings Monday through Thursday. 

► Equip adults and seniors with basic computer skills by teaching them to use Microsoft Office and browse the Internet at the Woodside Branch of the Queens Public Library on Monday evenings at 6:30 p.m.

If you're an animal person:

► At the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition, a no-kill animal shelter in Williamsburg, play with some cute felines and tidy up their kennels, or walk rescue dogs on a weekend morning.

Care for some kitties at an adoption center in the PetSmart in NoHo. Morning shifts start between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., evening shifts between 5 and 7 p.m. 

► Support the adoption of rescued domestic bunnies with All About Rabbits Rescue, Inc. at the nonprofit's Forest Hills or Kew Gardens locations. 

If you're looking to do something with your hands: 

► Sort, hang and tag donated clothing at Housing Works' warehouse in Long Island City, Queens on a Wednesday afternoon. Proceeds from clothes sold at the nonprofit's thrift stores go toward services for homeless New Yorkers who are HIV positive.

► Plant, weed, spread wood chips and generally help maintain the New Roots Community Farm in Concourse, Bronx. Run by the International Rescue Committee, the farm program enables newly arrived refugees and their neighbors to grow and sell healthy produce and bond in the process.

Prepare meals from scratch for homeless New Yorkers in a commercial kitchen at St. Bart's Church in Midtown Manhattan at 5 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Come dressed in close-toed shoes, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a hair covering. 

If office work is your jam:

► Meet disadvantaged women looking for employment at Dress for Success' Richmond Hill office, and help them edit their resumes, write cover letters and prepare for interviews.

► Serve as an information desk receptionist assistant, providing callers and visitors information about patients, at Staten Island University Hospital in South Beach. Call 718-226-9304 for more information. 

► Help St. John's Family Center residents in Crown Heights get better jobs in "speed networking" sessions on Saturdays. Help them create and practice elevator pitches. Conduct mock interviews.

You can find more volunteer opportunities in New York City at Idealist.org, NewYorkCares.org, and VolunteerMatch.org.