Volunteer in the City for Thanksgiving

Americans traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving by making a Turkey with friends and family while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. But life in New York isn’t always that way. Many young professionals don’t have families in the city to spend time with on the holiday. One alternative to the malaise of a Thanksgiving alone is to volunteer for the charities that make Thanksgiving meals for the homeless. The NYC Department of Homeless Services estimates there are nearly 40,000 homeless men, women and children in New York City. There is an obvious need for volunteers on Thanksgiving, but how do you sign up?

Type this into Google: Charities NYC. What do you find? New York Charity Bureaus, Catholic Charities, and charities run by major businesses. After doing several hours of research we found that none of the charities are easy to reach by phone. Even more troubling is none of these charities have easily accessible websites.

There is an obvious rant we could make: non-profits and charities should streamline their communication methods. Secretaries should give easy phone access to volunteer managers and the charities should have the simplest of websites. But that does not fix the immediate problem of how to find places to volunteer this Thanksgiving.

The first place every New Yorker should consider is the Bowery Mission. It was started by Albert Ruliffson in 1879, and serves the widest array of homeless people on Thanksgiving Day. Jamey Nordby, the Bowery’s Vice President of Finance and Development, said this year their food pantry is at its lowest in recent memory. A gift of $23.85 can feed 15 people. And plenty more Thanksgiving week opportunities are available.

Hope for New York exists to give financial and volunteer assistance to the neediest people in the city. HFNY’s website acts as a central place for all things related to Christian charity and renewal. You can access the major charities of interest to Christians here. You can also find volunteer opportunities at their featured organizations by the day you want to volunteer.

One area of the city we can’t over look is the South Bronx. A Gallup study shows that the South Bronx has the highest rate of hunger in the country. But these communities are not completely alone. Part of the Solution and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal live and work in the South Bronx. POTS, as they like to call themselves, work with people in crisis and bring them into self-sufficiency. Their services include meals, public showers, legal help and other daily needs.

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal were featured in the New York Times three years ago for their selfless service to citizens in the South Bronx. Every week the Friars visit people who reach out to them for food. They begin relationships with the elderly and others by helping meet their the needs. If you are interested in partnering with the Friars you may call them at 718-665-2441.

One group that hopes to connect Churches to Charities in the coming months and years is Faith Street. Right now the site connects people to churches and events across the city. You can find a church by your neighborhood, denomination and more nuanced preferences. Hopefully, as their site gains exposure to churches in the city, Faith Street can likewise connect Christians to volunteering opportunities across the city. Not only would that help organizations like the Bowery, but it would help unify the different denominations.