Make Your Gift Count: This Holiday Season’s Top 5 NYC Charities
Photo courtesy of The Bowery Mission
For many of us, the holiday season is a special time when we can look back on the previous year’s events and accomplishments, relax and enjoy the company of our families and our closest friends, and take stock of all for which we have to be thankful. This merry season reaches its climax on New Year’s Eve in the moments leading up to midnight; and in these moments, surrounded by the people we love, we quietly give thanks for the opportunity to have made the most of another year, and resolve to make the next year even better.
Sadly, for New Yorkers who are currently experiencing homelessness and those who are living at or below the poverty line, the holidays can be an extremely stressful time. As of 2014, the average number of people sleeping in city shelters exceeded 60,000 people, including 25,000 children. Not to mention those who avoid the shelters altogether to brave the frigid New York nights. “The most wonderful time of the year” becomes the most dangerous time of the year when you are living without food or shelter, and the temperature is below freezing. Many people experiencing homelessness are also struggling with mental illness, a physical or intellectual disability, or a substance abuse problem.
Recent pushes by social advocates and city government officials have resulted in some gains in the area of affordable housing (whether it will also be sustainable housing remains to be seen), but the problem of homelessness is too complex of a problem to solve overnight. Poverty and homelessness are often described and treated as “quality of life” issues and indeed, they are. This holiday season, join me in doing something, no matter how small, to help better the quality of life for people and families who are experiencing hunger and homelessness.
Below, I’ve put together a selection of organizations I really like. Most of these groups are primarily concerned with providing good, nutritious meals, shelter, and clothing to the hungry and homeless during the holidays and year-round. Unlike some of the more well-known charities you’ve probably heard of (or donated to), your donation won’t be eaten up by administrative costs, but will directly help those who need it most. If you’re a people person, you can also volunteer at your local food pantry or outreach center, or at one of the options below. Lend a hand, share a warm smile or a kind word. Sometimes, a seemingly small gesture can go a long way.
The Bowery Mission
The Bowery Mission has been serving hot meals to the poor and hungry of the Lower East Side since 1879. The Mission operates 365 days a year and offers recovery programs for adults and at-risk youth.
Donate to The Bowery Mission
New York Coalition for the Homeless
Since its formation in 1981, Coalition for the Homeless has had a history of advocating on a large scale for the rights of people experiencing homelessness, as well as providing a broad range of services, including youth programs and rental assistance. The Grand Central Food Program delivers nutritious meals to hungry New Yorkers at 23 locations around the city, 365 days a year. According to Charity Navigator, Coalition for the Homeless spends 87.9% of all revenue they receive on the services they provide.
Donate to New York Coalition for the Homeless
New York Cares
We’ve all seen the moving and iconic image of Lady Liberty huddled in the cold and snow with no coat. The New York Cares 27th Annual Coat Drive is in full swing and they are desperately in need of 70,000 more winter coats. Please consider donating any nice, warm coats that are hanging unused in your closet. There’s someone out there who will really appreciate it.
Donate to New York Cares
City Harvest does exactly what its name suggests, rescuing food that would otherwise be wasted from supermarkets and restaurants, and delivering it to local food pantries and soup kitchens all over New York. Beautifully simple and economical, City Harvest spends over 90% of its budget on the service it provides.
Donate to City Harvest
Food Bank for NYC
This veteran organization takes a multi-faceted approach to combating hunger in the five boroughs by not only distributing food, but also building the infrastructure necessary for healthy, sustainable living in low income communities through education. 91% of all revenue is spent on programming.
Donate to Food Bank NYC