It’s the season for giving, especially to the needy, and there’s so much more you can do than throw change in the Salvation bucket or drop a few cans of creamed whatever at the local food drive. Why not go for the charity glory and don a full Santa suit for the kids, or better yet, walk some nice old lady’s dog on Christmas Eve? Whatever your inclinations, get started with our roughly 16-point guide to holiday charity in (and around) Brooklyn.
No. 1: Provide your own jingle bell rock
For any under-appreciated rockers out there, Brooklyn Nonviolent Communication is seeking volunteer musicians to provide the tunes at their holiday party. You’ll play a few hours of background music, and you’ll even be allowed to set up a table to peddle your records and merch. Contact Dian Killian at 718-797-9525 or Kelly Shannon at [email protected] for more information.
No. 2: Share your craftiness with kids
Recession Art’s Bull and Bear Market aims to put money in the hands of broke artists while supplying reasonably priced artwork to budget-conscious aficionados. The group also offers children’s workshops and they’re looking for artsy volunteers to help out at their event on Dec. 13. If you’re competent in the realms of making Christmas ornaments, gingerbread shantytowns, cookie decorating, rock band competitions or face painting, let them know. Don’t worry if you’re not so much of a creative right-brainer, they also need help setting up the event. Contact [email protected] if interested or get more info here.
No. 3: Walk a dog for the elderly
Pet lover? Then you might have a spot in your heart for the JASA (Jewish Association for Services for the Aged) Holiday Pet Food Drive through Dec. 31. The JASA PETS program aids seniors in caring for their four-legged companions. Along with pet food donations or PETCO gift cards, JASA is seeking volunteers to help walk dogs, change litter boxes and help with vet and groomer visits. The organization also has many other volunteer opportunities for anyone interested in working with the elderly.
Nos. 4 to 7: Play North Pole dress-up
First, two easy ways to get your elf on: Visiting Neighbors enlists hundreds of elves each year to deliver donated gifts and spend time with isolated and home-bound seniors. More info here. Also, an unnamed non-profit is advertising on Craigslist for volunteers to dress as elves and hand out candy in Park Slope/Prospect Heights. The event is on Saturday, Dec. 12, from noon to 4 p.m., and jingle bell hats will be provided, but come in full elf attire if you’re so inclined. College students even can receive a letter and certificate for community service hours.
Or play the big guy himself. Food First Inc. needs four volunteers on Christmas Day for home visits to some of their clients, and for party entertainment, including one person to play Santa. The volunteer shift is from 1 to 3 p.m. Contact Jennifer Duncan at 718-624-1950 or [email protected].
Nos. 8 to 12: Give coats and toys
New York Cares is holding its 21st Annual Coat Drive all month. To support the drive, drop your old coats at any police precinct or at a variety of other locations. Also, through December 18, the organization is accepting new, unwrapped toys for their Winter Wishlist program.
The U.S. Postal Service’s Operation Santa is a cool program that runs until Christmas Eve. You can answer a lucky Brooklyn kid’s “Dear Santa” letters and even have your own card postmarked from the North Pole. The program is run out of the James A. Farley Post Office (421 Eighth Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Street in Manhattan). A few forms and more info here.
The Brooklyn Hospital Center’s toy drive dubbed “Auntie Lu’s Toy Box” provides toys and games to help brighten the spirits of children during their hospital visits, especially those forced to endure invasive procedures. All toys donated should be new and without gift wrapping. And the Brooklyn-based non-profit Reaching Out Community Service is seeking volunteers and donations for its 5th Annual Operation Christmas Smiles Event on December 19. The toy drive reaches some 600+ children from low-income families throughout the borough.
Or put a book in the hands of an eager reader this holiday season through the Brooklyn Public Library’s Adopt-A-Book drive. For a donation as low as $5.99 you can help stock the shelves of the children’s section at your neighborhood library.
Nos. 13 to 16 (but really much more): Give your time in any number of ways
If you’re a gift-wrapping wiz, The Brooklyn Children’s Holiday Fund in partnership with the Red Hook Community Center is looking for volunteers to help wrap gifts for the more than 100 kids the group sponsors. There are two shifts on Saturday, Dec. 12, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 4:30. Sign up here.
If you’re around Crown Heights, the Crown Heights Service Center needs two volunteers to help with setup for their holiday meal party on December 18 at 4 p.m. CHSC is dedicated to empowering local children and their parents. Contact Kesha Harmon at 718-774-9800 or [email protected].
Or just consider putting some time in with your favorite non-profit, or at a local elderly home or children’s hospital (call ahead as many may already be stocked with volunteers this time of year). You’re sure to find something on far-reaching sites like Idealist.org or VolunteerMatch.org, or on NY-based sites like New Yorkers Volunteer, NYC Service and One Brick New York. And you can always put in time at the library.
If hunger’s your cause of choice, use the Food Bank for New York City’s extensive list of banks and kitchens in Brooklyn to find a program in your neighborhood. The Food Bank is always in need of volunteers beyond the kitchen serving lines, as well as donations of food and money. Visit their site to learn how you can help.