Be a Good Person This Holiday Season. Here's How to Volunteer All Over NYC.

Updated On 11/23/2016 at 06:32PM EST Updated On 11/23/2016 at 06:32PM EST
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It's been a stressful last month to say the least, and spending several days with your family over the holidays probably isn't helping. Channel that stress into something positive by volunteering some of your time to help people in the city who need it most. Whether you have a full day to give or even just one free hour, there are countless opportunities to volunteer throughout the five boroughs -- with kids, adults, food banks, and more. Lift up your fellow New Yorkers and contribute to the greater good with these short- and long-term volunteer opportunities that let you make the world a better place.

Help out at Planned Parenthood

New York City is the birthplace of Planned Parenthood, and the reproductive health organization is always in need of volunteers. Sign up to be part of PPNYC’s Activist Council, which will train you on reproductive rights and justice and give you the tools to be part of projects including escorting patients to health centers, advocating for comprehensive sex ed, fundraising and outreach, and more.

Secure justice for New Yorkers

You don’t need a law degree to help out at the New York Civil Liberties Union. Students and professionals can contribute their time to help with administrative work as well as contribute skills including graphic design, public relations, fundraising experience, writing talent, or teaching experience to help NYCLU defend New Yorkers’ fights for their rights. Those who would also like to propose a special project to NYCLU are encouraged to reach out to

Provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth

The Trevor Project’s New York City branch is always looking for volunteers to help out at events, fundraise, research community partnerships, and plan events that support mental health wellness in LGBTQ youth and ensure they have the support they need when facing a potential suicide crisis.

Support refugees

The International Rescue Committee helps people fleeing violence and persecution from all over the world resettle in America. In New York City, the IRC’s branch helps provide refugees with a furnished home, health care, nutritious food, English classes, education, legal services, and more. Volunteers can help mentor refugees and assist them with job seeking and interviewing.

Become a big

Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC (BBBS of NYC) is looking for mentors, or Bigs. Though the impact on young New Yorkers can be huge, the time commitment is pretty minimal: You’ll meet your mentee twice a month on your own schedule and serve as a positive influence and role model in his or her life. Volunteers over the age of 21 will be matched with children between the ages of 7-17 living in all five boroughs. Currently, there’s a high demand for male volunteers to be matched with boys on the waitlist, and being willing to travel to the outer boroughs is a plus.

Spread Thanksgiving joy

Gobble Gobble Give 2016 will gather New Yorkers on Thanksgiving morning to create Thanksgiving meals as well as organize canned food, toiletry, clothing, toy, and blanket donations that will be delivered throughout the city to families, shelters, retirement communities, and more. Each shift is only 45 minutes so you’ll be able to help out and still catch part of the Macy’s Day Parade, if that’s your thing.

Bring meals to the elderly

Citymeals on Wheels is seeking volunteers for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. You’ll personally deliver meals to the homebound elderly and maybe even make a few new friends as you socialize with the meal recipients.

Help new immigrants adjust to life in NYC

Cabrini Immigrant Services relies on volunteers to help immigrants acclimate to their new life. Volunteers are needed in the food pantry as well as with marketing and media for Cabrini’s organization. Those with tech skills can help teach social media or basic Microsoft programs to immigrants, and other instructors are also needed for English lessons as well as creative activities like knitting, cooking, or whatever passion you want to share. English and Spanish speakers are welcome to help out, and Cantonese translators are also in demand.

Fight hunger in New York City

The Food Bank of New York City has countless options to help feed hungry New Yorkers. Sign up for a shift to help organize a food pantry or to help serve dinner at a community kitchen. While opportunities are rampant during the holidays, the FBNYC needs volunteers all year long so let the holiday generosity inspire you to sign up for a few shifts in 2017.

Help out at a public school

New York Cares has ongoing calendar listings for both short- and long-term volunteers to help public school children and teens with math, reading, and other classroom activities. Early morning activities can easily fit into your work schedule and is your boss really going to be mad if you’re a few minutes late because you were helping a kid with their multiplication skills?

Prevent trans suicide

The Trans Lifeline, a suicide hotline catering specifically to the needs of trans and gender nonconforming people, needs transgender people over the age of 18 to act as phone operators and counselors to trans people in crisis. Everyone can help by organizing fundraisers or signing up to provide emotional support to phone operators and assist in administrative work, tech support, and training.

Workout with adults with disabilities

Cancel that gym membership! You’re now simultaneously giving back and getting fit with those in need with volunteer programs like Morning Yoga with Heritage House where you’ll help demonstrate yoga poses for special-needs adults, cycle with InTandem bicycling, and run with Achilles International.

Support LGBTQ youth

The Ali Forney Center for LGBTQ Youth has various volunteering opportunities for those willing to commit for at least three months. Help prepare meals any day of the week, assist in counseling, help organize the donation closet, facilitate workshops, and more. Any and all skills can be used to help the clients at Ali Forney, 80% of whom have been kicked out of their homes for coming out.

Share leftovers with the homeless

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine gives leftovers a second life by enlisting volunteers to pick up leftover meals and deliver them to homeless shelters. The volunteer shift takes less than an hour, and you can choose when you want to help out. If you’re hosting an event, you can also enroll to have the leftovers donated after your guests leave.

Support LGBTQ+ media coverage

No matter how little or how much time you have to volunteer, GLAAD wants you. You can sign up to help out at their annual media awards in NYC or volunteer throughout the year at events and on projects that help encourage fair representation of LGBTQ people in the media.

Help Syrian refugees

The Multifaith Alliance, an organization of Jewish groups, is seeking volunteers to help work with religious groups and nonprofits as well as individuals to help raise awareness of the refugee crisis, raise funds to support humanitarian organizations in Syria, and plan programs in NYC to help accomplish these goals. Contact Marlene Adler,, to get involved.

Support LGBTQ students and education

The Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network (GLSEN) needs more volunteers to help out with mailings, outreach, and beyond to help support their mission of ensuring safety and respect for all students, regardless of their sexuality or gender. Those who want to get more involved can also join the 100% volunteer-run board of GLSEN, to support the nonprofit in finding new and sustainable ways to help LGBTQ students. Those interested in joining the board, or keeping upcoming GLSEN events on their radar, can email

Expand New Yorkers’ minds with LGBTQ+ reads

Bluestockings, New York City’s only volunteer-run (and feminist!) bookstore, event, and community space needs volunteers who can commit to working a weekly three-hour shift to sell books, organize shelves, staff the cafe, and help out at events. Stop by the bookstore to fill out an application and pick out a radical book (maybe try Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit) on your way out.

Be a buddy

The Icarus Project, which finds creative ways to promote self-care and mental illness awareness and support, has created a buddy system to help people connect to discuss current events and provide support for those struggling. All you have to do to help out is fill out the Google form and be open to listening, talking and sharing with your new buddy.

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Melissa Kravitz is a writer based in NYC who still likes to talk about being president of her high school's community service club. She wishes she had time to volunteer for all of the organizations mentioned above. 



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