Raising kids who value their fellow citizens as much as they value their iPads and their stuff feels like an uphill battle at times. We live in an increasingly selfish era, when fame and clicks are valued over service and the common good. It's difficult to balance selfie culture with service culture, but it's not impossible. One way we can do this as parents is through volunteering, especially at the holidays. In big cities like New York, we have myriad opportunities, and they can be overwhelming. Determining where to volunteer this Thanksgiving in New York City can be daunting, but it's also really rewarding.
This Thanksgiving, there are tons of opportunities to get your kids involved and help them understand and come to grips with the fact that we as a nation don't all share the same privileges. True, it's a hard lesson to learn, but empathy learned by volunteering not only encourages kids to continue to volunteer as they become adults, but it gives them the ability to really witness the good they're doing. It also strengthens your bond as a family, and serves to better your community, which isn't just beneficial for the recipients, but also for the volunteers. Plus, it just teaches kids that the world doesn't revolve around them, even if our world absolutely does.
1First Stop For Everyone
If you've lived in New York City for any length of time, you've heard of New York Cares. It's the volunteer organization in New York City. They coordinate groups of volunteers from everything to painting schools to serving holiday meals. If you've never volunteered before, or if you're an old pro, the people at New York Cares can help you and your family find your way.
2Running For Good
So you've got some wee ones who maybe aren't ready for group volunteering? How about a charity run? God's Love We Deliver began as a program to bring food to people in the end stage of life with HIV and AIDS. Now they deliver food to anyone — children, families, and adults — affected by serious illness. They're a wonderful charity, and while children aren't always encouraged to deliver food, they can raise money to do the charity run Race to Deliver on Sunday, November 19th. If that's not your style, consider decorating bags and boxes for those who do the food drops.
Yep, you read that right — shop. There are turkey drives all over the city, and one of the biggest is for NYC Common Pantry. NYC Common Pantry is a four star, platinum rated charity that serves to alleviate food insecurity through a variety of programs all over the five boroughs. The last day for pickup is Nov. 15, so get signed up soon.
Kids love shopping for others. This is as true for turkeys as it is for toys for the Toys for Tots program so many of us buy for at Christmas. Kids get excited to know they're buying something to help kids who may not get enough.
4Stock Shelves, Shop, & Deliver Meals
If you're lucky enough to have a car here in the city, FeedingNYC could really use your help dropping off meals and food boxes to families who would benefit from the help. They also need donations and people to help stock the shelves. Alternatively, you could band together as a family and adopt a box — donating the money required for a family to eat. You'd be surprised how quickly kids are to give.
For older kids and families (10+) Masbia offers volunteer opportunities for families to get involved serving meals on Thanksgiving at one of their large soup kitchens. Not surprisingly, these volunteer spots fill up fast on the holidays, so you should also consider volunteering around the holidays when volunteer numbers are lower, but need is not.
6Decorating Cards & Delivering Meals
Dorot delivers thousands of meals each holiday. Volunteers are needed to not only pack and deliver these meals, but also to decorate the boxes and cards that accompany them. It's a personal touch that lets families and the elderly who receive the packages know they were given and designed with love and care.
7Gobble Gobble Give
Gobble Gobble Give isn't just fun to say, it's fun to do. Families can shop for, collect, and drop off food, new clothes and toys, and toiletries to the Church of the Intercession, where they will be dropped off to spots all over the five boroughs. It's a well-run machine and it not only shows kids that yes, people need food on the holidays, but they also need things like shaving cream and blankets and toys. Gobble Gobble Give also needs team leaders and coordinating volunteers for parents who want to take their volunteering a step farther.
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