Holiday Gift Guide: Where To Give Back

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The best way to give this holiday season is by giving back.

It’s been a long, exhausting year, but for no matter how hard it may have been, there is always a way we can remain selfless. For 2018, we’re doing something a bit differently. This year’s gift guide is a resource for those who would like to give back this holiday season. Consider it a starting point, at the very least. If you’re not sure which site or organization to visit, passersby in cities around the world have suggested places that could use your time, money, and support. In an effort to fully eradicate and relieve these social issues around the world, it is also worth considering progressive organizations such as Swing Left and Run For Something (recommended by Erin Allweiss) to help elect leaders who will implement these positive changes. Below, in no particular order, are organizations that have, in some way, helped to make a more caring world.

Volunteer Locally in New York City

At the National Organization of Women, it is possible to volunteer as an abortion escort on Saturdays. Recommended by Mimi Packer, NOW provides training and support for those women and families who need access to safe health clinics around New York City. Housing Works (recommended by Folasade Adeoso) provides lifesaving services for New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS and homelessness. As an organization, it operates a bookstore and thrift stores run by volunteers.

The Lower Eastside Girls Club is a full-service arts, science and civic engagement Center for Community on Avenue D adjacent to the low-income NYCHA housing project where girls and young women find connections and support to a successful future. Filmmaker Crystal Moselle and creative producer Lyz Olko recommends this organization for those who would like to mentor and volunteer at a youth club. Gilda’s Club in New York City (recommended by Nat Guevara) offers a supportive, diverse community for people living with or recovering from cancer, as well as for families and friends. Nat Guevara says, “Gilda's Club operates out of a real clubhouse in the West Village, and everything has Gilda Radner's touch, especially Noogieland, their kids program. Volunteering there is responsible for some of my most cherished moments this year. I've made new friends and have had conversations there that will never leave me.”

The Best Friends Society nationwide, BARC Shelter in Brooklyn and Animal Haven Shelter (recommended by Lyz Olko) are great places to volunteer for animal lovers.

Focusing on social issues in the city, New York Cares (recommended by Folasade Adeoso) is one of the largest volunteer networks that connect everyday people with opportunities to take action in their communities, such as mentoring students, serving meals in soup kitchens, helping the homeless, and more. It’s a great place to start for those who would like to apply their interests and skills and be placed into a volunteer group. The New York City Rescue Mission (recommended by Dasha Faires) provides meals, shelter, and services to the homeless and hungry, along with its THRIVE program aimed at combating episodic and chronic homelessness.

International Organizations

For Paris passerby Eloise Bosredon, giving back can be as easy as donating clothes she no longer needs. She says, “Help Sister Marie Jo who works with refugees and migrants in Paris 19e at the Notre-Dame de Tangier. It’s as simple as bringing your old clothes to her.”

In the UK, Melanie Coles volunteers with the NHS UCLH Trust. She says, “I facilitate short term art projects with patients in hospitals. I've been doing it for about two and a half years, and I find it really rewarding. The projects distract the patients from their situation and give them something creative to focus on, as well as company. It allows for broader conversations about life beyond the specifics of their conditions. The volunteer manager is great at placing volunteers throughout the hospitals in roles based on their strengths and personal areas of interest.” Photographer Suzanne Middlemass recommends the London Basket Brigade where donations are spent on food hampers for families who cannot afford to put food on the table during Christmas.

Heifer International (recommended by Angie Venezia) is an international organization that works with communities suffering from hunger and poverty by providing nutrition to children and families. Through livestock, it has helped to give families a greater self-reliance. Amnesty International (recommended by Angie Venezia) is a London-based non-governmental organization focused on human rights where donation help advocate for asylum seekers, refugees, and people on the frontlines of human rights crises. The International Rescue Committee (recommended by Erin Allweiss, Molly Young) provides aid and relief in places undergoing the worst humanitarian crises. It aims to help those who are suffering due to conflict and disaster and struggling to survive. To become an IRC volunteer, there will be an interview, orientation, and background check.


Pueblo Sin Fronteras (recommended by Mina Alyeshmerni) is an immigration rights group for those trying to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. It is also the organization, consisting of volunteer educators, organizers, migrants, and refugees, that assembled the caravans, and it is now on the frontlines of this humanitarian crisis. All donations go directly to support for shelters along the caravans’ route, supplies, emergency food, and those struggling against detention and deportation.

Everytown for Gun Safety (recommended by Mariana Orkenyi, Natalie O’Moore) is an American nonprofit organization which advocates for gun control and against gun violence. Everytown was founded in 2014, combining Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “In total, Everytown spent $30 million this cycle on targeted contributions, independent expenditures and voter motivation and mobilization,” according to PR Newswire.

Trans Lifeline (recommended by Jenna Wortham) is a national trans-led organization dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to the critical needs of the trans community with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. In their 2018 Holiday Commissary Fund, the first $25,000 in donations will go directly to incarcerated trans people. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (recommended by Tamara Santibañez) believes that all people are free to determine their gender identity no matter their race or class, and the SRLP provides legal support in advancing this mission. All donations go directly in making sure that all legal services remain free for the trans community to meet basic needs.

The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund (recommended by Tamara Santibañez) pays bail for New Yorkers who cannot afford it, which often keeps people in jail without the presumption of innocence. Cash bail is unnecessary and used to take money from families who have no choice but to plead guilty. The Fund partners with every public defender agency in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island. The Women's Prison Association (recommended by Lyndsey Butler) works with women at all stages of criminal justice involvement. It promotes alternatives to incarceration by providing women with support for making positive live changes, as well as being a resource for incarcerated women by helping them plan for life after their release.

A BroaderWay Foundation (recommended by Fatima Jones) is based in Harlem and dedicated to exposing underserved young women to the performing arts world. All financial support and donations to the foundation go to enhancing their programs like Camp BroaderWay, a nurturing camp environment that promotes creativity and the arts.

The Alzheimer’s Association (recommended by Mimi Packer) is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. Donations go toward finding a cure for Alzheimer's, one of the most nondiscriminatory and expensive diseases.

Together We Rise (recommended by Mariana Orkenyi) is a non-profit organization devoted to improving the lives of children in foster care. By working with foster agencies, social workers, CASA advocates, and other partners, it has provided bicycles, college supplies, and suitcases for foster children.

Planned Parenthood (recommended by Angie Venezia) will work to end Trump’s agenda by protecting reproduction rights and health. Donating to its Action Fund will provide support for access to safe and legal abortions, birth control, and health care equity. Also working to protect individual rights is the American Civil Liberties Union (recommended by Angie Venezia). By donating, members will help defend free speech and the right to protest, relentless attacks on reproductive freedom, and reforms for our racially-biased criminal justice system.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (recommended by Nadia Bedzhanova) never leaves families with a hospital bill, and leads the way in looking and researching for treatment and defeating childhood cancer and other diseases.