Written by Charlene V. Martoni
Published in VISITvortex
The holidays have a way of inspiring the best in people, and whether it is helping to shovel a neighbor’s driveway or helping to take care of a friend’s dog, volunteering your time to make another person’s life better is really a noble thing—and it can be fun. Here are some suggestions to help you get into the holiday spirit and get involved with your community:
Volunteering at a soup kitchen, like the Caring Hands Soup Kitchen in Kingston, is a popular activity around this time of year because it involves helping to feed hungry bellies while meeting exciting new people. Volunteers may find themselves preparing and serving meals or assisting with an emergency food pantry and food deliveries. In doing these activities, there is always the hidden opportunity to learn something new.
The Caring Hands Soup Kitchen is a nonprofit organization partnered with the Clinton Avenue United Methodist Church, which serves meals Monday through Friday at noon. On average, the kitchen receives between 60 and 120 hungry people per day. That means there are a lot of occasions to help out.
To volunteer at the Caring Hands Soup Kitchen, located at 122 Clinton Avenue in Kingston, contact Stephen Crawford, office manager, at 845-331-7188. Walk-in volunteers are welcome, but some notice is appreciated so the regular kitchen staff can plan accordingly.
Another popular activity around this time of the year is helping those who do not have places to call home, and making care packages is a great way to do so. Put snacks and supplies into a waterproof container like a large zip-lock bag, and keep these packages in your car to hand out to people asking for help.
Try hosting a party to encourage your friends to keep some of these care packages in their car too. Go to the grocery store together, bring everything home, and assemble the packages while drinking some wine and watching holiday movies.
Some food supplies to pack include crackers, nuts, granola bars, fruit snacks, and pull-tab canned or pouched goods. Remember to only include items that can be easily opened. Keeping some water bottles in your trunk is a good idea too, and it is also important to pack things like socks, gloves, and air-activated hand warmers during these cold months.
For hygienic supplies, pack some individually wrapped toothbrushes and travel-sized toothpaste, 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, tissues, lotion, and hand sanitizer. Of course, some first aid items like Band-Aids, lip balm, and Neosporin packets are always helpful, and a few gift cards to local food venues and a letter with some words of encouragement would be nice additions as well.
Can’t find anyone to give the packages to on the road? Try dropping them off at local family support service locations like Family of Ellenville or Family of Woodstock.
One additional, and beloved, tradition during the holidays is participating in toy drives, like the CSEA Local 610 sponsored Annual Holiday Toy Drive, which benefits Family of New Paltz, a nonprofit walk-in crisis center that provides counseling and case management and also houses a food pantry and clothing store.
Anthony Adamo, New Paltz local president for the CSEA, passionately said the mission of the toy drive is to “make sure no child goes without a toy during the holidays.”
To make this happen, toy drive volunteers may find themselves requesting that community members donate toys by soliciting outside local businesses, communicating with Family of New Paltz in order to provide more personalized gifts to the children, and publicizing for the toy drive throughout town.
And of-course there is the opportunity to donate some toys yourself, which should be unopened and unused for safety reasons.
To volunteer for the toy drive or to donate, contact Anthony Adamo at 845-399-7426.
For additional volunteer opportunities during the holidays and throughout the rest of the year, visit ulstercorps.com, a non-partisan, countywide resource dedicated to fostering a community of volunteerism.