Looking to make a positive difference this season? Giving—not just money but something even more precious, time—is so rewarding, it can be exhilarating. There are many, many wonderful charities eager for volunteers. Unfortunately, we couldn’t present them all; space—and that precious commodity, time—forced us to narrow down our list to just 10. Each can use your help. All you have to do is call.
1. AIDS-RELATED COMMUNITY SERVICES (ARCS)
40 Saw Mill River Rd. (Headquarters)
(914) 345-8888, www.arcs.org.
? What It Does: Founded in 1983, ARCS is the largest organization in the Hudson Valley dedicated to providing HIV/AIDS services. The agency, which is committed to preventing transmission of the disease, helps more than 25,000 people in seven Hudson Valley counties, including Westchester, where it is headquartered.
? How to Help: ARCS needs volunteers for the following: support services (clerical/office work, marketing); the food and clothing pantry (stock and staff the pantry); AIDS Walk Hudson Valley (every aspect of the event needs help, from organization to implementation).
? Getting Started: For information, call David Lovegreen at (914) 785-8214.
2. BIKUR CHOLIM OF WESTCHESTER
(914) 633-3403; firstname.lastname@example.org
? What It Does: Founded in 1986 by Shoshana Shinnar, this small organization began as a friendly-visiting service for the homebound Jewish needy in Westchester. “In the past year,” Shinnar says, “Dorot, a large, renowned organization, has come into Westchester and has begun friendly visiting. It’s helped us by finding volunteers to visit homebound elderly people.” So Shinnar has modified the original mission of her organization to help “those who might otherwise fall through the cracks,” such as men and women who are homebound, but not necessarily elderly.
? How to Help: “Transportation, transportation, transportation!” exclaims Shinnar. “That’s what we need most.” If you have a vehicle and can make food deliveries, run errands, or take clients to doctors’ appointments, cultural events, and the like, call Shinnar. Opportunities are always available for friendly visitors, and Shinnar will work with you to find a way to volunteer that’s comfortable for you. “People frequently want to help but don’t know how,” she says. “I try my best to match volunteers with appropriate opportunities.”
? Getting Started: Call directly Shoshana Shinnar. It may take her a few days to get back to you, but; she will return your call and give you the information you need.
3. CORPORATE ANGEL NETWORK (CAN)
Westchester County Airport
One Loop Rd., White Plains
? What It Does: With the help of more than 500 top corporations across the country and a legion of loyal volunteers, CAN provides cancer patients with free transportation to and from treatment centers utilizing the empty seats on corporate jets. CAN has coordinated nearly 25,000 flights since its inception in 1981.
? How to Help: Volunteers enter flight schedules into the database; schedule flights; help arrange ground transportation; research and contact new corporations.
? Getting Started: Contact the organization directly by phone or email. Volunteers are asked to commit to at least three hours a week. Training is provided.
4. HILLSIDE FOOD OUTREACH
17 Grammercy Pl.
? What It Does: “We are the only organization in Westchester County that home-deliversgroceries throughout the entire county,” says Kathleen Purdy, Hillside’s executive director. This is important, Purdy says, because “there’s not a pantry in every town; there is, however, need in every town.” Each month, the organization home-delivers food to more than 1,600 residents. Hillside also offers diabetic groceries for those who need it, and delivers baby food and cereal, formula, and diapers, as well as personal-hygiene items. These non-food—yet still essential—items are included because, Purdy says, “if you don’t have money to buy food, you don’t have money to buy shampoo; we try to include everything.”
? How to Help: Volunteers deliver groceries to needy clients in teams of two; volunteer teams usually are given five to eight families to visit each month. Another way to help is by organizing a food drive or donating food and personal-hygiene items. “We also need food for diabetic bags, as typical pantry fare—white rice, pasta, and canned fruits and vegetables—makes diabetics sick.” In addition to the staples, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and unsweetened canned fruits and unsweetened cereals are appreciated. Prepared foods are not accepted. This organization also has a monthly youth night, when kids can get involved by helping pack food for delivery.
? Getting Started: Call the organization. Delivery volunteers undergo a rigorous screening process that includes a background check and orientation, and they must provide references. “We’re very careful to ensure the safety of both our clients and our volunteers,” Purdy says.
5. NEIGHBORS LINK
27 Columbus Ave.
? What It Does: This organization helps recent Latino immigrants learn English, find employment, and stabilize their families and integrate into the Westchester community.
? How to help: Volunteer as a tutor or intern for adult-education classes or for the nightly children’s learn-and-play program. There are other opportunities for groups, e.g., book clubs and youth groups. “For instance, collecting new school supplies or non-perishable foods,” says Executive Director Carola Bracco, “or participating in Friends of Neighbors Link, which plans two fundraising events a year.”
? Getting Started: If you’re not sure what you’d like to do, call Bracco (914-666-3410, ext. 12), who will be more than happy to assist you.
6. THE NORTHERN WESTCHESTER SHELTER
? What It Does: This 26-year-old “safe haven for victims of domestic violence” operates a 16-bed shelter and offers free, confidential services and programs including a 24-hour hotline (888-438-8700 or 914-238-2800); counseling and support groups for adults and children; legal assistance; and safety planning.
? How to Help: Plan and implement fundraising events; provide childcare at the shelter (e.g., help kids with homework, take them on outings); assist with community outreach and awareness; perform administrative duties (e.g., data entry, mailings, filing, answering phones); participate in Adopt-a-Family (donate specific items to a particular needy family); or offer a service in your field of expertise.
? Getting Started: Call Andrea Naso-Nord, director of development, for more information.
7. THE PAJAMA PROGRAM
34 E. 39th St., Suite B
New York, NY (212) 71-MY PJs (716-9757)
Pajama Program Reading Center at Andrus Hall
1156 N. Broadway
Yonkers, (914) 965-PJPJ (7575)
? What It Does:Founded in 2001 by Genevieve Piturro and Alice Pagano Quirk, this organization has a simple—but important—mission: to provide new, warm pajamas and books to children in need. The program delivers pajamas and books to children in shelters, group homes, orphanages, and other facilities.
? How to Help: Donate new children’s books or new pajamas; organize a pajama drive among a group, organization, or at your office; host a fundraiser or event; or volunteer to work directly with the program. The organization welcomes volunteer individuals and organizations. Piturro stresses that the period from October through March is the “danger season,” when children are in the most dire need.
? Getting Started: Call the organization, either in Westchester or Manhattan. If you want to organize a Pajama Drive, you’ll be sent a detailed “Pajama Drive Kit.” If you’re not sure how you want to help, Piturro or another staff member will help you find the volunteer opportunity that best suits you. “Volunteers can work for one hour, one afternoon, or on one project,” Piturro says. “We welcome individuals, groups, and families to volunteer. Children who wish to volunteer with their families should be ten or older, but if they’re younger and they want to help, we’ll find a way to incorporate them. We’re always looking for new ideas and innovative projects.”
8. PLEASANTVILLE COTTAGE SCHOOL and EDENWALD CENTER of The JCCA
1075 Broadway, Pleasantville
(914) 769-0164, www.jccany.org.
? What It Does: The Pleasantville Cottage School and the Edenwald Center of the JCCA (Jewish Chiild Care Association) are therapeutic residential treatment centers for children with emotional, social, family, and/or educational problems. The centers offercounseling; medical services; vocational training; special education; therapeutic recreation; and, for older teens, training in independent-living skills.
? How to Help “People can volunteer as mentors, which involves building a one-on-one relationship with a child on- or off-campus, or they can volunteer in a cottage, working with one or more children,” says Phina Geiger, director of volunteers for the Cottage Schools. “They can utilize whatever skills they have, whether that means running a chess club or a knitting circle. We’re also looking for adult after-school tutors in all subjects.” Tutors must work on-site. Donations are also welcome, including new books, clothing, and holiday gifts. “We’re in greatest need of holiday gifts for the older boys and girls, ages twelve to eighteen,” Geiger says
. ? Getting Started: Call Phina Geiger at (914) 741-4569. Potential volunteers are screened, an orientation is given, and, Geiger says, as required by law, volunteers who work with children must be registered with the State.
9. MY SECOND HOME
95 Radio Circle
? What It Does: This social-based, intergenerational, adult-day program for seniors (elders engage in a variety of activities with children from Mount Kisco Day Care), run by Family Services of Westchester, offers a number of wonderful programs. Why intergenerational? “Research shows that this approach is beneficial to both the seniors and to the children,” Program Coordinator Joni Ehrlich says. Activities for the 50 or so seniors at the center include art projects, horticulture, exercise, storytelling, yoga, music, painting, and health monitoring and wellness programs.
? How to Help: “We are always looking for volunteers who like working with seniors,” Ehrlich says. “We don’t require volunteers to have a specific skill, just a desire.” The organization does not accept donations of food or clothing, though monetary donations are always welcome and much needed.
? Getting Started: Contact Joni Ehrlich at (914) 241-0770, ext. 258 and complete a volunteer application.
10. WESTHELP GREENBURGH
1 WestHELP Drive
WESTHELP MOUNT VERNON
240 Franklin Ave.
(914) 665-3626; www.helpusa.org.
? What It Does: Both WestHELP Greenburgh and WestHELP Mount Vernon are operated by HELP USA, an organization that provides homes, jobs, and services to homeless families with young children. Says Silvia Orellana, executive director of WestHELP Greenburgh, “We look at and address all the different dimensions that can potentially impact a family’s ability to remain in permanent housing.”
? How to Help: Donate playground equipment, clothes, toys, food baskets, dry goods, etc.; organize a drive (new clothing, books, games, gifts); plan/host a dinner for residents on-site; teach or develop adult or children’s workshops in your area of expertise. “We are looking for volunteers in many different areas, including daycare—even to just read to or do arts and crafts projects with the children.” Donations of furniture are not accepted, as residential units are furnished.
? Getting Started: Contact WestHELP directly, or call Development Coordinator Michelle Nevius at (212) 400-7013. “All volunteers go through the agency’s development department before taking part in an orientation,” Orellana says.