Volunteering in the Hudson Valley: Where to Lend a Hand

Photo by Adobe Stock | Kegfire

Want to do some good in the Hudson Valley? Donate your time by giving back and volunteering at these local nonprofits and organizations.

Hudson Valley Animal Rescue & Sanctuary


This group operates an impressive sanctuary for a wide range of creatures, including dogs, cats, skunks, raccoons, and fawns. Shelter is just part of what’s offered: HV Animal Rescue also promotes adopter relationships and operates a clinic that provides low-cost veterinary and spaying/neutering services. Volunteers and financial donations are welcome, and so are gifts of towels, blankets, linens, wet or dry cat and dog food, corn for chickens, and goat feed. To donate money, visit hvars.org/take-action. For other volunteerism or donation offers, email hvars.volunteers@gmail.com.

volunteer smiling with a dog
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Angel Food East, St. John’s Episcopal Church


Dedicated to feeding those who are homebound, this group of volunteers whips up and delivers over 250 delicious meals—refrigerated or ready to eat—for people each week. They’re always looking for kitchen assistants (no experience needed) or help with deliveries, which are made on Thursdays. To sign up, visit angelfoodeast.org or call 845.331.6538.

Soup Angels


Appropriately enough, the Angels are situated in The First Reformed Church of Nyack. Professional chefs prepare up to 140 to-go meals here each Monday and Wednesday, distributed on a no-questions-asked basis to people in the area. The organization has also set up a food pantry during the pandemic and is able to supply clients with fresh food and dairy products—a rarity among agencies of its kind. Lend a hand with chopping veggies, shopping for extras for the week’s meals, and more, either on fixed dates throughout the year or as a floater. Many clients also need new, wrapped blankets in twin size or larger; coats (new is best); and donations of shelf-stable foods including tuna, canned goods, and cereals. To make a financial donation, visit soupangels.com, or email soupangels@gmail.com for more intel on how to volunteer and donate goods.

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pasta and canned foods
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Christ’s Lutheran Church Daily Bread Soup Kitchen


It’s no surprise that times have been tough for restaurants. Yet some generous eateries in this area are still feeding locals who’ve had it tough, too. Their thoughtful donations are collected by this food kitchen, which serves them as to-go meals each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Volunteers are always welcome and will be set to work performing essential tasks such as packing and distributing lunches as well as making restaurant pick-ups. To learn more or pitch in, call 845.679.2336 or send a message through the church’s Facebook page (facebook.com/ChristWoodstock).

Family of Woodstock

Kingston, New Paltz, Woodstock, and Ellenville

Covid concerns have put sit-down dinners on hold, but this network of paid and volunteer individuals is making a stand for the needy. They’ll provide the makings of a holiday dinner, or deliver meals on the holiday itself. Packing and delivery assistance is appreciated, and so are donations of commercially prepared sides and desserts. For additional information visit familyofwoodstockinc.org/opportunities/volunteer-opportunities.

Food Bank of Hudson Valley


By any measure this is a massive operation, so it requires a lot of assistance. The food bank serves six counties in the region and supplied 22 million pounds of food to its 400 member agencies last year. During the height of Covid, 6,000 volunteers signed up to help—but more are always needed to handle tasks such as sorting food. If you’re a social media whiz or a fearless fundraiser, this is a great gig for you, too: there’s a major capital campaign in progress, and the committee overseeing it is seeking people with these skills. Of course, you can also donate to the campaign. It’s raising money to continue the food bank’s outreach and build a second, urgently needed warehouse. For more information, visit foodbankofhudsonvalley.org/volunteer or call 845.534.5344.

Philipstown Food Pantry

Cold Spring

There hasn’t been a food drive here for a while due to Covid, and monetary donations are preferred since the Pantry is able to purchase food less expensively than individuals can. Gift cards to local grocery stores, bookshops, or toy stores are happily accepted as well, and are distributed to families to purchase holiday must-haves. Drop them off in the mailbox by the First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown or bring them by on Fridays from noon to 1 p.m., Saturday morning from 8:30–10 a.m., or Sunday when the church is open for services. Snail mail works, too; write “Food Pantry” after the church’s name.

Ulster County Crime Victims Assistance Program


When Ulster residents have been subjected to domestic violence, assault, and other traumas, this is where they turn. The program is specially designed to meet their needs, even if they decide not to report the crime to the police. Compassionate people who are willing to undergo training can volunteer on evenings, weekends, and holidays to cover the organization’s 24-hour crisis hotline. They may also be asked to go to local police stations or hospitals to provide information and victim support. For additional details, visit ulstercountyny.gov/probation/crime-victim-assistance/volunteer-program. You’ll find a sign-up form on the page; if you prefer to call instead, the number is 845.340.3443.

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girl picking up garbage
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Grace Smith House


“No one deserves to be abused” is the rallying cry of this private nonprofit, which offers residential and non-residential aid to Duchess County victims of domestic violence, as well as their families. Among the services provided are shelter, advocacy, and safety training. You can make an impact in many ways, such as donating gently used, washed clothing (you’ll be directed to stores or other places where the house’s clients can shop for free); making a financial donation, or even doing some yard work. For more, go to gracesmithhouse.org/give.

Project L.I.F.E.


When area families are trying to find their way out of homelessness, this transitional shelter helps them get a foot in the door. Here, they are provided with furnished housing, along with invaluable support including childcare and transportation. Of course, the needy require more than a roof over their head—that’s where kind-hearted donors come in. Gifts of coats, gloves, and socks for both adults and children are always put to good use. Donors can also adopt a family and fulfill their holiday gift list. For all the ways you can help Project L.I.F.E. change lives for the better, visit newburghprojectlife.org/get-involved.

Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless


Individuals experiencing or facing homelessness in the area can access life-changing resources through this nonprofit, including emergency shelter and a chance to get fed, clean, and receive mail. Make life easier for everyone—those who need help as well as those who provide it—with donations of commercially prepared side dishes for the winter holidays. There’s also an adopt-a-family program through which you can put together a gift basket for a client. To explore other possibilities, such as donating job-interview outfits and sorting clothing, visit iphny.org/volunteer or call 518.434.802, ext. 108.

Capital City Rescue Mission


It’s probably easier to tell you what this extraordinary nonprofit doesn’t do, but that wouldn’t be nearly as awe-inspiring as ticking off the amazing things it does. Think short-term shelter and long-term recovery programs for the homeless and needy, daily meals for the hungry, and clothes and free medical services for people who’d otherwise lack these necessities. This cornucopia of care is all privately supported, and financial donations are deeply appreciated—just $2.17 buys a meal. Holiday food is another sought-after kindness, and come Christmas, there’s a toy giveaway. New playthings such as Barbies, Legos, and basketballs top many kids’ wish lists. The cold weather also brings a need for winter wear for guys: new large and XL waterproof boots, coats, and warm jackets. These will keep the men who live at the mission comfortable as they help with outdoor work around the campus. If you’d like to volunteer there yourself, there’s kitchen work to be done assisting the chefs. To learn more, call 518.462.0459, ext. 237, or visit capitalcityrescuemission.org.

Putnam Community Action Partnership


For all its beauty and prosperity, there are still a significant number of impoverished and at-risk people in the county. Putnam CAP’s mission is laser-focused on this population’s needs, providing them with services you might expect (such as food) as well as some you might not (free car repairs). Due to Covid, the program has suspended its traditional food drive and callout for volunteer teams to assemble gift baskets. But it still needs the public’s thoughtfulness to make holiday magic for its numerous clients. What’s needed: fresh or frozen turkeys and $25 food store gift cards, as well as $50 gift cards for Kohl’s, Walmart, or Target. Drop off donations at Putnam CAP’s office at 121 Main Street. For more info, call 845.278.8021 or visit putnamcap.org.

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Scenic Hudson


How green is our valley, thanks in part to these dedicated defenders of our most breathtaking areas. In addition to running more than 45 parks, the organization helps preserve family farms and combats the effects of global warming. Outdoorsy types will find their niche here easily, creating urban farms in Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, managing trails, removing invasive species, and taking on community science projects. Explore the possibilities at scenichudson.org/get-involved.

smiling volunteer helping another volunteer
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Ulster County Office for the Aging


Consider this a hub for assisting seniors in a multitude of ways this winter. The office works with more than a dozen area rehab centers, food pantries, and other organizations to supply them with eager volunteers. They’ll help you find the opportunity that appeals to you most or can help you create your own with one of their many partners. Contact the Ulster County Office for the Aging Volunteer program at 845.443.8836.

Dutchess County Office for the Aging


Volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization, and you can meet its needs in many ways. There are 500 home meals that must be delivered throughout the county each day, and senior centers whose site managers need another set of hands for tasks like throwing holiday parties. Regular volunteers often step off for a bit as family members arrive for seasonal festivities—step in and be a holiday hero. Fill out the volunteer form at https://www.dutchessny.gov/Departments/Aging/Office-for-the-Aging.htmaging-forms.

Toys for Tots


You’ve probably seen their collection boxes around town—now’s the time to drop off a new, unwrapped toy for a needy child aged 10 to 14 years old. Then consider giving to the charity itself: It needs businesses to host the boxes, and donated cars to collect and transport them. Anyone who can finagle a deal on rental cars will be a rock star. If you’d like to hold a fundraiser, Toys for Tots can help. They’d also appreciate an item you’d never expect: garbage bags to hold all the donations (just put them in the collection box with the fun stuff). Support this renowned organization by visiting https://hudson-valley.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/local-get-involved.aspx.

CJ and Jess Wolf Holiday Express Toy Drive


This spirited toy drive is organized by The Wolf, Hudson Valley’s new country radio station. CJ and Jess, its morning-show hosts, are the personalities behind the charitable initiative, which kicks off on November 15th. Listeners are urged to drop off donations at boxes placed in area businesses, or send toys to the station via Amazon. On a designated day in mid-December (not yet determined, so keep tuning in!), people will be invited to take toys to the station itself for a socially distanced handoff. The loot is all handed over to the Salvation Army and other connections, which see to it that the toys end up in the hands of grateful kids throughout Orange and Dutchess counties. Stations 97.7, 97.3, and 105.5 FM; hudsonvalleycountry.com


New Paltz

Especially in times like these, our cultural institutions can be hard-pressed for the basics of survival. Three years into its opening, the nonprofit DENIZEN continues to make live theatre accessible with reasonable ticket prices, internships, and workshops. Volunteer to usher a show, help with marketing and pamphlet distribution around town, or pitch in on other crucial tasks. Financial donations to subsidize student tickets and support DENIZEN with its operations are also great ways to show your love of the arts. Learn more at denizentheatre.com/support-the-denizen.

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