We often think of the holidays as a time to gather with our family and friends, exchange gifts, and drink and be merry. What’s important to remember is the holidays are not always a delightful time for everyone; crippling circumstances can leave anyone in the most vulnerable state at any point in their lives. Thankfully, the area is home to good-hearted shelters and food pantries to bring much needed support to the people who need it the most. We’ve rounded up some of the Valley’s organizations that you can support this holiday season, either by donating food, volunteering your time, organizing gift drives, or simply donating some dollars.
What They Do: Serving Ulster County, Family of Woodstock offers a plethora of emergency services, including homeless shelters, food pantries, domestic violence services, case management services, and a 24-hour hotline. “The financial pressures of the holiday season can be a struggle for many, but for a family escaping domestic violence it can seem insurmountable,” said Beth McLendon, who works with volunteers in the organization. “Since 1970, Family of Woodstock has been an anchor for area residents, a place where people are respectful and caring and the search for solutions is creative and tireless.”
How You Can Help: While monetary donations are welcome all year long, Family of Woodstock hosts an annual gift drive for the Domestic Violence Services and Crisis Support Programs. If you’d like to donate specific items, McLendon notes that art supplies, infant and toddler learning toys, books, board games, warm winter clothes for both children and adults, cozy throw blankets, and twin size sheet sets are on the wish list. There is also the chance to sponsor an entire family by contacting the local walk-in centers located in Ellenville, New Paltz, Woodstock, and Kingston.
Volunteers are needed to help at the gift drive on Dec. 19-22 to assist with gift giveaway at the Fair Street Church at 209 Fair St., Kingston. If you’re interested in volunteering during the gift drive, even for a few hours on those days, email email@example.com or call 845-331-7080×157. Area businesses and organizations that are willing to be drop-off points for new, unwrapped gifts are encouraged to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What They Do: Project L.I.F.E. is a transitional shelter located in Newburgh that provides furnished housing to families working hard to transition from homelessness to permanence. Families receive 24-hour support services, case management, child care, transportation, preparation for living on their own and help finding permanent, affordable housing.
How You Can Help: Volunteers are always needed for Project L.I.F.E.’s childcare and recreation departments; if you’re more interested in donating specific items, infant and children’s clothing and supplies are needed as well as hygiene items and food for their on-site pantry. And during the holiday season, a toy drive is underway as well. “This year, we are very excited to be doing an annual appeal to raise money for a new children’s playground too,” said Eileen Robertson, director for the organization.
Donations must be arranged in advance – those who are interested can call 845-569-9334. Donations for the children’s playground can be made online at their website or by mail.
Photo courtesy of Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless
What They Do: Starting out as a homeless shelter, Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless in Albany has evolved into offering a range of services (like an emergency shelter, a summer youth program, and drop-in services such as laundry and showers) for the homeless and low-income community. “The goal is to meet individuals wherever they are in life’s cycles with dignity and the needed services,” said Erin Coufal, communications manager for Interfaith Partnership.
How You Can Help: Coufal notes that one of the most popular ways that people help is by donating meals. “Individuals and groups come to the IPH commercial kitchen with a favorite recipe and ingredients to cook up a delicious home-cooked meal for shelter guests,” Coufal said. Of course, conducting a donation drive is always welcome; much needed items include winter coats and boots, toiletries, twin size bedding, towels, and liquid laundry detergent.
Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless
176 Sheridan Avenue, Albany
What They Do: Located in Poughkeepsie, Hudson River Housing serves the needs of Dutchess County residents to prevent and end homelessness. Their services include developing and managing affordable housing, providing housing education and advocacy, as well as a variety of intervention services like housing for veterans and services for at-risk youth. “Our work is about achieving real change for people and places by providing housing with compassion and development with vision,” said Elizabeth Druback-Celaya, director of organization and community development.
How You Can Help: Besides monetary donations, Hudson River Housing is always looking for toiletries and towel donations (a full list of needed items can be found here – note that they currently do not take donations of clothing or large furniture due to lack of storage space). If you’d rather give your time, volunteering opportunities are ample; a popular volunteer activity is helping to prepare and serve meals to homeless residents in their facilities.
Photo courtesy of Foodbank of the Hudson Valley
What They Do: Regional Foodbank of Northeastern New York, and its branch location, the Foodbank of the Hudson Valley, works to alleviate food hunger and prevent food waste. The food banks accept large donations from the food industry and distributes them to a network of pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters, to name a few. The Hudson Valley Branch specifically serves the needs of Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, Ulster and Sullivan counties. “Last year, we distributed over 14 million pounds of food,” said Jessica Fetonti, special events coordinator for the Hudson Valley branch.
How You Can Help: Food and monetary donations are always welcome – dry and canned goods are needed as well as paper goods like paper towels and toilet paper. (But, it’s worth noting: before you donate canned goods, check the expiration date, make sure there’s a label, and make sure it’s not damaged or opened.) Fetonti also notes that the food bank currently has an excess of soda and energy drinks, so people should steer clear of those items when thinking of donations. If you’d prefer to volunteer instead, both locations offer opportunities in their warehouse with their sorting and salvaging programs to help distribute the food as quickly as possible.