The holiday season stirs the desire to give back. Serve your community during the chillier months—and year round—as a volunteer for these local programs. Whether it’s giving the gift of time, donating goods or contributing money, volunteers are the backbone of organizations across the state.
Bergen County: Offer Meals and Companionship with Kosher Meals on Wheels
The Kosher Meals On Wheels program, run by Jewish Family Services of Bergen County, delivers five healthy, kosher meals per week to the homes of homebound senior citizens who are elderly or disabled. Anyone with a license over age 18 can join. With every meal that you deliver, you’re also bringing good cheer and friendship into the homes of the elderly. The holiday season is a wonderful time to get involved, especially with those who do not have family to celebrate or honor traditions with. With an open heart and a delicious meal, you’ll work miracles throughout the season.
Essex County: Bundle Some Items for The Arc’s Winter Coat Drive
While you clear out your closet to prepare for new gifts this holiday season, consider setting aside some winter clothes you no longer use and taking up a collection for those in need. Since 1947, The Arc has established services for community members with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as their families. Encouraging friends and neighbors to donate to the drive is easy, especially when you volunteer to stop by and collect from each person. It’s a great opportunity to stop in for a cup of cocoa with neighbors and friends, spreading a little holiday cheer along the way. The drive runs through November 28th, but you can continue to give by registering with The Arc’s Amazon Smile account, which donates a portion of each purchase you make on Amazon to their cause. Just be sure to go through the smile.amazon.com portal rather than the standard URL while shopping for holiday gifts.
Hudson County: Be a Child’s Guardian Angel with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Make the holiday season safe and magical for a child in need of a trusted guardian this year by becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate with CASA of Hudson County. Each CASA volunteer takes on one or more cases, watching over neglected or abused children in the court system to make sure they are safe and well cared for, eventually finding them safe, permanent and loving homes. The greatest gift these children can receive during the season is the warmth and love of someone they can trust, like Hudson County’s own Susan Brillhart, a 2016 Seeds of Hope winner who advocates for children year round, making the holidays and every day a better one.
Morris County: Channel Your Inner Elf at Market Street Mission
Market Street Mission, located in Morristown, provides assistance for the area’s homeless population through access to addiction and recovery resources, shelter, food, and more. The Mission is open to nearly any volunteer offer throughout the year, from home improvement skills to clothing drives. Their Thanksgiving Day volunteer roster is already full, but the holidays are just getting started. A great way to get into the spirit is by collecting, donating, or wrapping gifts for children and adults at the Mission’s annual Toyshop event, or giving through their online holiday gift catalog. The Mission also welcomes homemade holiday baked good donations to make meals merrier throughout the season.
Passaic County: Bring Cheer as a “Candy Striper” at Preakness Healthcare Center
Help patients at Wayne’s Preakness Healthcare Center ring in the season as a volunteer visitor to patients during the holidays. These cheerful volunteers historically got their title from the pink and white stripes on their uniforms, but today are more known for their chipper demeanor during weekly patient visits. To put a literal spin on the name, bring along a few candy canes, or volunteer to pedal their candy cart from room to room and brighten up someone’s holiday with good company, a joke, or maybe just a sweet treat.
Sussex County: Pass On Your Love of Literature with Literacy Volunteers
These volunteers promote literacy throughout the county with free programs for children and adults of all backgrounds and reading levels, teaching more than 100 students each year. Programs include aid to low-literate and ESL adults and children, and volunteer teaching. Join in this season and share your love for holiday classics like Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, or something with suspense, like The Christmas Thief by Jersey’s own Mary Higgins Clark.
Union County: Spread Hope Throughout the Community at StreetLight Mission
StreetLight Mission in Elizabeth focuses on faith-based community outreach, welcoming anyone in need, including those afflicted by mental illness, homelessness, addiction, even hopelessness. Their goal, according to their website, is to “help each person become a positive contributing member of their family and the community,” whatever that may be. During the holidays, you can spread the love by volunteering at their Christmas Celebration on December 13th, or you can take part in their clothing and food drives to keep community members healthy, warm and well-fed. Or, provide support just by being there for the lonely throughout the season.
Warren County: Give a Family a Home with Habitat for Humanity
For many families in New Jersey, a decent roof and a warm bed are out of reach. Habitat of Warren County brings together homeowners, full-time staff and outside volunteers to repair and build safe and comfortable housing for anyone in need. For the past two years, the Warren County team has given their all to finish homes before the holidays, in 2015 working around the clock so one family could celebrate Thanksgiving, and in 2014 finishing just in time for a family to put up their Christmas tree. Get involved with them now to work on a long-term project in 2017, or simply purchase your holiday gifts at ReStore, their nonprofit home store which sells furniture and home accents (all donated), with all proceeds going to future Habitat projects.