This time of year, many children believe in a little magic in the form of packages that make them feel extra special and loved. But what about those who are special and loved and not in a situation where they will receive any gift at all? Or may even be in need of basics like a roof over their heads, food for hungry stomachs, diapers or other necessities? The holiday season is a time for reaching out to others and giving back. For those who can and want to help, where do they begin?
No matter where you live in New York State, there are many ways to give and help your fellow humans, especially our most vulnerable children and families. Although the following is not even a remotely comprehensive list, here are a few of the amazing places and organizations around our state where you can give toys or money or other help to children and families this holiday season no matter where you sit or stand.
NEW YORK STATEWIDE
Toys for Tots
The U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots is one of the better known ways to donate toys or support for children. Founded in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks, according to Lokashakti.org, after his wife made a doll she wanted to donate to a child in need. Major Hendricks could not find an organization through which to do that, so they created their own, and their mission has remained simply to collect new, unwrapped toys and distribute these toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community. Toys for Tots exists nationally and you can donate to them from nearly anywhere in New York State.
Photo credit: Cpl. Juan Alfonso
To donate, visit their website and pick the drop-off location closest to you. You can either give money or toys. If you would like to help even more, you can apply to be a drop site yourself, where you are the one to accept other people’s donations, or you can apply to be a volunteer for Toys for Tots.
New York State Governor Cuomo’s Holiday Toy Drive
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is accepting donations for his own (unwrapped) toys, coats and school supplies drive until December 15th. Donations will be distributed to families in underserved communities throughout the state. Click this link to view all drop-off locations.
WESTERN NEW YORK
Buffalo City Mission
In Western New York, you can donate to the Buffalo City Mission. A religious organization, their mission is to meet the spiritual and practical needs of the poor through the demonstration of the love and preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Photo credit: Buffalo City Mission
In their Christmas Gift Catalog, they offer different “gift packs”. The “Christmas Champion Pack” provides 4+ days of food, shelter and care for a person utilizing their Emergency Rescue Services, while the “Wee Ones Gift Pack” provides a baby in their emergency shelter with a week’s supply of diapers and wipes, as well as a bathing kit.
You can also donate money directly or drop off donations. Their primary drop-off location is 100 East Tupper Street, Buffalo. But there are also secondary locations at which to drop off. To see these and for further information, you can follow this link.
Child and Family Services, one of Western New York’s oldest human services agencies, runs a program called Haven House for the prevention of domestic violence and the promotion of peace in the home. Services are based on a continuum of care ranging from a fully-inclusive emergency shelter in a confidential location to long-term transitional housing. They offer extensive counseling and advocacy programs for all individuals, regardless of gender, at many locations throughout Erie County.
You can donate money or from among this list of their most needed items. You can also donate toys from their Toyland Wishlist. To learn how to drop off, or to donate any of these items, contact Lauren Gousy, Community Liaison for Haven House, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (716) 335-7237.
Geneva Police Department’s “Fill the Cruiser” Toy Drive
In the Finger Lakes region, the Geneva Police Department, Police Benevolent Association, and the Child Advocacy Center of the Finger Lakes are putting on a toy drive which culminated with their “Fill the Cruiser” event at 2pm on December 9 at the Public Safety Building on Exchange Street, but you can still donate at these locations: Club 86 Bagels & Cakes, 476 Hamilton St.; Century 21 Steve Davoli Real Estate, 156 Castle St.; Ashley Furniture Homestore, 258 Exchange St.; and Lyons National Bank, 476 Exchange St, in Geneva.
Empty Stocking Project
The Saratoga County Children’s Committee’s Empty Stocking Project matches children who are in need with sponsors who support them by buying the items on their holiday wish lists. If you are interested in sponsoring a child from a low income family, please follow this link for information on how to help.
2014. Photo credit: Saratoga County Children's Community
CENTRAL NEW YORK
Stuff the Bus
In Mohawk Valley, you can donate to Stuff the Bus, an annual toy drive which helps families in financially difficult circumstances have a happy holiday. Over the last 10 years, over 100,000 toys have gone to needy children in Oneida, Herkimer, Madison, Otsego, Fulton and Montgomery Counties. You can give money or buy toys, or drop off toys at the locations given on this link.
Hudson Valley Young Professionals Holiday Toy Drive
The Hudson Valley Young Professionals are collecting toys until December 14 for their holiday toy drive to benefit children and teens from The Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. To help, please bring new, unwrapped gifts to participating Foam and Wash Car Wash locations listed here. You will also receive a free car wash.
The Sharing Shelf
Family Services of Westchester is non-profit organization dedicated to providing a broad range of social and mental services to families and children in Westchester County. Its “Sharing Shelf” program asks for donations of basic supplies such as lightly-used children’s clothing, shoes, and strollers to help the 12.7% of children in Westchester who are living below the poverty line. Donations can be brought to 47 Purdy Avenue, Port Chester and for further information, contact Deborah Blatt at (914) 305-5950 or email email@example.com.
Open Door Foundation’s Holiday Toy Drive
Open Door Medical Centers and Foundation aim to provide high quality health care that is affordable and accessible to those in Westchester and Putnam County. They often serve patients who may not otherwise have access to care – including low income families and individuals without insurance.
This holiday season, the organization is running a toy drive to collect toys to distribute to its young patients from economically disadvantaged families. Donations can be dropped off at any one of their locations until December 15. You can also purchase gifts through their Amazon Wishlist or organize your own drive. They are also keen to receive wrapping paper and tape.
Foodbank of Southern Tier’s Holiday Gift
Foodbank of Southern Tier is seeking “Holiday Gift” donations this season. The Foodbank strives to provide food and groceries to the hungry in all parts of Southern Tier, including Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, and Tompkins counties. In 2016, the Food Bank distributed 11,553,304 pounds of food and grocery items.
This holiday season, a gift of just $75 would provide 225 meals. They also accept in-kind donations. These can be dropped off to their location at 388 Upper Oakwood Avenue, Elmira. If you want to get more involved, you can hold your own food drive for the foodbank.
Free Performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
In addition to Toys for Tots donations, consider a different way to gift. Take a family you know who needs a little something extra to see a FREE performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, performed by The Puppet People marionette troupe, Friday, December 15, 2017 from 7:00 to 8:00 pm at Queensbury High School, 49 Aviation Road, Queensbury. Reservations are NOT required. Sponsored by Queensbury Parks Recreation, the show’s costumes, sets, shadow puppets and marionettes offer an experience to remember!
Santas Ski Free + Toy/Coat Drive (FOR NEXT YEAR, START PLANNING!)
To start planning now for NEXT YEAR, Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort at Lake Placid hosts its Santas Ski Free event on Sunday in early December. This year it was held December 10. All people who come dressed as Santa Claus were able to ski or ride for free this day. If you don’t dress as Santa Claus, you can receive 50% off your lift ticket or Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride for the day if you donate a winter coat or toy worth more than $10. These donations were collected by the Boy Scouts of America and the Saranac Lake Key Club. For further information follow this link.
Photo credit: Whiteface Mountain
People’s Place’s Project Santa
The People’s Place is a thrift store and food pantry in Kingston. Their mission is to feed and clothe those in need in Ulster County. They are accepting donations until December 15 for “Project Santa,” their toy distribution program. To donate, bring your gifts to their location at 17 St. James Street. You can call (845) 338-4030 for further information.
Chautauqua Mall’s “Stuff the Truck”
The Chautauqua Mall is hosting its “Stuff the Truck” event at its Santa Set all the way until December 24. They are asking that people bring food and toys to donate to the St. Susan Center Soup Kitchen and the Chautauqua County Toys for Tots. Nearby, they also offer a gift-wrapping service to raise money for Heritage Ministries and Children’s Tumor Foundation.
John Theissen Children’s Foundation Holiday Toy and Fund Drive
John Theissen Children’s Foundation is a non-profit that provides hospitals and child-care facilities with therapeutic and recreational equipment as well as organizes toy collections for the sick and needy during the holiday season. To this end, the foundation is asking for donations of toys for its 26th Annual Holiday Toy and Fund Drive until December 22. They are accepting a wide range of donations: money, gift cards, sporting tickets. To learn how to get involved, contact the foundation at (516) 679-5098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
THOUSAND ISLAND SEAWAY/NORTH COUNTRY
In addition to a number of Toys for Tots drop off locations, there are other special ways to give holiday donations of toys and other support for the children in need of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.
As one beautiful example, the Holiday Angels program, coordinated by the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County, Inc., embodies the power of community as a number of businesses, civic groups and residents in Jefferson County collaborate together to help every child enjoy Christmas gifts and other support during this time of the year.
Potsdam Holiday Fund Inc.
Likewise, Lawrence County’s Potsdam Holiday Fund Inc., which is active collecting support for its programs year round, is sponsoring 48 giving trees, placed in area businesses and churches, that are decorated with tags including the age and gender of a child up to 17 years old for individuals to select and then buy, wrap and label a correspondingly appropriate gift to be placed at the tree. The gifts will be distributed December 16 and 17 at the United Methodist Church, so act now if you are in the area.
Photo credit: Potsdam Public Library
In addition, the Fund is making Food Baskets to be distributed on December 20. You can contact the fund at email@example.com or (315) 261-9887.
NEW YORK CITY
Coalition for the Homeless
The Coalition for the Homeless is accepting donations for its holiday toy drive through December 15. You can buy a toy for them through their Amazon Wishlist, or drop off a new, unwrapped toy from their list at their locations: 129 Fulton Street or 23 East 10th Street.
To host your own drive at a school or workplace, email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families Annual Toy Drive
Another NYC-based organization, Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families, which seeks to protect and nurture families unwilling or unable to care for themselves, accepts monetary donations as well as in-kind gifts. It maintains two different Amazon Wishlists; one is their Foster Care list and the other, their STEPS to End Family Violence list.
For more information on how to donate to EGSCF, please visit their website.
There are still a many other ways to give that haven’t been covered in this article. If a related important organization or event near you does not appear in this article, please add it to the Comments section below.