‘Tis the season to reflect on our blessings and seek out ways to make life better for those around us: Whether that means volunteering your time or collecting items to donate, there are plenty of ways to help your neighbors in need. Consider adopting a family through Operation Sleighbells, sorting book donations for The Bridge of Books Foundation, or hosting a food drive for Move For Hunger. Get inspired to make this #givingtuesday and holiday season about others by sharing the gift of giving.
featured image via @luiz_ocr
Here are 22 ways to give back this holiday season:
Attend a special event:
Holiday Express Benefit Concerts
December 16 and 17, 7:30 PM
The Holiday Express helps others by offering the gift of human kindness during the holiday season to mentally and physically disabled adults and children, isolated individuals, veterans, those affected by addiction and the homeless. By delivering music, food, gifts, financial support and friendship, they help raise spirits and spread kindness onto others. Join in the goodwill and Christmas cheer at one of their benefit concerts to raise funds that support these programs.
Hoboken Jingle Bell 5K
December 21, 8 AM
Put on your Santa suit and lace up your elf shoes—it’s time to sprinkle some holiday cheer throughout the streets of Hoboken and support local charities like the Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Whether you opt for the 1-mile fun run or the 5K race, it’s sure to be a jolly good time for the whole family!
56th Annual Polar Bear Races
December 29, 5K race starts at 9:30AM
Bring the whole family out to Asbury Park Convention Center to support the Shore Athletic Club’s mission to promote long distance running as a lifetime sport for youth. Littles can race in the 1-mile Kid’s Run while adults tackle the 5K Race/Walk.
Donate to a gift drive:
Project Self-Sufficiency Holiday Toy Drive: The annual goal of the Season of Hope Holiday Toy Drive is to collect 20,000 new and unwrapped toys for distribution to children and teens in need throughout Sussex, Warren and Morris counties. Items can be dropped off at Project Self-Sufficiency in Newton from November – December, Monday – Thursday, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM and Friday 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.
Operation Sleighbells: Through this signature program of Monmouth County’s Family & Children’s Services (FCS), you can adopt a family, host a collection drive or donate new gifts and gift cards for impoverished children this holiday season. By requiring both sponsors and recipients to remain anonymous, FCS can preserve the dignity of participating families.
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This holiday season we're asking YOU to help raise awareness about the importance of a comforting bedtime routine for every child with our Share A Good Night Challenge! Here's how you can participate: Step 1: Take a picture of you sharing your bedtime reading routine with your loved ones and/or a favorite storybook Step 2: Write your caption: Send a good night from you, your loved ones and a favorite bedtime story character Nominate 2 people to send their good nights or donate to @PajamaProgram. Use #ShareAGoodNight Tag @PajamaProgram See link in bio for more information.
Pajama Program: The New Jersey Chapter of Pajama Program helps create comforting bedtimes for kids and boosts literacy through donations of pajamas and books. To find a drop-off location near you, click here. You can also volunteer to read with children at one of the designated reading centers across the state.
Share a meal with someone in need:
Move For Hunger’s Season of Giving Food Drive: More than 9.4 million families are currently struggling without food. Spread some holiday cheer by holding a food drive in your neighborhood. Enlist your kids to distribute a flyer to encourage friends and family to donate non-perishable items like instant potatoes, canned vegetables, gravy, cake mix, pie filling, and hot chocolate. There’s no better way to celebrate the season of giving and show your kids how to give back.
Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey Family Dinner Program: The Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey in Camden is a home-base for families while their children receive specialized treatment for life-threatening illnesses and diseases at nearby hospitals. How can you make the lives of these families a little bit easier around the holidays? Volunteer for the Family Dinner Program, by signing up to prepare breakfast, lunch or dinner for the residents. This program lets parents and kids enjoy a home-cooked meal and feel more at home, especially after a long day at a hospital.
Center for Food Action: The Center for Food Action (CFA) in Englewood provides food, housing, utility assistance and advocacy services to New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents. Help families keep meals on their tables by collecting and donating funds and food items this holiday season and even beyond: Hearty meals are critically needed during the cold winter months.
Visit these charitable places:
Grateful Bites Bakery, Cafe & Restaurant: A stop by this cheerful Flemington cafe for breakfast or lunch supports Ability 2 Work, the revolutionary non-profit that trains and employs differently-abled people in an inclusive approach. Can’t make to the cafe? Order your Christmas dinner and desserts from their online shop (100% of the proceeds supports the cafe and organization).
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DOUBLE ADOPTION STORY!! Back in September if you had of told me when we rescued Milo that he would be going to a forever home in two months comfortably sitting in a child’s arms I would have said “you’re dreaming”. But we are dreamers here at Catsbury Park. We believe that just about anything is possible. Meeting this family and seeing their instant connection with Milo & Teddy we had all the fingers, paws & toes crossed that they would decide to adopt both of these sweet boys and that is exactly what they decided to do. We can rest easy that Milo & Teddy have three amazing children to grow up with, who love them deeply already! The universe might just be ok with kids like that taking on the future! #adoptdontshop #catcafe #asburypark #catsburypark #rescue #happybeginning #catsburyparkalumni
Catsbury Park Cat Cafe and Tea Lounge: Plan to adopt a furry friend after a stop here: Adult cats that are looking to get adopted become residents of this Asbury Park cafe and interact with customers in a unique and welcoming environment. Catsbury Park works with several local shelters, including MCSPCA, Associated Humane Society & Jersey Animal Foundation, and every dollar spent in the cafe on teas, snacks and merchandise benefits the cats. You can even donate cat toys, food, litter and beds or make a monetary donation right in the cafe.
JBJ Soul Kitchen: JBJ Soul Kitchen (with two locations in Red Bank and Toms River) is a non-profit Community Restaurant, run by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, that serves paying and in-need customers. Consider stopping by ($20 is the suggested donation that helps feed someone else) or for volunteering: One hour of volunteer time earns a dining certificate that feeds up to 4 people.
Volunteer or donate to local charities:
TRUE Mentors: TRUE Mentors in Hoboken is a not-for-profit organization founded to help children develop healthy, strong relationships that allow them to reach their full potential. Sign up as a mentor for the 1:1 program, enrichment clubs program or teen internship program.
Infinite Love for Kids Fighting Cancer: With the goal to continue fulfilling research grants, this family-run charity in Middletown works to help researchers and doctors discover better cancer treatments for children. Each year, the nonprofit selects a different childhood cancer to focus on and sends all their donations to those research teams. Support the cause by starting your own fundraising campaign or making a monetary donation.
Michael’s Feat: The Michael Gerard Puharic Memorial Fund, Inc. is a Matawan-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing comfort and easing the burden for parents carrying and caring for seriously ill newborns. Consider becoming a Michael’s Feat Ambassador to benefit the organization.
Moms Helping Moms: Moms Helping Moms Foundation in North Plainfield provides low-income families in New Jersey with the essential baby items they need to give their children a safe, happy and healthy start. Donate diapers or other baby items to help a new mom in need or plan to host a diaper drive at your kid’s school or in your community.
Asbury Park Music Foundation: The foundation’s life-changing music programs provide underprivileged youth in the area with confidence, discipline and opportunities that improve their future success and economic mobility. Invest in the youth who benefit from this program, by helping to raise money for instruction, lessons and instruments.
Color A Smile: Color A Smile is a Morristown-based organization that distributes cheerful drawings to senior citizens, troops overseas, and anyone in need of a smile. Simply download a printable art page from the organization’s website, color it in with your littles and send it back to Color a Smile. Looking to get more involved? Organize a coloring party with friends and family to spread joy to others this holiday season.
Bridges Outreach, Inc.: Bridges Outreach in Summit provides brown bag meals, toiletry kits, cups of soup, clothing, socks, and underwear to those in need living in Newark, Irvington, and New York City. The organization also provides new backpacks and school supplies for sheltered children in these areas.
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Thank you to all the members of Jack and Jill (Jersey Shore) for volunteering to help get books ready for kids who need them across New Jersey. Every book that you sorted will make a difference in the life of the child who receives it. We are so grateful for your support. Hope to see you again soon! • #booksforall #books365 #literacymatters #literacyrocks #bobsquad #volunteersrock #volunteersmakethingshappen #communitypartners #jjgoesorange
The Bridge of Books Foundation: Wondering what to do with all the books that your kids have outgrown? This organization in Rumson can help get them into the hands of underprivileged kids. They provide books throughout needy communities in New Jersey in order to support the development of literacy skills and to encourage a love of reading. Become a “book sorter” and help organize books for delivery.
Salvation Army Seasonal Assistance: Be a part of Salvation Army’s NJ Division greeting holiday shoppers and spreading Christmas cheer. Bring your friends, family, and coworkers to sing and join by ringing a bell for donations to the famous red kettle in front of your local grocery store, library or city sidewalk. They have other ways for you to donate your time too: Adopt a family in need or enlist the whole family to work in a soup kitchen.
Meals on Wheels: Meals on Wheels provides meals to senior citizens and people with disabilities at times when they may feel isolated. You can sign up to deliver meals or prepare food in the facility kitchen. Consider donating your time or make a cash donation to your local chapter of this nationwide program.