‘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 many ways to help NJ charities right now. Now more than ever, charities are feeling the pinch, especially since fundraising events have been canceled and with COVID, the need has increased significantly. Consider running for the Hoboken Center Food Bank in the Hoboken Jingle Bell Virtual Run, organizing a food drive and pickup for Move For Hunger’s Season of Giving, or coloring a picture to bring a smile to someone’s face with Color A Smile. So while we’re all hoping to spark joy in a Christmas season like no other, we can find it in doing our part to help others this #givingtuesday and holiday season.
Here are some ways to give back this holiday season
Attend a special event
Hoboken Jingle Bell Virtual Run
December 19th – 31st
Put on your Santa suit and lace up your elf shoes. It’s time to sprinkle some holiday cheer and support for the Hoboken Center Food Bank. All runners will receive a full Santa Suit and race bib with their purchase, and you can complete the virtual run anytime between December 19th and the 31st.
Asbury Park Polar Bear Races (CANCELLED)
December 27, races start between 9:30AM and 10:30AM
8:30AM — T-shirt pick-up
While there is no kids race this year, you can still support the Shore Athletic Club’s mission to promote track-and-field running as a lifetime sport for youth. There’s a 2-mile run—with a staggered three-wave start time to encourage social distancing—as well as a 2-mile racewalk. Note: They’re capping the number of runners at 125 this year, so make sure you register early.
Holiday Express Benefit Concert
December 21, 7PM-9PM
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. This year’s concert will be virtual, but you can still join them for their 28th season of goodwill and Christmas cheer—just from the comfort of your own home. 100% of the proceeds go to help their programs.
Donate to a gift drive
Project Self-Sufficiency Season of Hope Holiday Toy Drive
The goal of the Season of Hope Holiday Toy Drive is to collect 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 in November and December, Monday to Thursday 9AM-7PM and Friday 9AM-4PM. Please hold off on donating soft items, like stuffed animals, blankets, or pillows, due to COVID safety precautions.
Through this signature program of Monmouth County’s Family & Children’s Services (FCS), you can help brighten a receiving family’s holiday season. By requiring both sponsors and recipients to remain anonymous, FCS can preserve the dignity of participating families. This year, this program is asking for gift cards or donations (to purchase gift cards) by December 2. Volunteers will then give families the gift cards in early December, so they have time to buy their kids gifts for the holidays.
They help create comforting bedtimes for kids and boost literacy through donations of pajamas and books. The New Jersey chapter strives to encourage that change locally, and they have 10 drop-off locations spread across seven counties—to find one near you, click here. Make sure to call ahead of time—some sites are holding off on accepting donations this year because of COVID.
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 with putting food on the table, and with the pandemic, the numbers are growing. Spread some holiday cheer by holding a food drive in your neighborhood. Enlist your kids to create and distribute flyers to encourage friends, family, and neighbors to donate non-perishable items like instant potatoes, canned vegetables, gravy, cake mix, pie filling, and hot chocolate. Celebrate the season of giving and show your kids that it can be fun to help others—it’s a win-win.
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. You can sign up to help provide a meal to families, but they ask that all food donations must be commercially prepared and packaged (takeout and catering counts, too) to ensure COVID safety.
Center for Food Action
The Center for Food Action (CFA) in Englewood provides food, housing, utility assistance, and advocacy services to northern New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents. Help families keep meals on their tables by collecting food this holiday season—and beyond. Bring your food donations to any of their five open food pantries during their business hours. And through CFA’s Give A Meal program, you can support local restaurants and local families at the same time—your donations will go towards buying meal vouchers from local restaurants for low-income families.
Visit these charitable places
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. They are currently offering curbside pick-up meals and outdoor dining and recently re-started their Pay It Forward model (paused due to covid)—$20 is the suggested donation for a meal, and every additional $20 helps to feed someone that can’t donate. If your teen is up for it, you can also register to volunteer—expect to talk with the patrons, serve food, and clear tables ( for 15 years or older).
This cheerful Flemington cafe created Ability 2 Work, a revolutionary non-profit that trains and employs differently-abled people in an inclusive approach. They also support local farms by getting all of their produce, meat, and dairy from nearby locations. They are currently taking online and no-contact pick-up orders, and 100% of the proceeds support the organization.
Catsbury Park Cat Cafe & Tea House
This Asbury Park cafe works with several local shelters, including MCSPCA, Associated Humane Society, and The Jersey Animal Foundation, and focuses on unwanted cats. They are currently closed, but you can still donate to their GoFundMe, buy from their online shop, or even sponsor a cat. Or, if you’re looking to bring a pet into the family, look into their Purrfect Match program. You’ll fill out a detailed survey, and then Catsbury Park staff will use that information to match you up with a cat from a shelter.
Volunteer or donate to local charities
Moms Helping Moms
The Moms Helping Moms Foundation provides low-income families in New Jersey with the essential baby items they need to give their children a safe, happy, and healthy start. Due to COVID, they aren’t accepting most donations at the moment, but you can still give money, donate essential supplies through a virtual baby care drive, or host a diaper drive.
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 or enrichment clubs program, and your high school student can register for the teen internship program—for now, most programs have moved to a virtual format.
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 a fundraising campaign, helping a specific family, volunteering your talents, or making a monetary donation.
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 volunteering, donating, or organizing a fundraising event.
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 giving money, buying merch from their online store, or even donating new and gently used instruments or video/audio equipment (check the FAQs for more details about that).
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. It’s a fun way for littles to give back—and they get to express their creativity at the same time. Simply download a printable art page from the organization’s website (or have your kids create their own drawings), color it in with your littles, have them sign it, and then send it to Color a Smile. Looking to get more involved? Organize a virtual coloring party with friends and family to spread joy to others this holiday season.
Bridges Outreach, Inc.
In Summit, Bridges Outreach 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. They are continuing to operate during the pandemic, but they need help: Consider making a donation or buying something off of their Amazon wishlist. You can also organize a drive to collect much-needed items—they’re currently accepting toiletries, clothing, and blankets. And if you want to provide meals, get the whole family to put together fresh and sustainable lunches at home. For both the non-food and lunch donations, call ahead to schedule a drop-off (their donation days and times may have changed recently because of covid).
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 to support literacy skills and encourage a love of reading. Want to get more involved? Host a book drive and have your kids create flyers to get the word out. The foundation is currently storing their donations in a storage unit (they recently lost the space they had been calling home). Since there’s only so much space for new donations, keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram pages for drop-off days and times.
Meals on Wheels
Nine million seniors face the threat of hunger, with millions more living alone and feeling incredibly isolated right now. Meals on Wheels provides meals (and a bit of socialization) to senior citizens and needs your help more than ever. You can sign up to prepare meals in the kitchen or deliver meals to seniors—the need for volunteers varies by community, and there are COVID-19 restrictions. If you want to help in other ways, make a cash donation or start a fundraiser to raise even more money for this vital program.