Across the country, there are countless charities working to end some of the most pressing issues facing members of our communities. We have identified multiple charities in the communities we serve who are tackling issues such as food insecurity, lack of winter-appropriate clothing, and homelessness every day. Especially during the holiday season, these nonprofits require help now more than ever to provide valuable services to people in need. Keep these organizations in mind this season if you decide to give back in whatever capacity you’re capable. Whether it’s donating an old winter coat or dropping a few cans of food off at your local food shelter, or volunteering at a nearby food drive, there is no gesture or act of kindness too small.
Here is the list of great places to donate of volunteer this Holiday Season. Keep reading below for a more in-depth look at how you can get involved with these fantastic charities!
Austin Street Center
North Texas Food Bank
Greater Chicago Food Depository
New York Cares Coat Drive
Citymeals on Wheels
The Bowery Mission
Central Texas Food Bank
Hope Food Pantry Austin
Keep Austin Fed
Houston Food Bank
Houston Children's Charity
Union Station Homeless Services
Food on Foot
Hands On Atlanta
Atlanta Community Food Bank
Second Helpings Atlanta
SF-Marin Food Bank
DC Central Kitchen
Food & Friends
The Greater Boston Food Bank
Food For Free
See below for a more in-depth look at these great charities, and how you can get involved.
The Austin Street Center was founded in 1983, and has since been serving men ages 45 and older and women ages 18 and older, to help them overcome the atrocities of homelessness. By providing them with meals, showers, sleep, and clothing, they ensure that each person gets their most basic needs met. Not only does the center offer such necessities, but they also attempt to treat the individual with an entire program of services, including education, housing, transportation, mental health support, and addiction support. Volunteers and donations are crucial to organizations like these during the holiday season. Head to their website to get more information about how you can help!
The North Texas Food Bank is a top-ranked nonprofit that provides access to more than 200,000 meals a day for all ages across a 13 county service area. The bank recently launched a 10 year plan to provide 92 million meals annually by 2025. They are ambitiously working to eliminate food insecurity in Northern Texas while focusing on their core values of integrity, passion, and collaboration. If you’d like to get involved, you can head to their website and donate! Every dollar given provides access to three meals for the hungry, so you can be sure you’re making a difference with your donation.
This organization is another hardworking nonprofit that specializes in humanitarian aid and education services. Founded in 2011, it has been their mission to restore the human spirit and advance the knowledge of young people by teaching them skills and attitudes to further them in life. They also provide rehabilitation services to veterans and those escaping religious persecution or crisis. Mercury One thrives off of the work of their volunteers and the spirit of giving back. If you’re interested in helping out, you can complete a volunteer application posted on their website
Greater Chicago Food Depository
The Greater Chicago Food Depository is known as Chicago’s food bank. They are a member of the national organization Feeding America, and serve as a hub for a large network of over 700 food pantries, kitchens, and other shelters. Not only do they provide meals to those in need, but they offer services like job training and public benefits outreach to those suffering from hunger to end their struggle for good. The organization has a variety of opportunities to get involved by volunteering or donating on their site.
Inspiration Corporation is an empowering organization that also helps those affected by homelessness and poverty. Started by a Chicago police officer looking to make a difference, the food and coffee handouts from her van later became a full-fledged “Inspiration Cafe” for the homeless to sit down and be served more food and respect than they had ever known. Since then, Inspiration Corporation has expanded to provide culinary training to those who have struggled to find employment. After launching the training program, they have established “Inspiration Kitchens” throughout the Chicago area to continue kickstarting careers for those in need. You can visit any of their locations to dine in and eat for a cause, or you can volunteer and donate on their website to continue furthering their success!
If you’re looking for a hands-on way to help out this holiday season, look no further. Chicago Cares is an organization mobilizing volunteers to unify Chicago neighborhoods by making their residents the agents of change. The large organization has countless events and partner nonprofits for you to get involved with. One notable project for the holidays is Warm Up Chicago, where you can donate hats, gloves, and other cold weather necessities for those in need. This awesome community not only offers rewarding experiences for the holidays, but is making an effort to fight humanitarian issues all year long. Give one of their volunteer positions a try this season and discover how you can make a long lasting difference for others.
Similar to the initiatives of Chicago cares, NYC is also aiding those in need of protection from the cold. The coat drive collects new or gently used coats for service agencies, public schools, and transitional shelters, helping make someone’s holiday season a little bit warmer. You can start a coat collection by registering on their website, or purchase and donate coats to an existing collection!
Citymeals on Wheels is a great volunteer organization for anyone looking to show some companionship and compassion around the holidays. They serve elderly, homebound, New Yorkers that often have no access to fresh food or someone to talk to. Their programs allow them to get their needs met by having their volunteers write holiday cards, deliver meals, and plan friendly visits. They also have events around this time of year to encourage New York professionals, foodies, and other culinary influencers to get involved with their cause.
This organization is another fantastic way to help the homeless of our nation. The Bowery Mission has been serving the hungry and homeless since the 1970’s and continues to provide aid to them during the most threatening months of the year. Like the other organizations listed, they offer multiple opportunities to get involved. One of the most effective ways you can help is by volunteering for Thanksgiving, where you can feed those hoping for a warm holiday meal. But if you’re family plans for the holiday interfere with your availability, no worries! You can still donate, fundraise, or register to volunteer at any other time of the year.
Established in 1982, the Central Texas Food Bank has been fighting hunger “the Texas way” to help feed the hungry in the community. They provide services for 21 counties across central Texas, delivering over 30 million pounds of food every year, and helping about 200,000 individuals every month. With large list of services, the Central Texas Food Banks helps locals through community kitchens, mobile food pantries, regional food delivery, disaster relief, and plenty more. You can help local families by donating or volunteering. The holidays are a great time to get involved, as every dollar donated will be matched, turning your $1 into $2.
Hope Food Pantry Austin works to alleviate hunger and empower those in need through their “grocery store” setup. Clients are welcome every Thursday and Friday morning to select the food they need, while pre-packed backpacks and weekly distributions are delivered to families and individuals in need. Generous donations allow Hope Food Pantry Austin to provide groceries to about 1,400 individuals every month. Every $7 donation is able to provide 4 days worth of food to a family of 4. If you want to get more involved, you can also volunteer by helping deliver food or work special events during the holidays.
Established in 2004, this local nonprofit uses surplus food from commercial kitchens to supply nearby charities and help those in need. Last year, Keep Austin Fed saved over $1 Million worth of food, equivalent to 621,000 meals. Not only are they helping feed their neighbors in need, they are are also benefiting the environment from excess waste. You can help Keep Austin Fed by donating your time, food, or money. Just $0.10 can save a pound of food, and 1 hour can save 143 meals!
Kids Meals is a Houston-based charity that aims to end child hunger by delivering meals to homes with hungry preschool aged children. They seek to help feed the 88,740 children currently living in Houston who are food insecure. They focus on children under 6 who do not have access to school-based food programs, and feed up to 6,100 kids every day. During the Holiday season you can help contribute to Thanksgiving meals for families in need, or Adopt-A-Family for Christmas to provide children with gifts on Christmas.
Established in 1982 and covering 18 counties, The Houston Food Bank works to feed the 1.1 million people struggling with food insecurity in the Houston area, making them the largest Food Bank in America. They receive food from farmers, grocery stores, local food drives, and more, and deliver it across 600 different hunger relief charities. Every $1 donated towards the Houston Food Bank can provide a days worth of food for someone in need, however there are also plenty of volunteer options for you to get involved.
For over 20 years, Houston Children’s Charity has worked to improve the lives of children who are underprivileged, abused, or disabled, helping over 3,500,000 children. Their goal is to fulfill any legitimate request, with programs that range from Hospital Emergency Funds and Back To School support, to clothing and transportation for the disabled, Houston Children’s Charity helps children in any way that they can. During the holidays you can participate in their Christmas program by adopting a family and providing toys for their children, or contributing to their toy drive.
Serving 58 counties in California, this LA-based non-profit provides food and supplies to those in need, distributing over 25 million pounds of food across over 200 partners, ranging from food pantries to after school programs. World Harvest provides, children, families, and the elderly with healthy, balanced meals in the effort to eliminate hunger.
Union Station Homeless Services
Established in 1973, USHS seeks to help the homeless and very low-income individuals and families through outreach, shelter, housing, and employment. There are plenty of ways to contribute to USHS, including their annual Dinner in the Park. For 49 years this event has uplifted the community by providing thousands of holiday meals for those who have nowhere to go for the holidays. You can participate by donating food, volunteering at the event, or supporting their cause with a donation.
Food on Foot is a non-profit based in Hollywood that serves the homeless and low-income individuals by providing nutritious meals, clothes, employment, and more. This organization runs weekly Sunday Meals programs as well as Work for Food programs. Volunteers are needed every Sunday to help give out food and clothing to those in need.
Hands on Atlanta is a volunteer organization that connects people with the issues they care about. It brings together those willing to help with the nonprofits that provide support to those in need. For the holiday season, there are numerous projects to get involved with, like assisting at food pantries or helping with meal distribution. You can explore their nonprofit partners and projects on their website and find out which is right for you!
At this food bank, every dollar provides four meals to children, families, and seniors. By helping end hunger you can ensure that these people have enough nutrition to continue their endeavors in life. You can become one of their 1,700 volunteers a month, whom they rely on to carry out their service programs and community projects. Their site also offers donation suggestions for any budget type, so remember that every amount counts.
The organization Second Helpings works to not only fight hunger, but combat the issue of food insecurity in the Atlanta community. Much like other charities, they partner with nonprofits to distribute their food and rely on donors to support the cause. They rescue surplus quantities to reduce waste while giving back to those who have none. You can volunteer for them in a number of ways, including recovering food or using your professional skills to enhance their brand through PR, web design, fundraising, and event planning. With the potential of food waste that comes with the holiday season, it’s no wonder that it is the perfect time of year to start your volunteer journey at Second Helpings Atlanta.
This organization was started in 1987 by Mary Risley, a full-time food professional who established her own cooking school over 35 years ago. She created Food Runners to continue her passion for food with a connected community of volunteers, donors, and recipients. Risley persuaded her food colleagues to save their excess food and has since connected the surplus to organizations that will supply it to the hungry. From the start of the organization, she has expanded her project immensely. You can donate your time, money, or food on their website, and continue “relaying excess food” to those in need!
St. Anthony’s is an organization founded on the ideas of healing, community, justice, and gratitude. Since their founding, they have continued to provide support services to their guests. They offer meals in their dining center, a medical clinic, and a technology lab, giving people a chance to access vital resources. St. Anthony’s also provides social work services as well as clothing and shelter for the hard winter months.
At this food bank, you can make a difference for the 141,000 people that depend on the organization every week. Since 1987, they have established ways to support those facing hunger, and are now innovating their model with the help of donors and volunteers. They truly believe that food transforms lives, and you can read about their many success stories on their website, as well as register to donate or volunteer!
Thrive DC is working to end homlessness in the Washington DC area. Originally started as a program to help feed homeless women in DC, it has grown into a comprehensive charity that provides aid to over 2,000 men, women, and children each year. 86 cents of every dollar donated goes towards programs to advance their mission.
This non-profit takes an alternative approach to fighting poverty and hunger. DC Central Kitchen provides job training and a livable wage for people facing high barriers to employment at their storefront location. At risk people receive culinary food training while at the same time cooking and making sustainable meals for schools, supermarkets, and their own cafe.
The mission of Food & Friends is to improve the lives and health of people with HIV/Aids, cancer, or other serious illnesses who are not able to provide reasonable nourishment for themselves. They offer home delivered meals as well as groceries to go for those people requiring their services.
Rosie’s Place was established in 1974 as the first women’s shelter in the United States. They aim to provide poor and homeless women with a safe environment where they can find greater security in their lives. In addition to providing shelter, they also provide meals and each year they provide support for over 12,000 women.
A member of Feeding America, The Greater Boston Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England. Last year alone, they distributed nearly 62 million pounds of food to those struggling to find enough to eat. Their goal is to provide 3 meals a day for every food-insecure person around Boston.
Food For Free looks to improve access to healthy food within the Boston area. They find food that would otherwise go to waste and find ways to re-distribute food to under-served populations in the area. They manage to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to those in need year-round. With a focus on both short-term food waste as well as a long-term approach to fixing issues with food insecurity, Food For Free serves the needs of thousands of individuals in Cambridge and the surrounding area every year.
Written By: Maxine Kasznia
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Author bio: Maxine is a Chicago Native and UCLA grad. She has a passion for sustainable eating and loves to find the best environmentally friendly spots in every city she visits. After living in both Chicago and LA, she has an appreciation for local cuisines and continues to look for ways to expand her palate.