As we settle into November, the holiday season is now upon us. We’ll soon be eating turkey and stuffing with our families, saying what we’re thankful for, and not long after we’ll be cuddled up by a warm fire with holiday tunes playing in the background. But what about the people who might not have the same luxuries that we do? The holidays are the season of giving, so this holiday season get out and give back with some great volunteer opportunities around campus, Queens and the New York City area.
Being a student in the city, there are many volunteer opportunities available, especially during the holiday season. St. John’s Campus Ministry offers several great volunteer options including midnight runs, Ronald McDonald House, St. John’s Bread & Life and many more. They even offer a volunteer option specifically for the holiday season – Sponsor A Family.
Sponsor A Family is run by Jordan Bouchard, the Residence Campus Minister for Vincentian Service. “In partnership with the St. John’s Bread and Life Soup Kitchen in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Sponsor A Family delivers food, clothing and toys to families facing difficult circumstances during the Christmas season for over 20 years,” Bouchard said when describing the program. “The St. John’s Bread and Life Program hopes to serve food to more than 2,000 families and provide warm winter gear to approximately 1,000 individuals this season.”
To participate in Sponsor A Family, you can sign up on the St. John’s website to either volunteer or to donate. The dates to volunteer are Saturday, Dec. 7, Saturday, Dec. 14 and Sunday Dec. 15, according to the listings on the website.
“Even though it is around finals week, it is always wonderful to have students participate in Sponsor A Family,” Bouchard said. “It is beautiful to have the St. John’s community come together, students, faculty, staff and administration all serve alongside one another, living out our Catholic and Vincentian mission.”
Campus Ministry also offers multiple weekly volunteer opportunities such as the Ronald McDonald House, St. Nick’s Men Shelter, after school programs and many more that can be found on the St. John’s Website. These are great opportunities that you can volunteer at during the holiday season or even after it ends.
For any questions regarding Sponsor A Family or other volunteer opportunities, Bouchard invites students to come visit her at her office in Marillac 239.
Another great way to find out about volunteer options is through Alpha Phi Omega (APO), a co-ed national service fraternity. APO is aware of tons of volunteer opportunities in and around Queens, both during the holiday season and year round.
“An organization that APO uses a lot is New York Cares, which offers countless volunteer opportunities that you can search by borough, times you’re available, types of volunteer work you like to do … Students can find seasonal opportunities there,” Olivia Grondy, a junior Global Development and Sustainability major and Vice President of APO, said.
As the VP of APO, Grondy is in charge of running the service portion of the fraternity, which includes planning and running service events on and off campus, documenting service hours that the brothers complete and forming partnerships with organizations that they do service with.
APO does many different things, from hosting their own events on campus to volunteering with organizations all around Queens and the city.
“Also, I know the holiday season is a time where we all like to eat,” Grondy said. “It’s important to remember that there are a lot of less fortunate people who don’t get to enjoy a hot meal or healthy food, so I always enjoy volunteering at soup kitchens or food pantries during the holidays.”
Two soup kitchens that APO volunteers with are Healthy Harlem Food Service — from 3:30PM to 8:00PM every Wednesday at All Souls Church, 88 St. Nicholas Ave. — and Bowery Food Service – from 10:30AM to 12:00PM every Saturday (except the last Saturday of the month) at 204 Forsythe St. — and there’s no need to sign up; you can just go and help out!
Through organizations on campus, such as Campus Ministry or APO, or through outside sources such as New York Cares, there are so many opportunities to volunteer in the New York Area. The holiday season is a time for giving, so this holiday season get out there and give back to the community.