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Where to donate and volunteer in Philly this holiday season

Because it’s always a good time to give back

The Love sculpture at night in Philadelphia.
Show some love this holiday season by giving back to Philly.
Courtesy of Shutterstock

The holiday season is typically the time of year when folks start thinking of the best ways to give back and help those in need. The good news is that the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection offers thousands of way to do good.

Tuesday, November 28 is Giving Tuesday, a global initiative that encourages folks to get involved in their communities. Combine that with the holidays in full swing, it’s the perfect and right time to help those in need.

And in 2010, the city created the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service, which is committed to helping Philadelphians help each other through community engagement. You can find countless volunteer opportunities all year long through their website, as well as on Giving Tuesday’s site, but we’ve rounded up a bunch below, too.

We want to hear from you, too. Do you know of a local charity that deserves props? Have an idea of a way to donate, volunteer, or take action? Leave a comment below.

Donate

One Warm Coat: This organization collects gently worn coats all over the country, including nearly 20 locations in the Philadelphia region. Check the website for nearby places where you can drop off your coat.

Restore: This offshoot of Habitat for Humanity has been open for a little more than a year on Washington Avenue, collecting and selling all sorts of donated home goods, furniture, and appliances at a highly-discounted rate. All of the proceeds go toward building homes in Philadelphia. Can’t drop off your couch? They do free pick-ups, too.

Covenant House: Philadelphia has one of the highest youth homeless rates in the country—about 1 in 20 Philly high-schoolers have experienced homelessness, and many of them are LGBT. Covenant house provides teens with shelter in their 51-bed house.

Philly AIDS Thrift: This non-profit accepts clothes, home goods, furniture, and more and sells it at a discounted rate in its S. 5th Street store. All of the proceeds are then donated to local organizations that support the fight against HIV/AIDS. If you can’t donate, the store is always in need of volunteers.

Philabundance: Three-quarters of one million people in the Philadelphia region face hunger on a daily basis—Philabundance hopes to fix that. You can donate food directly to their warehouses or host your own food drive.

Philadelphia Reads: This city organization provides local teachers with up to 100,000 books each year—about 350 per teacher—through their book bank. You can donate picture books, chapter books, and more for the bank, which serves educators who teach in pre-school through 12th grade.

Volunteer

Philly Parks and Recreation Department: Love Philly’s parks? They need your help to stay that beautiful. The parks and rec department has a whole list of friends groups for every city park. You can reach out to them directly to see how you can help.

PAWS: There are plenty of animal shelters in Philly where you can volunteer, including PAWS, which has four sites in the city as well as plenty of adoption events that also need help. But you can also do more than feed and clean the fluff balls: PAWS partners with Monster Milers, a running organization that takes dogs out for runs throughout the city.

Rebuilding Philadelphia: This non-profit started in Philadelphia in 1988, and has helped rebuild Philly homes for low-income owners with the help of volunteers and staff. They’re always looking for volunteers, especially those with home repair skills.

The Food Trust: This organization has been around for two decades, encouraging healthy eating all around Philadelphia. You can volunteer at a local farmers market or at the office.

JRAid: There are a lot of families and elderly people in Philadelphia that need help just maintaining their home. JRAid, a project of the Jewish Relief Agency, has an ongoing list of volunteer opportunities that range from painting someone’s living room to weeding or up-keeping another’s garden.

Take action

Run for office: Hungry for change? You don’t have to have to law degree to run for local office. Becoming a committee person is the first step in party politics in Philly, and elections are coming up in May 2018. Philadelphia 3.0 and the Committee of Seventy can help you get going.

Join your neighborhood civic association: To get involved on an even smaller level, see how you can join your neighborhood association or registered community organization. Philadelphia Citizen has a helpful primer.

Help make Philly’s streets safer: If you are worried about the quality of Philly’s streets—pedestrian fatalities, bike infrastructure, etc.—, the city’s Vision Zero Task Force and new Office of Complete Streets are here for you.

Patronize local businesses: We get it—online shopping and big box retailers are quite convenient during the holidays. But don’t forget about the city’s important mom-and-pop shops that keep Philly flavor alive. One easy way to shop local? Head to the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market at Dilworth Park for handmade goods made by local artisans.