Being “stuck” in a place (home in this case) longer than expected has its ups and downs. The obvious negative is that the Gypsy Givers are on opposite sides of the country, but the positive factor is more time to help those in our local community. NYC was our home for over 10 years prior to embarking on this journey. We had the privilege to live in arguably the best city in the world. I took this opportunity to give back.
New York Cares is comprised of volunteers looking to help others in the 5 boroughs. I invited along one of my friends, Olivia, who has recently been taking part in a bunch of different projects for New York Cares. The best part about it is they make it very easy to pick something online to do that fits in your schedule. All you have to do is complete a short orientation which can also be done online, then you have the ability to login and choose activities, which range from being a mentor to helping senior citizens get groceries to touching up paint in schools and parks.
Winter Wishes is one out of four of the largest programs run by New York Cares. Over 42,000 gifts were given to under privileged children, teens, and senior citizens. The program begins in July with a two week application period to vet which 501c3 agencies are most in need. They have to turn away around 200 organizations every year. In September, the children are hardly thinking of Christmas yet are asked to write a letter with their wishes. Jess, our team leader for the day, told us one request that was hard to fulfill this year was that all one child wanted was bacon. Then volunteers buy gifts to fulfill these requests. The recipients get the gifts prior to Christmas and are then asked to write thank you letters to Santa.
We arrived in the financial district at the New York Cares office to help screen and compile thank you’s and send them to the specified donors/volunteers who made the wishes come true.
I was amazed at the generosity of some of the donors. Some individuals sent wonderful gifts to whole classes at a time. It was interesting to screen the letters from the children. The notes were very humbling as some had doubts in Santa until this gift. Others were excited to receive their new Nerf gun so they could shoot their cousins or siblings when they were annoying. The saying “kids say the darnest things” was a very true statement today! Almost every one of them were overjoyed with their gift. A few told their stories of their family not all being together or not having enough money for gifts. Although very sad, I am so thankful for this program bringing a smile to young faces. We finished up by 3pm and Olivia and I headed to Stone Street for a late lunch.
Thank you Olivia for sharing in this experience as an honorary Gypsy Giver! If anyone has any questions on New York Cares volunteer opportunities please feel free to ask!