Volunteers lend a helping hand in United Way of Long...

Volunteers lend a helping hand in United Way of Long Island’s community garden. Credit: United Way of Long Island

The spirit of the holidays inspires giving — not just to loved ones, but to those in need. Whether you want to feed the hungry, sponsor a family or donate food, clothing or toys, there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference on Long Island.

“This is the time of year that we count our blessings,” said Bailey Riekkinen, community engagement specialist for the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless. “When we can share what we have with others, whether it’s our time or items, it makes it even more special.”

Here are some ideas for giving back. You can find more suggestions on the Long Island Volunteer Center’s website, longislandvolunteercenter.org, where you can search for nonprofits by area of interest or name.

Lend a hand

The Book Fairies, a Freeport organization that provides books to under-resourced communities, is just one of the organizations on Long Island that welcomes volunteers. You could assist with a book drive, or you can pack books, donate your own books or collect some from friends.

Many food pantries and soup kitchens also need help this time of year. And from 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 9, the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless in Amityville will host its annual holiday volunteer day, when good Samaritans are needed to sort and organize donated clothing.

Another option is the Family Center for Achievement in Garden City, which provides classes and activities to children and young adults on the autism spectrum. The organization needs volunteers to assist participants during classes.

Sponsor/adopt a person or family

Consider participating in the Spirit of Huntington Art Center’s Holiday Giveback, where for $35 you can sponsor a student with special needs so they can enjoy an art class.

You could also sponsor a child or family through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Long Island’s Holiday for Kids’ Sake Program, in which participants receive a wishlist with three items and some information about the children to help them shop.

The Sunshine Prevention Center in Port Jefferson Station, which offers substance abuse and violence prevention programs, is also seeking sponsors for its holiday gift program. They will provide you with family names, ages and gift ideas for your “adopted family.”

Support a food drive

About 234,000 people on Long Island, including 65,000 children, are food insecure, according to Long Island Cares. Some ways to help are by donating food to a food pantry, soup kitchen or food bank, or contributing to organizations that address hunger, like Island Harvest.

Rise Life Services in Riverside, which operates homes and offers services for people with developmental disabilities, is also seeking food and cash donations for its pantry.

Donate clothing

Winter clothing, particularly coats, is in great demand. The INN, a Hempstead organization serving the homeless and hungry, will accept gently used clothing.

The Ethical Friends of Children, an outreach program of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island in Garden City, also needs clothing in good condition to distribute, as well as infant furniture.

Toys, toys, toys

Unwrapped toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program can be dropped off at:

  • 700 Hicksville Rd., Bethpage, Monday-Friday, 9-3 p.m.
  • 605 Stewart Ave., Garden City, Monday-Friday, 9-3 p.m.
  • 2055 Sunrise Hwy., Bay Shore, Monday-Friday, 9-6 p.m.

The John Theissen Children’s Foundation is also holding a toy drive to benefit sick and underprivileged children. Unwrapped toys can be brought to the office at 1492 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh.

Plan your own giveback activity

Want to organize a holiday drive? Decide which organization you want to work with and find out what it needs most. See if the organization can provide you with a collection box and send you a flyer to help publicize the drive. Then, rally your neighbors, co-workers, friends and relatives to donate to the cause.

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