While You’re in the Giving Mood

Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1. Food Bank
Why they’re hurting: Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers used to hold corporate volunteering days at the Food Bank’s 90,000-square-foot warehouse in Hunts Point. “Now we’ve lost that entire network,” says spokeswoman Carol Schneider. Meanwhile, the number of people who need the Food Bank’s services is rapidly rising. “I just got an e-mail from the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger,” says Schneider. “They’ve seen 1,200 people in the last two days. At least 50 of the families are completely new.”

What you can do: A donation of $1 at foodbanknyc.com translates into five meals. The group also relies heavily on volunteers to unpack and sort food donations and serve weekday meals at the community kitchen in East Harlem. E-mail Heather Joseph (hjoseph@foodbanknyc.org) to help.

2. Citymeals on Wheels
Why they’re hurting: The fall of Bear Stearns and several generous hedge-fund donors has taken a huge toll. “Altogether, we’ve lost $1.286 million this year. That’s about 200,000 meals,” says executive director Marcia Stein. While volunteers are always needed, what the charity really could use is more cash. “We need to make up losses in a time when food costs are rising by more than 7 percent.”

What you can do: Donations are the highest priority—each meal costs the organization $6.42—and they can be made at citymeals.org/donate. Volunteer to deliver meals for a day or an afternoon. Or if you’re ready for six-month commitment, sign up for the Friendly Visiting program. You’ll visit a homebound senior once a week for a half-hour, just to check in. For Friendly Visiting, download the volunteer application from the Website and fax it along with two references to 212-687-1296. E-mail volunteer@citymeals.org to help with deliveries.

3. United Way
Why they’re hurting: The organization has long-standing relationships with Fortune 500 companies like Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase, but many have cut back on their annual giving. “Our revenues are down, but our needs are up,” says Steve Kaufman, senior director of community affairs. “For every job lost on Wall Street, an additional 3.3 jobs are lost throughout the state’s economy,” a state of affairs that will undoubtedly affect the low-income communities his group serves.

What you can do: Volunteer for the year-old financial-literacy initiative called “MoneyUp,” which provides families with free financial counseling—opening bank accounts, prioritizing debt, processing tax returns. A brief orientation is required, but a professional financial background is not. The best way to donate is through unitedwaynyc.org; you can choose an “action area” to support and receive monthly e-updates on how your donation is helping. Call Natalia Lopez (212-251-4047) to volunteer.

4. Big Brothers, Big Sisters
Why they’re hurting: Bear Stearns was involved in the charity’s workplace-mentoring program, which brought teenagers into an office twice a month throughout the school year to learn about the professional world. “We have 47 corporations that have managed to stay with us,” says Michael Corriero, director of the New York office. “But if one leaves, that’s ten, fifteen, twenty kids left without a place to go.”

What you can do: The standard workplace program runs the length of the school year and brings teens into the office for four hours a month. If that’s too much commitment, businesses can also run a one-day mentoring program with employees and mentees (a.k.a. “littles”) spending at least two hours together. Individual volunteers can sign up to be paired with a “little” for at least eight hours a month for a year, on any activity they choose together. Volunteers and donors can get involved online at bigsnyc.org. Businesses interested in workplace programs can call 212-686-2042; ask for the workplace-mentoring center.

5. Habitat for Humanity
Why they’re hurting: Volunteers (including many former Bear staffers) are still willing to wield a hammer to build affordable-housing units for Habitat, but it’s the high cost of construction materials that will likely restrain projects. Since 2002, construction costs have shot up $112 per square foot. “It’s so crucial that we get donations,” says executive director Josh Lockwood. “We have a project in Brownsville where there are 8,000 requests for 41 condominiums.”

What you can do: As much as you may want to get out your tool belt, making a donation online at habitatnyc.org will go further. Habitat also accepts donations of tools and building materials. Contact senior project manager Gina Buffone (212-991-4000, ext. 311) to donate tools or materials. The group is not currently taking new volunteers.

Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/Getty Images

6. Children’s Aid Society
Why they’re hurting: Almost every bank in town had a relationship with the 155-year-old organization. Every year, Lehman provided “a very generous five-figure donation,” plus teams of volunteers, says CEO C. Warren Moses. “Only three banks have been able to assure us of their continued support. We are scared to death about what we’re not going to get.”

What you can do: Typically, 70 percent of Children’s Aid’s annual donations pour in during the holiday season. Donations can be targeted to a specific program at childrensaidsociety.org. The college-scholarship program, Excel, is in “terrible straits,” says Moses. College-bound kids are having difficulty getting loans because of the dried-up credit market. Current students who fall behind on their loan payments receive help from Excel “patrons” who assist in paying down loan penalties so the student can work on the loan principle. E-mail Scott McLeod (scottm@childrensaidsociety.org) for more information.

7. God’s Love We Deliver
Why they’re hurting: Several failed Wall Street firms were contributors to the meals-for-the-sick service, providing not just capital but manpower. “Since last year, we’ve had a 20 percent increase in the clients we serve,” says volunteer coordinator Susan Oher. “The one silver lining is that a lot of the [former bankers] have called and asked if they can come back now that they have more time on their hands.”

What you can do: In short, help deliver food. Van expeditions require a full-day commitment, but individuals can also sign up for faster, easier “walking deliveries.” The group is also raising $25,000 for “blizzard boxes,” crates of nonperishable food provided to clients in case delivery is interrupted by winter weather. Call Susan Oher (212-294-8162) or go to godslovewedeliver.org to sign up for a volunteer orientation.

8. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Why they’re hurting: Last year, the charity raised $61 million to support over 200 researchers, fund support groups, and help patients afford their treatment. Among their major donors were Lehman Brothers and Bear Stears. “We’re able to keep our commitments to patients so far,” says executive director Michael Osso. “But we’ve been hit pretty hard.”

What you can do: There’s a pressing need for both donations (made at lls.org) and volunteers for the society’s ambassador program. Ambassadors visit hospital patients to provide emotional support, especially during holiday time, and spread information about programs available to them, including financial aid. Call Zena Moore (212-448-9206, ext. 221) to volunteer.

9. Gilda’s Club
Why they’re hurting: In late August, Lehman Brothers offered the cancer-support organization eighteen volunteers and $500 per project. Obviously that didn’t happen. Plus, “we just found out two weeks ago that we lost the major city grant that we’d received for the last nine years,” says Allison Lurie, director of development. That accounts for a $150,000 shortfall, or 10 percent of the club’s total budget.

What you can do: The group has a loyal base of volunteers, but their numbers are diminishing, as many must pick up extra jobs or second shifts to cover their own expenses. Volunteers are needed to help run art and yoga workshops, help around the office, and keep the club’s living-room-like headquarters in the West Village stocked with snacks. Donate at gildasclub.com. Call Lindsey Fry (212-647-9700) to volunteer.

While You’re in the Giving Mood