Pay It Forward

Giving to friends and family is wonderful. But if you’d like to extend your good tidings to the less fortunate as well, here are some ways to get started:

Oh, Henry: Henry Street Settlement--a century of good works.Photo: Kate Lacey

This Lower East Side group has been doing good works for more than a century. Serving a largely Asian and Hispanic community, its services include a mental-health clinic, a shelter for battered women, an arts center, and day-care centers. Volunteer as a tutor, a computer programmer, a job coach, or a teacher’s assistant. A contribution of $1,000 sends a child to summer camp. 212-766-9200;

This food-distribution program helps feed more than 1.5 million people per year citywide. Pitch in at the group’s Hunts Point warehouse preparing nonperishables collected from food drives for distribution, or volunteer at a local soup kitchen (call for a location near you). Through January, shop at A&P, Pathmark, Shop Rite, and Whole Foods, and $5 added to your grocery bill will provide a family of four with dinners for a week or more. 212-566-7855;

This organization funds more than 100 programs to prevent poverty and aid the poor, from food banks to HIV/aids organizations to youth groups. The group’s board (Harvey Weinstein and Gwyneth Paltrow are members) covers operating expenses, so all funds donated go straight to those in need. 212-227-6601;

SSP selects students from low-income families and transfers them from high schools with low graduation rates to schools with high ones (nineteen of the twenty participating institutions are Catholic). Sponsors pay an average of $2,200 toward the typical yearly tuition of $4,200 per child and spend time with the students four to six times a year. So-called Time Sponsors can donate $250 and meet with a child regularly. SSP alums have gone on to study at schools like Cornell, Boston College, and Duke. 212-986-9575;

Founded by George Polsky, a former Harvard (class of ’92) squash-team captain, this group combines tutoring with the tony racquet sport. Volunteers spend one afternoon a week at the Harvard Club or Columbia University teaching reading, math, and the like to Harlem middle-school and high-school students, followed by an hour of squash. (Volunteers can help academically, athletically, or both.) Volunteers are needed to chaperone a December 5 squash tournament inMamaroneck. 212-949-4030;

Dog Lacey:Photo: Kate Lacey

With a donation of $30 or more to this 100-year-old animal-advocacy group, you can relocate a puppy or a kitten from an animal-control center to a “safe” shelter. If you have a friendly dog or cat, take him to cheer up a client at one of the 50 facilities participating in the “pet therapy” program, including Lenox Hill and St. Vincent’s hospitals, Cabrini and Florence Nightingale Nursing Homes, and the Rivington House AIDS Residence. 212-532-6395;

A donation to this food-delivery program helps pay for the more than 2.2 million nutritious meals the group provides each year to low-income and homebound people. If you’d prefer to give time rather than money, help deliver food on the weekends or visit with a Citymeals client. 212-687-1234;

Join this educational group’s Core Program and conduct one-on-one or small-group in-school tutorials (a minimum of two hours a week during the academic year is required) for academically underperforming kids, grades kindergarten through 12, at one of 850 participating public schools. Or opt for the Art Works program—volunteers take third-graders to the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (a crash course in either museum or arts education for children takes four hours and you’ll have to commit to leading six one-hour tours). 212-213-3370;

A contribution of $2,500 sends a teenager from an overseas trouble spot to the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Otisfield, Maine. In addition to soccer, swimming, and the like, the campers—Jews and Palestinians, Indians and Pakistanis—participate in conflict-resolution sessions to learn how to settle differences peacefully (kids from traditionally hostile groups even bunk in the same cabin). If $2,500 is beyond your budget, smaller donations are welcome. 212-573-8040;

Celebrated artists including director Julie Taymor, composer Eliott Goldenthal, and architect Ricardo Scofidio all have the NYFA to thank, at least in part, for their success. Founded in 1971, the group provides nascent New York artists in sixteen disciplines, from literature to the performing arts, with financial backing and publicity. Donations help provide services and fellowships to more than 150 New York artists. 212-366-6900;

Since 1984, this intensive sixteen-week job-readiness program has been preparing adults living on public assistance to achieve self-sufficiency. More than half of the participants don’t have high-school diplomas, and a majority are thirtysomething single moms studying to pass the GED. Volunteers can conduct one-on-one tutorials (GED-related or not) for two hours a week for twelve weeks (the time and location are flexible), or lead one-time-only classes on anything from World Lit and PowerPoint to résumé writing and job interviewing. 718-852-9307, extension 26;

As a member of the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital and a creator of the pink-ribbon breast-cancer-awareness program, cosmetics executive Evelyn H. Lauder founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993. A recent round of $14.5 million in grants will fund clinical and genetic research on breast cancer, including trials for new drug treatments and research projects in vaccine development. The group’s medical advisory board ensures that your donations go to worthy proposals. 866-FIND-A-CURE;

A Star Is Born: A rehersal at the All-Stars Project.Photo: Kate Lacey

Rapper and actor Mekhi Phifer (8 Mile) is an alum of this group, which introduces low-income kids to the performing arts by staging talent shows and other productions. Volunteers help recruit kids ages 5 to 25 from neighborhoods like Harlem, Coney Island, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the South Bronx for auditions and help produce shows. A new performing-arts center opening this month on West 42nd Street—host to three theaters, a costume shop, a wood shop, and classroom and office space—was made possible in part by donations. 212-941-9400;

In addition to providing major disaster relief (9/11, the ’03 blackout), the Red Cross also responds to an average of eight smaller local emergencies a day, from building collapses to fires. Donations go to the disaster-relief fund, which pays for food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities provided to victims. At the New York Chapter, volunteers teach disaster-response workshops and other health and safety classes. The group’s Language Bank also seeks volunteers to interpret during crises. 877-RED-CROSS, extension 2067;

This nonprofit education group allows teachers to post funding requests on their Website, asking for anything from a new library to a new playground to First Aid mannequins. Access the proposals and fund them, partially or in full. The school then buys the materials you paid for and sends you photos of how the project materialized and thank-you notes from the students. 212-239-3615;

Started by the actor in 2000, shortly after he announced he had Parkinson’s, the foundation has funded $30 million in research. One current focus is a $1 million program designed to find genetic links to the disease. Eighty-five percent of all monies donated go directly to research. 212-509-0995;

Teach English and American-culture classes at this language-learning center in Chelsea, where students are foreign-born newcomers to New York (a standard commitment is two hours a week for six months). Volunteers are needed for written and conversational instruction. Donations help fund scholarships for the neediest students. 212-255-9555;

This organization is dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender senior citizens. Volunteers accompany seniors to medical appointments, shopping trips, and other daily outings and teach classes on everything from dramatic writing to low-impact aerobics or keep homebound seniors company. 212-741-2247;

On Saturdays, volunteers teach computer basics to students and parents from low-income, public middle schools (morning and afternoon sessions are available). Each student works on his or her own computer during instruction, then takes the donated computer home. Computer donations must be made in bulk (minimum 50). 212-563-7300;

Featuring hip-hop, graphic-design, and fine-arts programs, Art Start targets low-income and homeless youth. Volunteers, many of whom are professional artists, lead classes in their area of expertise, from drumming to short-story writing. Earmark funds specifically for an anticipated 24-hour safe-haven arts center, and add your name to a donor list that includes Bruce Willis and Russell Simmons. 800-224-0990;

Pay It Forward