The holidays is a season to look forward to presents, food and spending time with those we love, but it is also the time to give thanks for what we have and to help the less fortunate. This is why every year millions of Americans volunteer to help others in any way they can. In 2010, 62.8 million adults volunteered almost 8.1 billion hours in local and national organizations, and the service was valued at almost $173 billion! Imagine how many lives were changed, and how many more we can change in 2012.

This year I participated in the Thanksgiving week event at the Bowery Mission. Founded in 1879 by Alfred Ruliffson, it currently serves more than 900 meals each day of the year. We arrived at 227 Bowery St. around 9AM and sat around one of the round tables, to wait for the rest of that day’s volunteers to arrive. Many of them had volunteered at the organization in previous years and related their past experiences while drinking their cup of coffee. The day starts with a small tour and when we get to the century old chapel we learn the history and the goals of the organization. Then we go into the kitchen, where each day’s meal is prepared from scratch with lots of food donated from local grocery stores and supermarkets. On Thanksgiving Day thousands of people come to spend the day and eat their meal at the Mission.

The Bowery Mission does not only provide food to hungry New Yorkers, it also serves as a shelter to more than one hundred men and women, who can stay at the shelter for more than one year as part of their Recovery Program and they also have an emergency shelter that keeps around 80 people warm during the winter. The recovery program consists in helping these individuals to go back out into the world. They first provide them with therapy and counseling,  and then job training, together with doctor appointments, haircuts and warm clothes that helps them lead a productive and healthy life when they leave the shelter.

If you have been thinking about ways to volunteer and give back, The Bowery Mission would be a great place to start since it will provide you with exceptional experience that will help you appreciate more what you have and will make you more sensitive to the needs of others. If you are interested in volunteering or making any donations visit at www.bowery.org today. If you are not located in New York City, and want to see what volunteering opportunities there are in your local community visit one of these sites to find ways you can give back this holiday season:

http://www.volunteermatch.org/

http://www.voa.org/

http://www.volunteer.gov/gov/

 

No one should go hungry during the holidays, everyone deserves a warm place to sleep, with food on the table and people around them who care. Let’s do what we can to help those in need.  I wish everyone a happy holiday.