If there is one thing, we can all agree on is, this year has been like no other. Throughout almost all of 2020, things have looked a bit different and this holiday season is no exception.

 

As we brace for a potential second wave of COVID-19 shutdowns here in New York City, independent businesses, along with the local eateries, have shifted the way in which they operate. They have faced profound challenges throughout the year and have all had to creatively come up with different strategies to stay afloat.

 

Operating a lot differently than they’re used to has been tough, especially during the holiday season. With so much uncertainty looming ahead, it is extremely important to continue supporting the people and places we enjoy frequenting year-round.

 

Along with making customers happy, the locally owned businesses play a huge role in the economy as well as the community, moving both forward in a positive way. The success of one local business can have a trickle effect – if a business is doing well, they’ll need to hire additional staff or employees, and in turn, will look towards the community to fill those roles.

 

When shopping local, over 65 percent more of the dollar stays right in the local community compared to shopping online. Supporting these types of businesses helps keep stores open and their employees employed. Another reason why it’s important to support our local “neighbors.”

 

As we focus in on the good we can do as a community, we can support our local shops, even if it’s in a slightly different way then we’re used to. If you’re wondering how, consider some of the following ideas:

 

 

As we are days away from the holiday, there is still time to grab those last-minute gifts. Brooklyn neighborhoods are bustling with local shops and we’re sharing just a small sample of what the borough has to offer:

 

In addition to grabbing gifts (or even something for yourself) from these and other independent shops, remember to also check out your local eateries. Whether you’re looking for a meal for two, catering for a bit more guests, in search of some delicious desserts, coffees, or teas, check out some of these local spots:

 

As we close out a year that has been difficult for so many people, remember we can help make a difference by choosing small businesses.

With every holiday season comes the opportunity to spread love and cheer by giving back to the local citizens in our community. For many people, the holidays are a difficult time of year, and as a result of the current health crisis, 2020 has been especially hard on our neighbors who are experiencing poverty, hunger, and even homelessness.

 

We’ve also seen many families separated, loved ones in nursing homes isolated, unable to receive visitors, and the elderly who live alone are unable to leave their homes. This holiday season, helping those in need is more important than ever. Without our volunteers, so many of the programs available would not be possible. Whether it’s helping to pack or deliver meals, donating blood, even contributing a monetary donation, every giving gesture counts.

 

Becoming a volunteer brings about an opportunity to connect with people in your neighborhood and leaves you with a sense of purpose. It also brings a sense of teamwork and camaraderie to an organization. Giving back to others happens all year round, but the holidays are always a good time to take stock in all that you have been afforded and to pay it forward. Seeing the smiles on the faces of your neighbors or someone you’ve only just met is priceless; knowing an act of kindness is going to bring joy to another human is a gift unto itself.

 

Every city has its own volunteer opportunities, and here in Brooklyn there are many ways in which residents can give back to their community.

 

Whether you’re a first-time volunteer or someone who gives back often, we’ve put together a list of local organizations who can greatly use your help, especially during this upcoming holiday season.

ChiPs – Since around 1971, this Brooklyn soup kitchen and homeless shelter for young women and their infants has been supported by a community of neighbors, friends, and volunteers, all looking to give back to those in need.

 

Due to the current health crisis, in-person volunteer opportunities are on a very limited basis with strict requirements put in place. Despite the changes, takeaway meals will be handed out on Thanksgiving Day between the hours of 11:30am – 2pm for those in need of a hot holiday meal.

Heart of Dinner – Co-Founders and romantic partners, Moonlyn Tsai, a NYC based chef and restaurateur, and Yin Chang, actor and founder of the podcast, 88 Cups of Tea, launched the #LOVINGCHINATOWN Covid-19 relief initiative to counter the racism and isolation the Asian-American immigrant elderly have been experiencing throughout the pandemic.

Hot meals, along with care packages that include fresh produce and pantry essentials along with bulk essentials are provided on a weekly basis to those in need, with a heavy focus on the homebound elderly in Chinatown, Brooklyn, and Queens.

 

Included with the deliveries are handwritten notes written in Chinese and Korean and brown bags illustrated with messages of love and support. To aid in the relief efforts, volunteers can get involved by donating, delivering meals, illustrating brown bags, and supplying heartfelt notes.

Neighbor’s Together – This Brooklyn-based soup kitchen provides food and social services five days a week and is committed to ending hunger and poverty in some of  Brooklyn’s lower income neighborhoods.

 

This holiday season, they’ve launched their annual “Thirty Thanksgivings Campaign” which raises funds for meals served between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. All of the donations made between now and December 31st will help provide more than 1,500 healthy meals to neighbors each week. In addition, all donations made to the campaign on Giving Tuesday will be matched.

 

On Thanksgiving Day, a celebratory holiday meal will be offered. As a result of COVID-19, all meals are currently served “to-go.”

 

New York Cares – Since 1987, New York Cares has been mobilizing volunteers in response to pressing community needs. Their coat drive initiative has helped to raise more than two million coats. This year they are focusing in on providing coats to communities most affected by the pandemic. With every $20 donated, a new coat is purchased for someone in need.

 

Other volunteer opportunities include packing pantry bags, delivering meals for seniors, etc, all which can be found on their website

Maimonides Medial Center – Along with other medical centers throughout the borough, hospitals are another great place to consider both donating and volunteering your time. While they are the largest hospital in Brooklyn, Maimonides, located in Borough Park, has many different opportunities to get involved.

 

Along with monetary donations to various programs within the hospital, some additional ways in which local residents can contribute is through blood donations (temporary shortages are not uncommon during the holiday season), plasma donations, as well as supplies and other needed equipment.

 

If you’d like to contribute to Maimonides, or any other hospital in Brooklyn, the best place to find information on what is needed and how you can get involved is on their website.

Rescue City – During this time, it’s important that we also remember our four-legged friends who are always in need of support, not just at the holidays.

 

In an effort to protect the dogs who are abandoned and abused, Brooklyn-based rescue group, “Rescue City,” works tirelessly to place loving pups in their “fur-ever” home. Their mission is to save the lives of dogs in desperate need wherever they are located and to spread public awareness against animal cruelty and overpopulation.

 

In order to achieve their goal, they are always in need of donations to help make their mission a success. Donations can help feed and medically care for the pups until they are adopted. Other volunteer opportunities include lending time to roles that are a bit more “behind the scenes.” To learn more about how you can get involved check out their website.

 

Regardless of whether you decide to get involved by making monetary donations to causes and organizations most important to you or if you’re able volunteer your time in person, being able to help others less fortunate is what the holiday season is truly all about.

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