If you’re wondering how to give back to the Harlem/ NYC community this holiday season, here are some options.

This holiday season is unique. Many of us can’t (and shouldn’t, according to the CDC) travel for Thanksgiving. Many can’t be with loved ones, and even if they could safely travel, likely do not have the money to spare for it. According to the Pew Research Center, “one-in-four adults have had trouble paying their bills since the coronavirus outbreak started, a third have dipped into savings or retirement accounts to make ends meet, and about one-in-six have borrowed money from friends or family or gotten food from a food bank.” Further, many people have lost loved ones and family: according to the Covid Tracking Project, on November 23, there were 151,000 new cases of COVID-19, 956 deaths, and 85,836 people were hospitalized, setting a new record for the 14th consecutive day. As students of Columbia, we have to recognize our privilege we have when occupying the Harlem and the greater New York communities that the university has disrupted and taken so much from. Here is a non-exhaustive list of places and ways to donate to this holiday season, please consider donating to one or all. 

Hungarian Pastry Shop and Cathedral Community Cares: Everyone’s favorite pastry shop right by campus will donate every dollar they make to The Cathedral of St. John the Divine’s Cathedral Community Cares (CCC) program. Hungarian’s Facebook states that you can pay what you wish, where any money spent will be going to CCC. CCC’s mission is to “combat and alleviate poverty through preventive poverty services, education, and advocacy–specifically targeting the issues of health and hunger. CCC tackles these problems on multiple fronts by addressing the immediate and beyond-emergency needs of the underserved while seeking long-term policy solutions that will benefit both clients and the greater community.” CCC has a soup kitchen on Sundays from 10 am- 3 pm that serves without regard to age, gender, race, income, or denominational affiliation. They also have a clothing closet on Sundays from 10 am-12 pm and they are in need of coats, jackets, and sneakers. Their drop-offs are open Monday through Friday from 9 am- 6 pm. They also offer an after-school and child care program and help guide people through the emotional toll of COVID-19. You can also directly donate to CCC if you are not currently in New York.

Harlem United: Harlem United works to provide housing, high-quality healthcare, 3000+ free HIV tests annually, and supportive services like care coordination, food pantry,  and vocational education, to Harlem residents. You can donate here or sign up to volunteer here.

Mutual Aid NYC: Mutual aid is one of the most effective ways to directly make a difference. Mutual aid is a form of community care as you are helping ensure people’s basic survival needs are met. Unlike “charity” which can be used as a way for rich people to make themselves look better or have a lot of stipulations as to who can receive the money, mutual aid is different in that it is direct and the process is transparent. Here is a list by Mutual Aid NYC. They also have a Students Helping Students CU is a student-run mutual aid fund that will help financially assist Columbia undergraduates who have had their lives disrupted by COVID-19. Another mutual aid fund is the Upper Manhattan Mutual Aid Fund. You can financially donate to them on their givebutter or through their Venmo at @ummanyc. You can donate your time to deliver groceries, making calls, sewing masks, flyering, doing outreach, and more by signing up here.

Broadway Community: Located on 114th and Broadway, Broadway Community has a soup kitchen, a food pantry, provides shelter, showers, and clothing, as well as health care for houseless members of the community. They are looking for volunteers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 am- 2 pm. They will also take donations both online and in person. You can also sign up for their newsletter to keep up with new opportunities and updates.

These are just a few possible places to donate to. Our efforts should be a continual, year-long effort and lifelong commitment to better the communities we occupy, instead of something done just over the holiday season. Continue to be COVID-19 safe and donate when and where you can.

New York Skyline via Wikimedia Commons