Donating locally for the holidays

flower in handsThe holiday season is a time when many people are thinking about giving back.

There are lots of wonderful organizations and worthy causes in the Capital Region, and it can be tough to know where to start. We've put together a list of a few local charities that do some very good work, with details on what they need, what not to send and how you can help.

We're sure you know of some others, so please, add your favorites to the list.

Northeast Parent and Child Society
Northeast Parent and Child Society provides residential services, special education, family foster care, children's mental health, family preservation, and career development programs. 6,300 children, youth and family members from 29 counties turn to Northeast for help each year.

What they need:
Clothing, games, toys, personal care items and household items. Northeast is in the midst of its Holiday Hope Fund.

How you can help:
You can donate or purchase a gift from their wish list online at or you can order a gift from their Wal-Mart gift registry also at can email them for more info at

Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York
The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NYprovides food to pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, day care centers, programs for disabled and other organizations in eastern NY. They serve about 1,000 agencies in 23 counties from New Jersey to the Canadian Border, but they're headquartered in Latham.

What they need:
Donations of food and cash (Director Mark Quandt says he can turn a $1 donation into $10 worth of food). If you're donating food, they need staples - canned meat, prepared foods, beef stew, chili, canned ravioli, chunky soups, cereal(it's expensive but they say they can never have enough), peanut butter, tuna and condiments.

How you can help:
You can bring donations to the warehouse at 965 Albany Shaker Road in Latham. You can organize a food drive at work or school. You can also drop off a donation at Crossgates. The food bank's Holiday Hunger Appeal volunteers are taking donations at the mall from 10 am to 9pm now through Christmas Eve. Each day a different local business will match the donations collected at the mall.

They also need volunteers to staff the mall and pack food at the warehouse.

Shelters of Saratoga
Shelters of Saratoga provide shelter, advocacy and referral services for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. They're developing a mobile outreach program and they help with security deposits and rent for people with low income. They also develop and maintain affordable housing. SOS is the only available shelter in Saratoga, Washington and Warren Counties.

What they need:
Coffee, sugar, creamer, gloves/hats/scarves, snow boots for adults, underwear (male and female and bras in all sizes), socks, toiletries, toilet paper, paper towels, single bed size blankets, juice, Tupperware or other food storage containers, clothing hangers, cleaning products (they can be expensive and folks with new apartments can't buy them with food stamps), batteries, flashlights that don't use batteries, furniture in good condition, home goods. Also, cash is always appreciated.

How you can help:
You can send or drop off donations to 14 Walworth Street, Saratoga Springs 12866 or call them at 518-581-1097. They're open 24/7.

Joseph's House of Troy
Joseph's House is a homeless shelter for men, women and children in Rensselaer County.

What they need:
They don't have room for clothing right now. Cash is always appreciated. They're also in need of personal care items, food, pillows, linens and blankets, toys for children, educational books, housewares, cleaning supplies. Here's a complete list.

How you can help:
You can make a cash donation on their website. You can also drop off or send donations to the attention of Paul Dellio or Tracy Neitezel at Joseph's House, 74 Ferry Street, Troy, NY 12180. Also, this Saturday they'll be selling holiday wreaths at the Victorian Stroll in Troy.

Make-A-Wish of Northeastern New York
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. The Northeastern NY chapter serves the 15 counties in the 518 area code.

What they need:
Cash donations and volunteers.

How you can help:
You can donate online or by mail. Check to see if you work someplace that will match your gift. If you'd like to volunteer, they've got lots of opportunities.

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber


I was surprised to see the first mention was for NE Parent and Child with their recent issue regarding long term political contributions. Still, that doesn't diminish their need for donations especially this time of year.

My NPO of choice is the local animal shelter. Ya see, for the most part, the "animal groups" aren't sophisticated fundraising PR gurus. They aren't people people but their mission is noble. Some of the locals are the Mohawk Humane Society, Whiskers, the AnimallProtective Foundation...and there are tons more.

If you can't donate cash, or even if you can, make this holiday an opportunity to take part in an animal transport. There are many groups across the country moving animals from "kill" areas to "adoption-friendly" areas and those transports move silently through the Capital Region each week. In my opinion, the rescue and transport groups are the most effective animal protective group in the country.

Regular citizens give up a few hours of their week to drive a link in a rescue chain in an "underhound railroad" saving animals from certain death. This is a very rewarding experience so check it out for a weekly "feel good."

You can find a group for local participation at yahoo groups, just search on "rescue and transport" plus "New York." There's a lot of crossposting so often you can join one and they'll find you. Do's fun.

Here's the group I've supported

I have some doubts about donating money via "gift registries" with certain stores (in this case Walmart for the Northeast Parent and Child Society). The T.U. ran a story about a similar "gift registry" for people in the military that had to be spent at Sears. (Note: for some reason purchasing a gift from these "wish lists" at specific stores are not tax deductible for the person doing the donation/purchase. Don't know why--it's a charitable gift, not a personal purchase.)

Personally I'm willing to donate money directly to a charity, but these "gift registries" seem to benefit particular stores. Do those stores give a discount on these purchases or are they making a profit?

Great article and suggestions. Another organization to consider is Adopt-A-Classroom. While this is a national nonprofit, individuals can adopt a classroom or adopt a school locally.

Schools in Albany are listed at All donations are tax-deductible and 100% goes to the teacher.

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