It’s easy to feel overwhelmed on Giving Tuesday with the amount of emails received from good causes, all as worthy as the next. Here at Epicenter, this is where we’re focusing our energy and resources this year:
The biggest donation we make every year, and going back nearly two decades in our affiliation with New York City public schools, is for our kids’ education. This year, I joined the executive board of the Parents Association at my daughter’s middle school and am overseeing the appeal. Giving to your child’s school has never felt more urgent. Mayor Adams’ budget cuts hit schools hard, although he says they target non-classroom positions. Still, schools are complex ecosystems where learning occurs in hallways, main offices, counselor rooms and over lunch. Years ago, when I miscarried, I remember my eldest child sought solace with a lunch aide — we want as many humans enriching and watching for our kids as we can. So I’m cutting the biggest check this year to Wagner Middle School. (Note: Some schools have anonymous donors who offer matches around Giving Tuesday; ask your PA if that’s the case with yours.)
—S. Mitra Kalita, publisher
The last check I wrote was to this nonprofit that helps immigrants in Queens become homeowners or achieve financial security. As you can probably tell from reading our work week after week, Epicenter represents a deep belief in the intertwined nature of wealth creation and social justice. Chhaya CDC has been leading the way on this for quite some time. Disclosure: My father used to volunteer with this organization as a Bengali translator and expert on banking and financial services. A few months ago at an Iftar dinner, someone came up to me and mentioned his work and I was so touched they remembered him. That prompted me to give this year.
—S. Mitra Kalita
This food pantry in Jackson Heights is a literal lifeline for so many people. We have watched the lines grow longer and longer in recent months. We are donating both food and money this holiday season. They are also always looking for volunteers; check with your kids to see if they need to get hours in for school or various honor societies. And check out our previous work about the pantry: on our podcast and a feature on the volunteers.
—S. Mitra Kalita
This year, as I’ve done before, I’m planning to make a donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Journalists are risking their lives to tell us what’s happening in conflict zones around the world. Without them, we’d be in the dark. In the Middle East, for example, CPJ’s investigations showed “at least 42 journalists and media workers were among more than 12,000 killed since the war began on October 7…This deadly toll is coupled with harassment, detentions, and other reporting obstructions in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, and beyond.”
—Paola Singer, copywriter
I love pets. I used to travel to Ecuador and see dogs and cats on the streets begging for food; it used to break my heart but there was very little to do since there were not many organizations to protect their rights and address this problem. In 2010, I learned of an organization called “Camino a Casa” and I started donating money and food every year I traveled there. Now they offer campaigns to spay and neuter pets for free so I sponsor as many pets as I can.
—Adriana Proano, community coordinator
As a graduate of NYC schools, immigrant and proud Queens girl who had to figure out how to finance college, I decided to embark on a special mission for my beloved P.S. 148, a school that gave me lifelong friendships and a teacher who believed in me regardless of my circumstances (shout out to Ms. Minassian who is still teaching at P.S. 148). Thanks to the NYC Kids RISE Save for College program, which provides NYC public school students with 529s plus an initial $100 for their educational future, I am fundraising for the accounts of 184 first- and second-graders. I want these young students to know that there’s a community, including this P.S. 148 alumna, that supports their success. So any contribution will mean the world to me but most importantly will grow along with these students and become a resource that supports their future. Contribute here; deadline is Nov. 30, 2023.
—Carolina Valencia, director of partnerships & communications
We know NYC winters too well, and with the holidays fast approaching , I will be making a contribution to First Baptist Church in East Elmhurst to support their coat and toy drive for the children in the surrounding East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona neighborhoods –- the very neighborhoods that were part of my childhood.
I believe everyone should have access to comprehensive medical and mental health services, especially children. The Children’s Health Fund leads a national network to bring comprehensive healthcare to children growing up in under-resourced communities and advocates for the health and well-being of all children.
—Janelle Zagala, operations manager
Like Mitra and Carolina, I am a forever fan of giving — in any amount — to your family’s schools. Prospect Schools, Montessori Day School of Brooklyn, and PS 9, Sara Smith Garnet School have indelibly shaped my kids’ lives. The good people and great kids at Central Queens Academy will also always be at the top of my list for their hustle, hard work, and heart.
—Suyin So, senior advisor
Slightly farther afield, I’m privileged to volunteer with two high-impact organizations, Power of 2, which deploys trauma-informed and evidence-based parent coaching to families during the critical period of birth to 3 years old, and Chinese-American Planning Council, a health and social services organization rooted in Manhattan’s Chinatown that has served NYC’s Asian American and immigrant community since 1965.
When I lived in New York City, one of the best parts of my week was going to the ACC’s East Harlem location where I volunteered to walk dogs — admittedly, as much for myself as for the animals. ACC is the only open-admission shelter system serving the five boroughs, which means they accept all dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs, regardless of age, temperament etc. It’s also where I ended up adopting my dog, Bella. 2023 has been a particularly challenging year for the shelter, as they’ve dealt with overcrowding, some of which can be attributed to the pause in spay-and-neuter programs that took place during the pandemic. The three ACC shelter locations — in Staten Island, Manhattan and Brooklyn (another shelter is set to open in Queens in 2024, and one more in the Bronx in 2025) took in about 4,500 cats and 2,429 dogs during the first half of this year, far more than in the same period in 2022. In addition to a monetary donation, you can also become a shelter volunteer, or a dog or cat foster (they’re currently seeking holiday fosters). You can also follow ACC on Instagram, where they will often solicit items like used bedding or towels. And as always, if you’re in the market for a pet, consider adopting.
-Danielle Hyams, editorial manager
I have fond memories of briefly volunteering at Women for Afghan Women in NY years ago — from the English language learners’ laughter during classes, to the camaraderie and gossip in and out of women’s circle, and the site leaders with a glint in their eye and warmth in their tone. These were women seeking a safe space and a path to empowerment through English language proficiency and community. Just as we shouldn’t, even after the headlines have stopped, forget what’s happening right now in the Middle East, it’s so important to remember and help support displaced people in our neighborhoods, including families who continue to be affected by the 2021 Taliban takeover.
—Ambar Castillo, community reporter
Food insecurity in our area seems to be skyrocketing, with pantry lines longer than I have ever seen them. Make The Road New York went above and beyond to reach people in need who did not have the capacity to get to the lines. I was part of a volunteer team called the Bike Brigade, delivering MRNY’s food packages by bicycle to those unable to reach the physical location. MRNY also makes an impact on the community through in many other ways, pushing for policy change, providing free legal services and advocating on behalf of immigrant and working-class people of color.
—Nitin Mukul, artistic director
The Bronx River Alliance is an amazing organization in the Bronx working to protect and restore the Bronx River. Their goal is to achieve a fishable and swimmable river and they’ve made amazing strides since they began 20 years ago. Additionally, they help coordinate construction of the Bronx River Greenway, giving Bronxites riverside bike paths so they can ride along the waterfront. The Bronx is the least healthy county in all of New York State, so having access to outdoor spaces is essential.
—Nicole Perrino, schools reporter
Summertime in Brooklyn is on a mission to reshape the art world, creating a space that connects neurodiverse artists with the people and world around them, providing a platform to hekp them tell their stories, show their work, seek mentorship and make money. What’s truly inspiring is Summertime’s vision to one day eliminate the necessity for labels such as “artists with intellectual disabilities” or “neurodiverse artists” and rather refer to everyone exactly as they are — artists. They aim to break down the barriers that have marginalized artists with intellectual disabilities, ushering in a world where creativity knows no bounds. Summertime is more than a gallery; it’s a celebration of joy, respect, and endless possibilities. Shop prints, shirts, and other goodies or donate directly to the cause. Join me in backing Summertime’s vision to revolutionize the art world — one masterpiece at a time.
—Danny Laplaza, community manager
Where are you giving this year? Let us know in the comments!