As the year-end holidays arrive, Philadelphians approach charity and giving with our distinctive passion and intensity. Our unhoused neighbors (people living on the streets of the city) experience an outpouring of kindness through donations of food, clothing, meals, and hygiene supplies. Parents use the chance to teach their children about giving to others and communities organize to provide necessities inspired by the spirit of the season.
At the Office of Homeless Services (OHS), we deeply appreciate this kindness and concern, and we recognize that government cannot do it alone. We want your contributions to have the biggest impact and help the most people.
This blog provides some tips to make your holiday giving help the most.
Help the organizations that help the people.
Want to make sure that people have enough to eat? There are lots of high impact ways to help that ensure that meals are delicious, nutritious, and get to the people who are hungry. It’s easy to add your time, money, or donations to one of these organized groups. Your help will allow them to reach more people, and it may help them extend past the holiday season when donations typically drop off.
There are two ways to help hungry people: Help make and serve meals or donate food.
“The best way to donate food is to work through one of the organizations listed on our free meals flyer,” said Amara O’Connell, Director of Food Services for OHS. “Call them. Or check their websites. These organizations almost always welcome food donations and will help schedule a drop off or delivery.”
If you want to serve meals, not just donate food, O’Connell again suggested calling the organizations on the list. “Many groups have opportunities for you to volunteer, and that is always better than trying to organize a one-off meal distribution yourself,” she explained.
Donate your time.
Requests to volunteer increase sharply right before Thanksgiving Day. “This time of year, we see requests for volunteers at holiday meal distributions and toy drives,” noted Jillian Lopez, the Volunteer Engagement Manager at the Mayor’s Office of Engagement and Volunteer Service. “The most impactful gifts are one’s time and energy.”
“Whatever your time availability and interests, there is a volunteer opportunity out there for you. If you aren’t sure how to get started, visit the Mayor’s Volunteer Corps portal, where you can search and sign up for the opportunity that’s best for you.
Give money to nonprofits who do the work, day in and day out.
Let’s face it, hunger and homelessness don’t disappear when the snow begins to melt. The outpouring of charity during the Winter is great, but communities need support all year long. The Office of Homeless Services (OHS) works with a network of over 60 partners that are busy 365 days a year.
“Dozens of nonprofits and faith-based groups are providing help and hope through food, housing and services right now. Holiday volunteers and donations are important, but those organizations need your support all year long,” said OHS director Liz Hersh.
“More money translates into more services, more housing, more help. Long after the holidays are over, their work in neighborhoods continues. Consider putting your weight behind theirs.”
Don’t leave meals and food on the street or in parks when you are done giving.
Even good intentions sometimes go awry. Trays of prepared food, uneaten plates, bags of clothing left on the street – no matter how well intentioned – can end up attracting vermin and actually make things worse for people. Nobody wants that.
End up with extras or not sure the best way to help? Below is a list of places to call to make your donation have the biggest impact and help the most people – safely and with dignity. Need more information? Email us at OHS@phila.gov.
Giving is an important holiday tradition, one that City government supports and encourages. At a time of year when Philly’s generous spirt shines bright, it’s important to connect people to giving opportunities that are both impactful and safe. This list is only a sample of the many organizations that accept donations. These are OHS food access partners, that in most cases also offer volunteer opportunities.