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Queens Chronicle

Spread cheer to those who need it most

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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:16 am, Wed Nov 27, 2013.

Thanksgiving is a time to be appreciative for the things you have. It is a kickoff to the holiday season when all are encouraged to think of their fellow man and give just a little bit more than they normally would.

In fact, many food banks and homeless shelters depend on the holiday season for supplies as people are more likely to donate food and funds now.

In Queens, there are countless ways to show you care and even more organizations looking for donations and volunteers.

One of the larger groups, the River Fund in Richmond Hill, is no longer collecting for Thanksgiving, but after recent cuts to food stamps, the group has seen a drastic uptick in clients.

“Last week we had 700 people and this week, after the food stamps for this month were out, we had 829 people,” Otto Starzmann from the River Fund said.

So if you bought a few too many cans of cranberry sauce or vegetables, don’t throw them away or leave them in your kitchen to gather dust.

Instead, gather up those unused food items in a box and bring them to your nearest food pantry.

Nonperishable food and canned items are the norm when it comes to donations and places like the River Fund are in need now more than ever.

Though food is always needed throughout the year, with the upcoming holidays many groups are also asking for toy donations for children in the neighborhood.

Hillside House in Jamaica works with children 12 and under and is asking for baby and toddler toy donations. Items such as walkers, formula and diapers are also in high demand.

The River Fund has the direct opposite problem; it often lacks gifts for older children and teenagers.

“Many people think school-aged children when they think of donating but we obviously can’t give a 14-year-old a stuffed bear,” Starzmann said.

In fact, many food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens find themselves overloaded with a particular item. It is important to give organizations a call and ask what they are in most need of.

Some sought-after items may never have occurred to you.

The Hillside House caters to many women in the area, so they are always in need of lotion, deodorants, feminine hygiene products and other toiletries.

Hillside House and the River Fund are also in need of volunteers, though the former requires a background check as the group works with children.

If the River Fund or Hillside House is too far from your home, all registered food pantries can be found in one place at foodpantries.org.

Just click on “New York” and then “Queens” and almost 70 pantries all over the borough come up.

Of course the citywide food pantries, including Meals on Wheels and the Food Bank Association of New York State, are also options.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) is among those encouraging everyone to seriously consider giving back to those less fortunate.

“Thanksgiving is the beginning of the winter holiday season and as we give thanks for the good tidings in our lives, I ask New Yorkers to come together and give so that those less fortunate can also enjoy a warm and healthful holiday,” Stavisky said.

“Especially in light of the devastating typhoon in the Philippines, I also ask New Yorkers to consider giving a helping hand to those in need around the world as well as our friends and neighbors here at home.”

Gawad Kalinga, New York Community Bank and the American Red Cross are all taking donations to aid those affected by the storm in the South Pacific.

Queens food pantries
To find a food pantry or homeless shelter near you, visit:

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