Besides being a much needed break from school, and for some of us, an opportunity to lounge in the warmth of home while consuming copious amounts of stuffed turkey and mashed potatoes, Thanksgiving serves as a reminder to give thanks for all the good that has come our way this year and give back to the community that has contributed to your wellbeing and success.
Whether it’s extending a helping hand to your fellow Columbia students, wider New York City, or even the international community, there are plenty of accessible avenues in the city for you to pay it forward and spread the spirit of giving. Check out these Facebook groups and donation forms to see how you can help fellow Columbia students who are in need of a meal, clothing, or other goods and services.
Barnard College Emergency Points Program
This program, put out by Barnard College and the Student Government Association, collects unused points to provide support to Barnard students experiencing food insecurity this fall. Consider being a part of this initiative to help your fellow Barnard students in need!
How does it work? Simply fill out this Google form to indicate the number of points you want to donate.
Barnard Meal Share and CU Meal Share
These two Facebook groups are platforms for Columbia students to share meal swipes or dining dollars/points, post about free food events, or share leftover or home-cooked meals. Not only do these groups help students to support one another, they prevent your extra swipes and food from going to waste.
How does it work? Simply request to join your school’s respective group, and create a post with the dining hall, day, and time you’re willing to swipe people in.
Barnard Pay It Forward
This Barnard-based Facebook group is a place for students to ask for volunteers to do simple favors or services on days when they’re unable to run errands, such as when they’re sick and physically unable to go out or just having an awful day. These requests and offers include picking up take-out from restaurants and bringing groceries from H-Mart, Morton Williams, Duane Reade, or Trader Joe’s back to campus. Conversely, on a good day, members can offer to do similar favors for others.
How does it work? To offer a service, first join the Facebook group, and then create a post indicating where you’re headed and what groceries you can bring back to campus. To reply to a request, either comment on a volunteer’s post , or private message them.
Buy Sell Trade at Barnard, Columbia University Morningside Buy/Sell, and Columbia University Marketplace
The above Facebook groups are the thriving virtual marketplace of Morningside Heights—you can expect numerous daily listings of clothing, household items, textbooks, and services. In the spirit of Marie Kondo, consider selling things that no longer spark joy for a low price to Columbia and Barnard students living on a budget. And, if you want to make someone’s day, consider giving something away for free to someone in need.
How does it work? Once you’re part of the Facebook group, follow the instructions in it to create a listing including the list price, a description, and a pick-up/drop-off location.
First Year Foodswipes
This new Facebook group, created earlier this fall and administrated by Anna Yokote, BC ’23, draws on the collective force of Columbia student volunteers to collect packaged food items from leftover meal swipes and dining dollars/points, and donate them to Valley Lodge, a transitional housing service for previously homeless elderly, every Saturday night. Granola bars, trail mix, apple sauce, and low-sugar cereal are recommended foods as well as sandwiches and wraps.
How does it work? First, join the Facebook group and fill this form out before every Friday if you intend to help out. The form allows you to indicate what packaged item from Diana, Peet’s Coffee, or Liz’s Place you will be purchasing, and if you can volunteer to assist in food delivery on Saturday night. Otherwise, you can drop off your collected food outside of Brooks 656 in the Barnard Quad.
If you have clothing and household items that have been left collecting dust in the back of your closet and are looking to give back to the wider New York City community and other countries around the world, consider donating your items to these non-profit organizations:
Cure Thrift Shop
A registered 501(c)(3) organization operating in the form of a thrift store, Cure Thrift Shop donates all proceeds to type 1 diabetes research and advocacy. The donated items are cleaned and put on sale at their store downtown.
What can I donate? Clothing, collectible items, housewares, accessories, jewelry, and art.
Where and when can I donate? 11 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003; daily 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Dress for Success
Founded in 1997 with chapters in more than 150 cities in 25 countries, Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organization that helps women to break the cycle of poverty by providing them with the proper professional attire to attend interviews and secure employment. With the goal to “furnish [a woman] with a confidence that she carries forever and the knowledge that she can actively define her life, the direction she takes and what success means to her,'' Dress For Success also provides career counseling sessions including basic interview preparation and mock interviews, with the offer of a week’s worth of professional attire upon successful employment. It is currently accessible to women referred by community agencies including Partnership for the Homeless, Samaritan Village, Veritas, Manhattan EOC Bridge Program, and Project Step. A full list of associated community agencies can be found here.
What can I donate? Business attire including skirts, pantsuits, blouses, slacks, jackets, jewelry, scarves, handbags, and briefcases.
Where can I donate? 32 E 31st Street, Suite 602, NYC 10016
When can I donate? The third Saturday of the month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where do I find out more? Visit their Instagram for more details.
Free The Girls
Free The Girls, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, helps women in Mozambique, El Salvador, and Costa Rica who have been rescued from sex trafficking circumstances to reintegrate into their communities by assisting them in starting their own local business selling second-hand bras and kickstarting their entrepreneurship. Free the Girls has collected 600,000 bras since its founding in 2011. Received donations pass through the Duneland Community Church in Chesterton, Indiana, where they are sorted monthly by volunteers from local volunteers before being shipped annually to the three locations.
What can I donate? Gently used or new bras
Where and when can I donate? There are multiple drop-off locations for 5 bras or less at affiliated stores at Union Square, SoHo, Upper East Side and more—visit their site for detailed information.
Where do I find out more? Check out their Instagram for testimonies and visuals of their impact.
Wearable Collections partnered with GrowNYC
This for-profit organization with a drop-off bin right here at Columbia serves as a gateway for greater access to non-profit organizations by donating a portion of their proceeds to charity partners. Since 2007, they have collected and processed 6.25 million pounds of fabric that is either shipped to emerging markets throughout the world or shredded to produce low-grade fiber products.
What can I donate? Clean and dry clothing, paired shoes, linens, handbags, belts, and other reusable textiles. Avoid fabric rolls or scraps of any size, rugs, carpeting, pillows, comforters, or luggage.
Where and when can I donate? The Columbia University Greenmarket, open Thursdays year-round 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where do I find out more?
Housing Works was founded in 1990, with a mission “to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts,” according to its website. It operates as a “social enterprise-business” through thrift stores by using their profits as funding for the not-for-profit, parent organization. This organization advocates for increased funding and legislation for people living with HIV/AIDS to improve access to quality housing and healthcare. It also provides meals and nutritional counseling, mental health and substance use treatment, job training, and legal assistance to homeless New Yorkers affected by HIV/AIDS. A donation such as a designer dress that sells for $75 can provide three weeks of hot meals for a homeless HIV+ mother and her child, and an armchair that raises $400 can pay for two weeks of supportive housing for a client who badly needs a stable home.
What can I donate? Gently used clothing, furniture, jewelry and accessories, handbags, art and decor, housewares, and lighting. You can also donate books, CDs, DVDs, and LPs to their Bookstore Cafe.
Where can I donate? Housing Works branches are located in Soho, Chelsea, West Village, Columbus Avenue, Gramercy, Hell’s Kitchen, Upper West Side, and Upper East Side in Manhattan, in addition to several locations in Brooklyn. Their Bookstore Cafe hosts free and low-cost events, and is open to donations from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends. Consult their website for a complete and up-to-date list of locations and operating hours!
The Harlem Dress Collective
With a mission of “recreating the secretive and stressful tradition of preparing for prom and making it a glamorous community experience,” the Harlem Dress Collective, founded by Harlem natives Zina and Shaleena Campbell, collects prom dresses, shoes, and accessories to give out for free to Harlem graduating seniors via an annual giveaway in hopes of creating a prom experience free from financial woes.
What can I donate? Gently used prom dresses, gowns, shoes, and accessories. You can also donate your services, such as make-up and styling, by signing up with this form and contacting the collective.
Where can I donate? Neighborhood Women’s Collective, 2494 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10030
When can I donate? Aug. 10 to April 20 of each year, open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and until 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Do consider taking these small steps to help someone in need—a little goes a long way, and you might just make someone else’s Thanksgiving a lot warmer. And if you’re in need of help, don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family or some of these Facebook groups above; there are plenty of people who want to get you through tough times.