A guide to giving back this holiday season

(Photo by Joel Muniz/Courtesy of Unsplash)

By Toni Baraga
Boston University News Service

As the holiday season fast approaches, shelters, food pantries and organizations across the Boston area encourage community members to give back by participating in a variety of fundraising and food collection events. 

This year, nonprofits face a number of obstacles including food supply chain shortages, rising costs and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which put 1 in 3 nonprofits across the nation in danger of closure.

While many organizations shuttered in-person volunteering and fundraising events last year during the height of the pandemic, this year volunteers and nonprofit staff are promoting a number of drives and volunteering opportunities around the city. 

Below is a list of organizations around Boston that are hosting events, as well as ways to get involved. 

Community Servings: Pie in the Sky and Blizzard Box

Self-proclaimed as the “world’s greatest bake sale,” Pie in the Sky is an annual fundraiser hosted by Community Servings for nearly three decades. The fundraiser relies on pie donations from local businesses that volunteers sell for $30 each, which equals the cost of a week of meals for immunocompromised individuals. The sale started in October and ended on Monday, Nov. 22. The pies will be distributed on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at a number of sites across the city. 

Community members can still get involved, however, by looking ahead to their second annual “Blizzard Box” fundraiser, which involves packaging and delivering a week’s worth of pantry-safe goods along with recipes. The fundraiser will start on Dec. 3 and last through Dec.17. The organization is currently searching for volunteers to help assemble the boxes, as well as donations. 

Community Servings’ mission is to provide medically-tailored meals created by dietitians for individuals affected by life-threatening illnesses and their caretakers. The organization was established over three decades ago and currently serves up to 1,800 clients. 

The Greater Boston Food Bank: Power of 5

This year the Greater Boston Food Bank is promoting a social media campaign called “Power of 5,” which provides community members five different ways to support the organization for the holiday season. 

The five ways include donating $25 to feed a family, posting a pre-made or self-made graphic of a hand turkey on social media, encouraging five friends to share the organization’s cause, gathering friends and family to create a fundraising team and volunteering at local hunger-relief agencies. 

Additionally, the organization just launched its annual Holiday Meal Drive, which encourages online donations from community members to help provide 45,000 meals for families in up to 190 places around Eastern Massachusetts.   

The Greater Boston Food Bank partners with over 600 agencies to help distribute healthy meals across Eastern Massachusetts. Headquartered in South Boston, the organization provides an online inventory system for partnering agencies to place food orders. The orders are housed in the organization’s warehouse while they await distribution. 

AHOPE: Mass and Cass Holiday Meals

Created by Brendan Little, the former Policy Director for Boston’s Office of Recovery Services, the Mass and Cass Holiday Meals fundraiser seeks to host a Thanksgiving dinner for more than 150 clients. The event is set to take place on November 23 and Little is currently looking for donations to help cater the dinner. 

Traditionally, AHOPE staff cook the Thanksgiving meal. This year, however, Little seeks to have the meal catered after the team suffered devastating member losses, according to Little’s GoFundMe.

AHOPE (Access, Harm Reduction, Overdose Prevention and Education) is part of the Boston Public Health Commission’s harm reduction program and is also a site for safe needle exchange. The program provides a range of services for any active injection drug users, including STI testing and treatment as well as risk reduction and overdosing prevention educational services.

ABCD: Holiday Meals

Action for Boston Community Development, or ABCD, is currently seeking donations to fund holiday meals, which are available for pickup at a number of sites around Boston. The holiday meals include food baskets, turkeys and other holiday meal supplies and will be available from mid-November to the end of December. 

In addition to donations, the organization is encouraging community members to host food and winter supplies drives in their local neighborhoods. 

 ABCD works to help transition people from poverty to stability. According to their website, the organization was founded as a part of the Community Action Network after the passage of the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act, which was created to improve the lives of Americans by addressing local needs. 

Middlesex United Way: Thanksgiving Project

Middlesex United Way is hosting their annual Thanksgiving Project, which provides Thanksgiving meals to families in need. The organization is seeking volunteers as well as monetary donations to fund up to 1,250 Thanksgiving baskets. The pickup site is located at Fellowship Church in Middletown, Connecticut and the organization will distribute the baskets on Nov 24. 

According to the Middlesex United website, “support has never been more needed,” and donations are highly encouraged.   

Middlesex United Way serves 15 different towns in Middlesex County and seeks to improve education, health, housing and financial stability of community members.

Project Bread

For the month of November, all donations to Project Bread up to $5000 will be matched by a long-time supporter of the organization. Project Bread is seeking to raise $50,000 for hunger relief and has currently raised $3,697. Donations can be made through their website

Project Bread provides families with money for groceries and healthy meal options for children year-round, as well as counseling to help navigate food insecurity options. 

Haley House

While Haley House is not promoting a special event for the holidays, volunteers encourage community members to show support during this upcoming season, especially on days surrounding the actual holidays. 

“It’s great that people feel enthusiastic about volunteering on holidays,” said Libby Federici, a live-in community member and volunteer for the Haley House. “I also think that there are 364 other days of the year when nonprofits and direct service organizations and homeless folks in your neighborhood really need your help.”

The Haley House soup kitchen will be open longer on Thanksgiving Day, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Additionally, Federici encourages individuals to donate winter supplies, such as hats, coats, socks and gloves.

The Haley House seeks to help individuals achieve economic independence and has two locations. The first is a dedicated soup kitchen and live-in community located in the South End. Their other location, found in Dudley Square, is a cafe and catering service and provides a transitional employment program.

Allston & Brighton Community Fridges

This December, Allston & Brighton Community Fridges is partnering with BU’s Urban Garden Initiative to host a food and winter supplies drive. According to volunteer Megan Ramette, the organization is looking to collect canned goods and kitchen staples, such as eggs, oils, milk and butter. While the event has yet to be announced, the drive is scheduled to start on Dec. 1 and run through Dec. 17. 

Allston & Brighton Community Fridges was founded in October of 2020 and is one of many community fridge organizations around Boston. They have fridges at two locations, Brighton Allston Congregational Church on Washington St. and Oliver’s Deli on Faneuil St. 

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