Meets pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service.


When the time comes for wish granting, volunteers take on the role of holiday elves. Find out important dates for the program, how the magic happens, gift suggestions, and much more.

What is Winter Wishes?

Each year, New York Cares partners with hundreds of our Community Partners, including homeless shelters and other deserving nonprofit organizations, to provide holiday gifts for disadvantaged children, teens, and seniors, many of whom would not otherwise receive gifts during the holidays. To accomplish this, we collect and screen more than 40,000 gift requests and send them to volunteers who purchase, wrap, and send the gifts to our partners. NOTE: all of our Community Partners are registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations or public schools registered with the New York City Department of Education.

I don’t keep up with the latest trends in toys and games. How will I know what to buy?

You will receive a letter that contains a specific gift request.  Most requests are for gifts priced $40 or under, not including shipping.  If the request is for a gift priced $40 or more, or proves hard to find, you can refer to our suggested gift lists – for children, teens, and seniors – for ideas. There is no minimum amount you are required to spend. Lastly, please refrain from purchasing gifts that are religious in nature.

I signed up to grant a wish online. Do I have to wait for the physical letter to start shopping or can I see it online?

Volunteer gift givers are matched with their letter 6 to 8 business days of signing up. Once you are matched, you will be able to see the most importation information of your letter (name, age, gender and gift request) on your New York Cares account under Upcoming Projects. You can get a jump on your shopping while waiting for the physical letter to arrive in the mail, which typically takes 3-5 business days after being matched.

Once I get the letter, what happens if I have questions about the request?

Each letter comes labeled with the name and tracking number of the individual who wrote it and the name, number and email address of a contact person at the Community Partner with which they are affiliated. You can reach out to this person with any questions you may have about the gift request.

OK, now I’ve got the gift. Where and when do I send it?

Your letter will include the recipient's first name, delivery address, the delivery date (early December in most cases) and a tracking number.

Please send wrapped gifts directly to the delivery address, and write the recipient's tracking number and first name on the outside of the wrapping paper. Include the same shipping and tracking information when sending gifts purchased online.

Should I mail or hand deliver my gift(s)?

Gifts may be mailed or hand delivered to the agency. New York Cares does not pay for shipping, so please keep this expense in mind. If you personally deliver the gift(s), please deliver during the agency’s open hours. You can find their open hours after clicking Winter Wishes in your “Upcoming Projects” under your New York Cares account.

I’m leading a team for Winter Wishes and I want to make sure everyone gets a gift, but it’s hard to keep track of everything! Have any advice?

Indeed we do! The easiest way to keep track of who on your team is responsible for which letters is to download and use our tracking form.

Is my gift tax-deductible? And can I get a receipt?

Yes and yes! The value of any gift you donate is tax deductible, and you can download a receipt here. Please note: New York Cares does not appraise gifts. Values are assigned by the donor.

My organization is interested in applying for Winter Wishes this year. Can any organization apply?

As our organization continues to evolve in meeting our mission to connect New Yorkers to meaningful volunteer opportunities and to deepen relationships with our existing Community Partners, our outreach efforts for the 2018 Winter Wishes application focus primarily on 2017 Winter Wishes participants and only other New York Cares Community Partners if there is additional capacity. Unfortunately, this means that we do not open a general application for Winter Wishes.

My organization is unable to participate in Winter Wishes this year. How else can we work with New York Cares?

We continue to strive to capture the interests and needs of New York City agencies. Please visit our Nonprofits and Schools page to request future volunteer support or to be placed on our Community Partner wait list to ensure we can reach out once programming becomes available. We also encourage you to refer to this New York City Holiday Drives and Resources document to connect with other gift drives happening in the city. New York Cares is not directly affiliated with these organizations, so please contact the organization listed for more information on their program.

My organization received a Winter Wishes application. Now what?

For Community Partners that have been invited to apply:

Step 1: Complete the Winter Wishes application by Wednesday, July 25, by using your agency’s unique application link.

Step 2: New York Cares will review all applications on a rolling basis.

Step 3: Applicants will be notified of the status of their application in mid-August.

Still have questions?