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.

What are the key dates for this program?

Community Partner applications – Organizations dealing with homeless shelters and other deserving non-profit organizations dealing with disadvantaged children, teens, and families will submit form between July and August so their clients can receive gifts.

Registration – Register as an individual or as a team to grant wishes begins on mid-October and will close when all the letters have been taken.

Receipt of gift requests – We will mail gift request letters to you within one to two weeks after registering. Teams requesting 20 or more letters can also pick them up at the New York Cares office soon after we receive your request. If you have requested more than 50 letters, you will need to schedule a time to pick up them up.

Gift delivery – The Community Partners we work with often plan holiday parties to deliver gifts, so delivery information varies. The delivery date will be included in each letter, but in most cases it is on or before December 7th. Send your gifts to the addresses indicated on the letters and include the recipient's name and tracking numbers on the outside of the wrapping paper.

Who can participate in Winter Wishes?

Anyone can - including you! Create a team of volunteers with your company, friends, or civic group, or sign up as an individual to grant Winter Wishes. All you need to do is commit to buying one or more holiday gifts for New York City's underserved children and families.

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.

What is the Coat Drive?

The Coat Drive is a city-wide effort run by New York Cares which aims to collect 125,000 coats each year and distribute them to New Yorkers who need them most in the colder months. The Coat Drive has been running for 29 years and counting, having collected and distributed 1.8 million winter coats to-date, thanks to generous New Yorkers. 

Still have questions?