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The North Shore is filled with generous people and countless nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to keeping the region and its residents happy, healthy, and fulfilled. This holiday season, we’re highlighting 12 of them and sharing ways you can give back. 

Looking for even more inspiration? Check out our ideas for ways to help and places to volunteer from years past.

And we know there are plenty of other worthwhile organizations on the North Shore, so share the ones near to your heart in the comments.

1. YMCA of the North Shore

“Often, people look at the YMCA of the North Shore as not really needing charitable dollars,” says Marjorie Cregg, chief advancement officer. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth.” With seven locations in Essex County and Southern New Hampshire, the YMCA of the North Shore serves thousands of residents and provides financial aid for memberships, summer camps, and childcare services to people in need. That need is more acute since the pandemic. In 2021, the organization provided $3.5 million in scholarships and financial assistance, up 39 percent since 2019, according to its latest impact report. It also provides affordable housing and meal assistance and recently launched an initiative called ONEDoor that’s focused on mental wellness.

2. The Lynn Museum

Artwork by Yetti Frenkel

The Lynn Museum’s current fundraising campaign aims to raise $125,000 in honor of its 125th anniversary, but donations help all the time, says Doneeca Thurston, executive director of the Lynn Museum/Lynn Arts. “We’re extremely reliant on donations,” Thurston says. “Individual donations and grants are our main revenue stream.” One-time donations, annual planned donations, and memberships to the Lynn Museum help with general operations and special programming like after-school programs,
free art-making activities, and speaker series.

3. North Shore Juneteenth Association

Lynn’s Juneteenth festivities celebrate Black history and culture with food, art, music, crafts, and education, and are made possible by the North Shore Juneteenth Association, a nonprofit founded in 2016 by Nicole McClain. After celebrating Juneteenth in Boston, McClain “wanted to bring that holiday closer to home.”  When people donate to the North Shore Juneteenth Association, through memberships, recurring or one-time gifts, or corporate support, they’re not only helping to produce its annual celebration, but also assisting its ongoing work on education and dismantling systemic racism.  

4. The House of the Seven Gables

The House of Seven Gables | Photograph by Christo Tsiaras

Giving helps the National Historic Landmark preserve the house and grounds and to provide educational programs for visitors. The Salem icon also hosts an annual fundraiser in September.

5. Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center

The last thing survivors of domestic abuse and their families need to think about in the middle of a traumatic situation is how they’re going to afford the help they need. That’s why donating to the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center means “they are donating to provide no-cost services to people,” says Kelly Majewski, director of advancement. One-time donations, recurring gifts, corporate matching, gifts of securities, and participating in annual fundraising events help fund programs like providing legal support, a free 24-hour hotline, crisis counseling, support groups, childcare, and much more. 

6. Lifebridge North Shore

At Lifebridge North Shore, homeless adults can access a bathroom and a meal, a warm coat in the winter, an air-conditioned data center in the summer, and a place to sleep, plus case managers, resources around permanent supportive housing, and much more, says Melissa Lynch, director of development. In addition to monetary donations that help run those programs, Lifebridge North Shore also values in-kind donations of items like sleeping bags, hats, gloves, scarves, toe and hand warmers, and personal care items. “Basic things really mean a lot to the folks that we serve here,” Lynch says. 

7. Lowell’s Boat Shop

Lowell's Boat Shop | Photograph by Kindra Clineff

Donating to Lowell’s Boat Shop helps preserve the National Historic Landmark on the Merrimack River, supports the working museum, and funds after-school boatbuilding apprentice programs, among other things. For maximum impact, become a member, says Graham McKay, executive director/master boatbuilder. Memberships are reliable ways for nonprofits to plan and budget for programming. Any kind of donation is hugely important, though. “Donations keep that income at a level where you can keep providing your programs to the community,” McKay says. 

8. Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center

Donate money to support programs like an emergency fund for refugee families or contribute a welcome basket filled with items like grocery store gift cards, home goods, and personal care items. 

9. Stone Zoo

Photo courtesy of Stone Zoo

Giving to Zoo New England, which operates Stone Zoo, is about more than supporting the animals that call Stoneham home. “The zoo is really so much more than people think,” says president and CEO John Linehan. “Right now, our mission and our work have never been more important as we’re looking at the loss of biodiversity on our planet and the issues that climate change is bringing.” Programs include raising baby turtles with 3,000 kids in Massachusetts classrooms; salamander reintroduction to the Middlesex Fells; conserving gorillas in Nigeria and snow leopards in Mongolia; and more.

10. Essex Heritage 

The Essex National Heritage Commission manages the federally designated Essex National Heritage area, which exists because “the historic, natural, and cultural resources are so unique and tell such an important piece of the American story,” says Cheri Grishin, director of operations at Essex Heritage. Donating provides funds for professional teachers workshops, educational student programs, youth job training, and public events programming, among other initiatives. For instance, the 10-day Trails and Sails event offers hundreds of free programs throughout Essex county every September. Those who want a more hands-on experience can volunteer every summer Wednesday to help maintain Bakers Island Light Station. 

11. Northeast Arc 

In addition to donating money directly to Northeast Arc, which helps people with intellectual or developmental disabilities or autism live inclusively in their communities, people can also support the businesses that it operates on the North Shore: Heritage Shredding in Danvers and Breaking Grounds Café, Heritage Caning, and Shine Jewelry, all in Peabody, as well as the store parcels at the Liberty Tree Mall, which sells products made by people with intellectual or developmental disabilities or autism. Shopping there serves a dual purpose. “What’s great about them . . . is that we actually use them as employment training opportunities,” says Noah Leavitt, director of marketing and communications.

12. North Shore Disability Resource Center 

The NSDRC is the only organization on the North Shore that assists anyone, regardless of age, with any kind of disability. They connect people with special needs with programs and services that help them to live with dignity, freedom and joy. Contributing helps the agency provide services and support to people of all ages with any type of disability to live healthy, independent lives.