NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Giving Tuesday is a time to take a break from holiday shopping and give back.

The holiday spirit was in full effect at Macy’s Herald Square on Tuesday morning as 250 homeless children from all over New York City were treated to a trip to Santaland as part of the 69th annual Operation Happy Children.

CBS2’s Nick Caloway visited the Upper East Side, where some kids learned how they can make a difference.

Tucked into the auditorium at the 92nd Street Y, hundreds of kids were getting a lesson in reading and changing the world, a little at a time. Giving Tuesday was actually born at the community and cultural center on the Upper East Side.

“We’re teaching the kids a lot about the impact that they have, even though it might be small,” second grade teacher Taryn Friedman said.‬

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And each kid has something they’re passionate about, whether it’s giving to people or the environment.

“You can recycle, so you can make more materials instead of just throwing away things for recycling,” a student named “Victor” said.

“I think it’s pretty cool because usually it’s adults doing that stuff. So seeing a kid make a difference makes me want to,” classmate “Sofia” added.

The kids had a read-along with author Andrea Beaty, who wrote the bestselling children’s book “Sofia Valdez, Future Prez.” It’s about a little girl taking on a big challenge.

“It’s really a story about how every kid, every person, can make a difference where they live. They can make a difference in their family, their community, their world,” Beaty said.‬

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On Giving Tuesday, the 92nd Street Y hopes the school kids go home with the lesson, that they’re never too young to help their community.

“How can you spread kindness in your community? Is it recycling, reading a book with a family member, or taking care of a friend?”‬ said the Y’s Jennifer Dayton.

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Over at the Giving Tuesday global headquarters in the West Village, volunteers watched as the world gave back.

Data rolled in on screens, indicating where people were donating and who was talking about #GivingTuesday.

In New York, people donated money and time to charities big and small.

PayPal employees packed supply kits for the Bowery Mission to help homeless New Yorkers.

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City Harvest also helped the homeless by rescuing millions of pounds of food that would otherwise go to waste and sending it to those in need across the five boroughs. On Tuesday, every dollar donated to City Harvest was matched.

Save The Children was also matching donations for Giving Tuesday.

“It’s a way for people to make a donation, talk about the issues that we talk about for kids, making sure that people remember there are children all over the world who really do need help, and this is the season of giving,” Carolyn Miles, Save The Children CEO, said.

There are countless more ways to help.

Woodrow Rosenbaum with Giving Tuesday says you should give to causes that are important to you.

“Pretty much everybody has an organization that in some way touched them or their family directly,” he said.

So how do you avoid donating to a bad charity or getting scammed?

Rosenbaum says sites like CharityNavigator.org and the Better Business Bureau can help you make sure the charity you give to puts the money to good use.

“Where you can find all kinds of information about an organization’s activity, their financial reporting and their missions, how they actually spend their donation dollars,” Rosenbaum said.

Last year, charities in the U.S. raised more than $400 million through Giving Tuesday, and that’s just including online donations. This year is expected to surpass that. A final tally on donations should be released Wednesday.

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