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Posted: Jan 01, 2020
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By: Jennifer Friedel

9 Amazing & Fun Ways You and Your Significant Other Can Give Back to the NYC Community

New York may be home to millions of people, but we really are one big family. We enjoy impromptu dance parties in subway stations, empathetically sigh when someone needs to go to Times Square, and appreciate side-eye camaraderie when passing the same slow walker. Though we may bicker over which is the favorite kid (I mean, borough), no matter what, we have each other’s back. There are thousands of organizations working every day to support our fellow New Yorkers, and below is a round-up of ways for you and your significant other to give back to the city we love.

01

Hit the Streets and Help Out at the TCS New York City Marathon

01

If running isn’t your thing, but you still get swept up in the excitement of the TCS New York Marathon, look into volunteering with New York Road Runners. Posts include welcoming runners from around the world as they pick up their packets and get acquainted with NYC, distributing water along the course (everyone’s seen those ponchos, Dixie cups, and sponges!), and medical assistance (open to medical professionals only). Oftentimes nonprofits with runners fundraising for them seek volunteers for cheering stations along the course. Keep an eye out for friends who are doing this, or check with your favorite organization to see if they could use an extra set of hands.

02

Whip Yourselves and Your Community Into Shape

Whip Yourselves and Your Community Into Shape

For those who enjoy working out together, consider volunteering with Shape Up NYC, which offers free fitness classes (including aerobics, martial arts, and yoga) for New Yorkers of all ages at recreation centers, public schools, hospitals, and NYCHA facilities. There’s also a need for yoga instructors for seniors through Hosh Yoga, and at senior and community centers like the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. These may take a bit more time as training and/or certification is usually required, but once that’s completed the volunteer options are flexible.

03

Build Lasting Memories (And Rooftops) Together

Build Lasting Memories (And Rooftops) Together

Couples looking to get their hands dirty should check out Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit that builds and preserves affordable homes for families in need. There’s construction work that involves building homes across the five boroughs (no experience needed), rejuvenating public spaces (think playgrounds, schools, etc.) with fresh paint, and landscaping, among other jobs. If Habitat’s mission speaks to you, but a hardhat does not, you can volunteer in its retail store, ReStore. Like most of the organizations on this list, there’s also a Young Professionals board you can join. If you have a spare Saturday, Publicolor brightens up public schools by pairing painting and mentoring for struggling students at the most underperforming schools. In addition to refurbing, you can engage and inspire underserved, disaffected youth via Publicolor’s Design Studio projects, tutoring and longer-term mentoring.


04

Giving Back Can Be a Walk in the Park

04

Between Central Park and hundreds of smaller parks throughout the boroughs, there are plenty of opportunities to add a little more green to the concrete jungle. The Central Park Conservancy offers a range of options to suit your comfort and time commitment levels. There are several landscaping programs, and seasonal “teams” you can join like snow shoveling or flower planting, in addition to visitor greeter and tour guide programs. If you’re more neighborhood-focused, check out the City Parks Foundation’s “It’s My Park” program for ways to get involved including landscaping, cleaning or volunteering at events.

05

Save Lives, One Plate at a Time

Save Lives, One Plate at a Time

CityHarvest works to combat hunger while also tackling surplus food waste. Through partnerships with restaurants and businesses, CityHarvest provides food daily to several hundred food programs, soup kitchens, and food pantries. There are a lot of ways to get involved, from distributing food at farmers market-style Mobile Markets or collecting produce at green markets, to packing meals and more. Those with backgrounds in education, culinary or nutrition can apply to participate in nutrition classes and cooking demonstrations. God’s Love We Deliver also addresses food insecurity in the five boroughs, as well as parts of New Jersey, Westchester, and Nassau counties. It provides nutritious meals to people who due to illness, such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, can’t provide for themselves. Incredibly reliant on volunteers, you can help to prep and cook meals, packing or delivering them, or assist in the office or with special events.

06

Reach Out a Hand to Help the Homeless

Reach Out a Hand to Help the Homeless

Three of New York and New Jersey’s oldest organizations addressing homelessness, the New York City Rescue Mission, The Bowery Mission, and the Goodwill Rescue Mission, have joined forces. You can serve meals (sign-up early for the holidays as there’s usually a waiting list), assist with clothing distribution and volunteer in the shelters in different capacities, including medical assistance. The Jericho Project provides a holistic approach to homelessness and poverty, including semi-independent supportive housing, and career and mental health assistance. It’s known for its veterans' outreach, but also has specific initiatives centered on families and young adults. The Covenant House focuses on assisting trafficked and homeless youth, and the Ali Forney Center supports LGBTQIA+ youth. Both organizations provide similar services and volunteer opportunities as the above nonprofits. There are several organizations that conduct a census of unsheltered homeless with the help of volunteers. This is crucial for understanding the needs of these men, women, and children in order to request appropriate funding, assistance and develop further outreach programs. The Rescue Alliance even has an app, “Don’t Walk By,” pre-loaded with helpful information for those in need, and you can upload information about cases you come across.

07

Pay Respect to 9/11 Memorials and Victims

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September 11 was a transformative day for the nation and its impact continues to be felt on a daily basis. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is always looking for volunteers to welcome and assist visitors. Museum docents are also all volunteers who guide visitors around the Museum, telling the history of the original World Trade Center and 9/11. If you’d rather work behind the scenes, still apply even if nothing is currently listed as the Memorial pulls from its volunteer corps when needs crop up. If you feel ready to share your story, the volunteer team at the September 11th Families’ Association’s9/11 Tribute Museum is entirely comprised of those personally connected to September 11. Another important organization founded in response to 9/11 is Tuesday’s Children. The nonprofit’s reach has since grown, and it provides long-term mental health support and engagement for children and families whose lives have been affected by terrorism, violent extremism, war or traumatic loss. Volunteer programs include ongoing community mentoring with one youth mentee, and the nonprofit is even rolling out an online mentoring option. You can provide career-focused support like Take Your Children to Work Day, workshops or one-on-ones with college students or young professionals. Or, volunteer your time at events or on its Junior Board. They accept lightly used household items and clothing as well.

08

Find Your Mini-Mes and Become Student Mentors

Find Your Mini-Mes and Become Student Mentors

Making a difference in kids’ lives can have a lasting impact. The Fresh Air Fund supports kids from underserved communities and has lots of projects from ongoing mentoring and tutoring sessions to one-offs like job shadowing or hosting pizza parties. During the summer, some of these city kids also get to experience life in the ‘burbs (or by a lake or beach) thanks to volunteer host families. Free Arts NYC also works with underserved communities, providing access to arts and creativity-inspiring programs. The Creative Lab project welcomes teens at art studios and workshops on professional development and visual literacy skills. One-time projects include Free Arts Days where you’re paired with elementary-aged children to create art or tour a museum with a side of “mini-mentoring,” or volunteering at an art party for kids in the program.

09

Make Some New Furry Friends Together

Make Some New Furry Friends Together

If you want to add a furry friend to your family but your building won’t allow it, spend some quality time with dogs and cats up for adoption at the ASPCA or Bideawee. At both organizations, you’ll spend time socializing with the animals, making sure they’re fed and their sleeping areas are clean, as well as tending to administrative tasks. At Bideawee you can apply for its Pet Therapy Program where you train with an animal to visit nursing homes, hospitals and schools as support animals. Their Reading to Dogs program, in conjunction with the Pet Therapy team, brings dogs to a local school or library so kids can read to them and work on their reading, communication skills, and confidence. Who couldn’t use a little encouragement from a doting pup?


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