How To Give Back To The New York City Community

Art Start | © Courtesy of Art Start
Art Start | © Courtesy of Art Start
Photo of Michelle Feng He
6 January 2017

The quintessential New Yorker possesses many covetable qualities — fashionable, creative, headstrong, quick on their feet — but one is not generally known for having an adequate amount of leisure time. The New Yorker is always doing something, even if that comprises of a several hour pow-wow at the nearest coffee shop. Was it really a productive session? Perhaps, but there lies an unsettling doubt that time could have been better managed and spent on a more rewarding experience. And, there are locals who have found the answer in giving back. The volunteer initiatives below and their leaders are revolutionizing what it truly means to be a New York City native. Participate in any one of these innovative organizations that care for the homeless, the youth, the elderly, and many other at-risk communities.

Art Start | © Courtesy of Art Start

Art Start

Art Gallery
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Art Start
Art Start | © Courtesy of Art Start
Art Start rooted its initial altruistic motives in 1991 when a group of artists wanted to strengthen the minds and existing talent of youth communities who had faced many hardships. At first, this translated into making art with homeless children. Twenty years later, their demographic has expanded spectacularly; 11,600 teaching artists reach out to at-risk youth in city shelters, the streets, alternative-to-incarceration centers—and just as it says on their website, together they create multimedia masterpieces. Several Art Start workshops exist in the city, operating from Chelsea to Harlem; visit their website to apply.

Street Project

Street Project is a crux for many different volunteer events, and one of the organization’s unique attractions is that a prospective volunteer has a great amount of ease and flexibility to fit a specific project into one’s personal schedule. The website posts many notable activities such as Urban Adventures, in which volunteers take 15-25 kids out for fun excursions, such as laser tag. Other endeavors include ‘Bingo with Seniors’ and ‘Rescuing Leftover Cuisine’. Street Project is a great opportunity for people who are beginners or who do not know what types of projects they are comfortable with handling.

Citymeals on Wheels

Citymeals on Wheels runs on a simple message: to provide the elderly with food and human company. This nonprofit organization raises funds to provide community-based agencies with the resources to deliver weekend, holiday, and emergency meals to the elderly who cannot shop for groceries or cook for themselves. Citymeals also hosts events for donations and community outreach; the organization may partner with other companies to promote special offers. “There are over 167,000 food insecure seniors over the age of 60 living in New York City.”; this fact, listed on their website, is a staggering statistic that speaks about the poverty and helplessness that 17 percent of the population feels.

3rd floor, 355 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, USA +1 (212) 687 1234

Abandoned | © Graeme Law/Flickr

Abandoned | © Graeme Law/Flickr

Second Chance Rescue NYC Dogs

Second Chance Rescue NYC Dogs is a nonprofit that began in 2009 to rescue dogs that have been abandoned or abused. Many of the staff find these dogs in a poor state of health and require immediate emergency care. Because the organization does not have a physical shelter, they post the dogs up for adoption, primarily on Facebook. All dogs receive proper medical attention before being processed for adoption. Even if you can’t fit a friendly companion into your life, consider making a donation.


Bideawee is another pet welfare organization, but with a broader array of opportunities. Donate or volunteer by providing dog care, exercising with cats, or participating in pet therapy programs. High school students may also gain experience by working in the Adoption Center or Animal Hospital.

410 E 38th St, New York, NY, USA +1 (866) 262 8133

Women in Need

The Women in Need program offers shelter and counseling for homeless families. Win has ten homeless shelters and one women’s shelter; they provide services to 10,000 people a year, and the average stay of any given individual is about 11 months. The organization aims to provide a multi-faceted solution to break the cycle of homelessness; they do this by implementing educational programs for children and adults and psychological support. This amount of dedication and earnest initiative speaks volumes about the 500 staff members and 400 volunteers who make this agency a win for both the providers and the receivers.

534 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY, USA +1 (718) 771 3088

The Lower Eastside Girls Club

The Lower Eastside Girls Club embodies the definition of ‘girl power’. Founded in 1996, the LESGC Center for Community is a place that mentors girls and young women in all aspects, from academics, to the environment, and employment. The LESGC works with an underserved demographic of foreign descent and/or populations who represent some of the highest poverty rates in the area. Specific programs that volunteers can integrate themselves into include the maker shop, college and career prep, STEM programs, GirlFit for Life, and many more.

402 E 8th St, New York, NY, USA +1 (212) 982 1633

America Needs You

America Needs You is a large organization that offers guidance for first-generation college students in the form of long-term one-on-one mentoring relationships. A volunteer may become a ‘Mentor Coach’ or ‘Career Coach’ based on availability. A mentor coach can widen the horizons of a first-generation college student by providing training and teaching that will lead students to promising careers.

The Samaritans NYC

The Samaritans NYC is a 24-hour suicide prevention center that is composed of professional staff and over 100 volunteers who provide emotional support for those who are battling the crisis themselves or who have faced it secondhand. The network also offers training conferences, prevention education, and consultation services. Volunteers undergo intensive training but are individuals who find that the work is rewarding.

+1 (212) 673 3000

City Harvest group photo | © U.S. Department of Agriculture

City Harvest

City Harvest began in 1982 as the world’s first food rescue program, a project model that redistributes food surpluses to people in need. To help New Yorkers combat food insecurity, volunteers can work in different programs such as mobile markets and greenmarket rescues. They can also assume the role of a repack assistant or provide administrative support at the midtown headquarters.

6 E 32nd St, New York, NY, USA +1 (646) 412 0600

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