Living in New York City, it's impossible to not see the enormous amount of need. But knowing where and how to use your personal talents can be tricky. Even if you're strapped for cash and all you have to donate is your time, there are many ways you can help the people in your community. Here are three places to start:
If you're looking for a way to volunteer on a regular basis:
The first step of figuring out where you can best serve your community is to determine how you're hoping to help. It can be too overwhelming to Google "volunteer nyc," so narrow it down by thinking about what you really want to do and are qualified for. Do you want to mentor a child? Help new immigrants learn English? Spend time with stray animals? Making your search more specific will point you to places you can then contact directly. Another good starting place is nycservice.org, a database where you can search by the type of volunteer opportunity you're looking for.
If you don't have time to volunteer on a regular basis:
There are plenty of ways to help even if you can't volunteer on a weekly or monthly basis. New York City's food banks are in greater need than ever before. Head to homelessshelterdirectory.orgto find out which food bank you live closet to. Dropping by a box of donations even once a month makes a big impact.
Another way to help is by staying aware of races and walk-a-thons held to help the underserved. NewYorkRoadRunners.org is a great resource for finding out what events are going on so you can register or train for them.
A lot of non-profits are also looking for volunteers to donate just a couple hours of their time to help pull off an event. Look for these "one day only" type of events at nycservice.org.
Ask the religious centers in your community what they need:
Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or another one of the vast religions that makes NYC a melting pot, chances are, there is a religious center near your apartment doing its best to serve the community in a variety of ways. Helping people who need help the most is a strong theme in most religions. Many religious institutions offer drug treatment programs, free meals to the hungry, resume workshops and other resources to those in need. Stop by and ask what they need. It could make all the difference.