Monday, November 21, 2011

New York Cares!

Volunteering has never been so easy!  If you move to New York City today, you can start volunteering before the week is out.  No hassles, no frustrations, no red tape.  While you're still trying to figure out how to get furniture delivered and internet service activated, you can glide through the process to become a New York Cares Volunteer.  Connect to your new (or hometown) community of 8 million, in ways you could never discover on your own.

Thanks to Shannon, a friend who lives in NYC, I learned about this amazing network of volunteer opportunities.  "You can pick from hundreds of choices, one-time jobs or longer-term, many lasting only an hour or two.  They make it really flexible for people," she explained.  That's what I needed, a system, a paved path to involvement.  I signed up and have already volunteered once.  Here's how. . . in 3 user-friendly steps:

1. Go to the New York Cares website. Click on "Become a Volunteer, Sign up for orientation today!" and follow the directions.

2. Attend a 45-minute orientation; various times and locations are available throughout the city.

3. Search Projects on the website, select one, and GO!

What to choose?

  • Help children with homework
  •  Plant trees
  • Assist adult immigrants preparing for the U.S. Citizenship exam
  • Dance with 1st and 2nd graders 
  • Distribute clothing to homeless individuals
  • Create pieces of jewelry with blind and low-vision adults

. . . or hundreds of other options every week

I couldn't resist the listing at the Yorkville Branch of the New York City Public Library as my first volunteer experience. 

Yorkville Branch
222 East 79th St.
  "Volunteers will sort and shelve books, prepare reserve items, weed out old circulations and other general library assistance."

From 1:00-5:00 on a Friday afternoon, I joined 4 other book-loving volunteers as we shelved cart after cart of returned books.  Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I enjoyed the company of some of my favorite picture books as I guided them back to their spots, alphabetically by author.  I couldn't resist leaning up against a bookcase and sneaking in a quick read of The Five Chinese Brothers, Mama Do You Love Me? and Oh, the Places You'll Go.  

The two librarians, who were swamped with helping a steady stream of adults downstairs and children upstairs, shook our hands repeatedly as we left, grateful for the extra help. "Will you be coming back next week?" one asked, more as a plea than a question.

As you read this posting from as close as Connecticut or far away as Russia, I'm sure you've already concluded that you don't have to live in New York City to volunteer in your own neighborhood.  Every community has its unique needs, its own system for lending a hand.

The New York Cares website highlights a quote by Margaret Mead which inspires me to continue this important work:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 

I hope you'll join me, especially during this holiday season when needs are multiplied. . . wherever your community may be. 


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