Archive | June, 2010

Jenny’s Garden a Hidden Treasure

28 Jun

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This past weekend I volunteered with New York Cares, Common Cents and others in Jenny’s Garden in West Harlem. The day was a celebration and kickoff of the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, which started today in NYC. With supplies generously donated by a corporate sponsor, we had enough mulch, top soil, hoes and rakes to keep us busy for hours. And busy we were…

The Riverside Valley Community Garden is on 138th and 12th Avenue inside of Riverside Park. It houses fresh vegetable and fruit plots that grow lettuce, potatoes, eggplant, peaches, plums, pears and cherries and more. This garden and many others within a 10 block radius, have been tended to by Jenny Benitez for the past 25 years. At 76, she has been volunteering her time every day to keep her neighborhood beautiful alongside other caring community members. Jenny was there on Saturday and the way she was pruning and digging and lifting and mulching, it seems clear that gardening is one great way to stay healthy and active! She is an amazing woman who, in the late eighties, saw a vacant lot filled with abandoned cars, drug addicts and garbage, and chose to do something about it. That lot is now a neighborhood gem and popular spot for groups of volunteers to get their hands dirty on summer weekends.

Arriving at 10am, our group of 25 volunteers received a brief tutorial on the tools we’d be using and where the gardens were located. They span about 20 blocks, sloping off of Riverside Drive and 12th Avenue, so it was good to have a sense of where we’d be for the day, if only to make sure we didn’t get lost from the pack. From the main Community Garden on 12th Avenue, we set out on Riverside Drive and spent the next three hours cleaning up a few large garden plots. We made a real difference that day, which is one of the best things about beautification projects: you can see results immediately, and that feels good.

 

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While I was on my hands and knees pulling weeds from the garden that ran along the street, I saw a pair of hands on the other side of the fence doing the same. I picked up my head to see an elderly gentleman holding car keys in one hand, and a mass of weeds in the other. I thanked him as he handed me his bounty to throw in our garbage bags, already full of pruned hedges and garbage, and with a nod of acknowledgment he went back to work on the weeds I couldn’t reach from inside the garden. It was touching to see someone stop what they’re doing and take a moment to help; he was seemingly a local, on his way to his car, and felt compelled to help, if only for 5 minutes. It made my day.

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We finished around 1pm, at which point we headed back to the Garden to eat pizza under the shade of grapes growing on a large trellis.  With the sun shining, surrounded by good people doing good things for an appreciative community, it was a truly great day.

You can help Jenny tend her gardens by volunteering solo or with a group. She’s a great woman who can teach you a thing or two about gardening, and she loves all volunteers that come to help. You can do so by visiting the Riverside Park Fund website and filling out the volunteer inquiry form, or sign up with New York Cares.

Thanks to the National Conference on Volunteering and Service for hosting the day and providing some sweet t-shirts for all the volunteers that came out to help Saturday. You can watch highlights of the conference and stay informed virtually by clicking here.

 

Volunteer This Saturday at Jenny’s Garden!

23 Jun

This weekend, thousands of people dedicated to service will be converging on NYC for the National Conference on Volunteering and Service. Nationally convened by the Points of Light Institute, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and locally convened by NYC Service and New Yorkers Volunteer, the annual event provides attendees with an opportunity to learn, connect, and be inspired through a wide range of exciting and informative workshops, special events, service projects, exhibits, specialized corporate tracks and more. In anticipation and celebration of their arrival, a whole slew of service projects will be happening throughout New York so that attendees can serve our city, their host, during their stay and continue to proliferate the growing service movement in NYC.

One of the projects is happening at Jenny’s Garden in Harlem (138th Street and 12th Avenue). Common Cents, an educational, not-for-profit organization which specializes in creating and managing service-learning programs for young people, will be sending out volunteers and you can come join them (and me) this Saturday the 26th from 10am-2pm. We will be weeding, planting, pruning and raking leaves at Jenny’s Garden, a community garden in Riverside Park. So if you don’t have plans already for what is looking like a beautiful Saturday, come join us for a day in the park!

You can sign up for this project by going to http://www.volunteeringandservice.org/plan/service-projects.cfm , and clicking the sign up link next for Jenny’s Garden mid-way down the page.

Pantry Party=Success!

21 Jun

For those who don’t know, last week I hosted a Pantry Party to benefit City Harvest’s Feed the Kids food drive. I think everyone had a good time, judging by the number of Pickle Back shots I saw delivered to our tables. Best of all, I received almost three times the amount of donations I had expected; the final tally came to over 150lbs! All of the donations were picked up by City Harvest and will help to feed thousands of NYC kids who don’t always have enough to eat, especially in the upcoming summer months.  Thanks again to everyone who came out and donated, and a special thanks to Rob at Whiskey Tavern for hosting the event and hooking us up with some great discounts!

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Fun and Somewhat Relevant Facts:

  • Beans were another popular donation, and luckily, our British friend Paul wasn’t in town that night to steal them. Apparently, those Brits love their beans: In 2009, 800 million tins were eaten in the UK. Considering that the second most prolific country was Australia, who ate a measly 60 million cans, it’s clear that our beans would have been in jeopardy had Paul been able to attend.
  • A Pickle Back shot is a shot of Jameson whiskey, followed by a shot of pickle juice. Sound gross? Don’t knock it til’ you try it-they’re surprisingly delicious.

This event was the first of many that Give & Get NYC will be hosting in the coming months. I want to provide young professionals in NYC a way to get together for a few drinks and a good cause without breaking the bank. If you have any suggestions for venues or donations, please comment or email me-I’m always open to new ideas. Be on the look-out for another party invite coming in mid-August!

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If you missed the party but still want to donate to City Harvest, visit their website to find out how.

TimeBanksNYC Studio Art Class with a Purpose

11 Jun

On Thursday, June 17th from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm, a member of TimeBanksNYC  will be teaching a hands on workshop on still life and charcoal drawing. The teacher has an MFA in Studio Art, so whether you’re looking to relive those days of high school art class or want to see what life would have been like had you chosen art school over a business degree, now’s your chance to experience the real thing. Everything you need will be provided (drawing pads, vine charcoal, and kneaded erasers).

The event will take place at 119 Ninth Ave between 17th and 18th, in the conference room of Hudson Guild’s Fulton Center. It’s a members-only event, but you can join right on the spot by filling out a short application and signing the member agreement. All attendees must RSVP to eventrsvp@timebanksnyc.org or 866-244-6469 (space is limited, so don’t wait!).

This event will give you a chance to see what TimeBanksNYC has to offer and learn more about how the program works.  Through a simple exchange program, it is a way for people to share their skills, spread their passions, meet neighbors, and support each other. For every hour you volunteer your skills to help someone else in the network, you earn a credit that you can then redeem for one hour of help yourself. Want to learn spanish? Need help cleaning your apartment? There is someone in TimeBanks network willing to volunteer, for you! I recently joined this organization and am excited to begin exchanging services. You can expect a lengthy post with more details on this program once I’ve banked a few hours…

NYC Civic Corps: Looking Back and Moving Forward

7 Jun

Are you ready to take your commitment to volunteerism and service to the next level?

NYC Civic Corps, an initiative of NYC Service and the Mayor’s Office, is now accepting applications for the 2010-2011 service year. Whether you’re a recent college graduate looking to break into the non-profit world, a community leader who wants to dedicate more of your time to the betterment of New York City, or if you’re just looking for a new, more meaningful career, NYC Civic Corps is ready to hear your plea. Selected Corps members will dedicate one year of service to the City, during which they will be dispatched in small teams to local non-profit organizations and City agencies with the charge of developing sustainable volunteer programs and expanding organizational capacity.

Last July, 193 inaugural members of the Civic Corps were sworn in at City Hall. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the program very well received, especially by the 57 public and nonprofit organizations that were able to benefit from the extra help. Though this first year of service has been referred to as an “experiment in social innovation”, a very flashy annual report shows that the initial results indicate that the program has already had some great successes. More than 33,500 volunteers were recruited by Civic Corps members for a variety of initiatives in several different areas, including: Economic Opportunity, Education, Environment and Clean Energy; and Health. This large influx of ready and willing volunteers contributed to the continued expansion of NYC Service into 2010.  Some of the highlights from the annual report include:

  • The Police Auxiliary saw a 183% increase in the number of applicants.
  • The Flu Flighters initiative recruited 1,381 New Yorkers to conduct outreach and awareness activities in their communities.
  • In one day, 800 volunteers planted 20,000 trees as a part of the MillionTreesNYC initiative.
  • The Financial Empowerment initiative resulted in 655 trained tax volunteers to assist full-time counselors at the City’s Financial Empowerment Centers.
  • 13,852 adult volunteers participated in education-related volunteer programs through partnerships with local nonprofit organizations as part of the Serve Our Schools initiative.

By September of 2009, this idea of a localized service movement had caught on in cities across the country, leading to the creation of Cities of Service: a bi-partisan coalition of the mayors of large and small cities from across our country who have taken an oath to work together in engaging citizens to address the great challenges of our time. Founded by 16 mayors with our own Mayor Bloomberg at the forefront, this organization is now now 95 members strong and growing.

If the numbers don’t speak volumes enough, many organizations that have benefited from Civic Corps have gone on record with their gratification. In an April 20th press release, Executive Director of New York Cares Gary Bagley said “I’m proud to announce today that because of the support we have received from NYC Service, New York Cares grew its programs by 20 percent and created 25,000 additional volunteer opportunities to meet higher demand for volunteer support as a result of the economic downturn. At a time when our capacity could have been limited, it was NYC Service’s Civic Corps that helped us rebuild our capacity and exceed our ambitious goals.”

So, are you ready to join?

In return for their service, Civic Corps members will be provided with a monthly stipend (about $1,163), health benefits, a NYC transit commuting stipend, and an end-of-service education award or post-service stipend. They’ll also receive professional development and support from NYC Service and the Office of the Mayor. To be eligible to join the NYC Civic Corps, individuals must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a Bachelor’s degree, and they must be willing to commit to a full-time (40 hours per week) position starting in late August, 2010.

Applications are available at
http://www.nyc.gov/service and are only accepted online. You must apply by June 30th, 2010.

If you are a 2009/2010 Civic Corps member and would like to share your experience, email info@giveandgetnyc.org and have your story featured on Give and Get NYC!