Archive | Service News RSS feed for this section

Why I Serve

11 Sep

On this day, 9/11, the National Day of Service, I was planning on posting different places that you could go serve our community. However, I decided instead to focus on the reasons behind why I serve. Afterall, 9/11 is above all else, a day of remembrance. Remembering what happened 9 years ago helps us to understand why we now have a national Day of Service.

Two months ago I wrote an essay for an application, which I’m sharing below. The question: “Why are you a part of the service movement?” seemed easy enough to answer but as I began writing, I realized that the reasons were unclear. I wrote from the heart because it’s the only way I could figure out my answer and put it into words, and it still doesn’t seem quite adequate..

Q: Why are you a part of the service movement? What is your vision for it in your community and nationwide?

A: I have always wanted to do more; for society, for friends, for my family. For the past few months, I have begun to really think about how I can become a bigger, more influential part of society. I truly feel that every person has the capacity to serve in some way, and it is our civic duty to do so if we are able. Some people are born into a somewhat easy life, able to eat, live comfortably, and receive a good education, while others are born three steps behind, into hardships like poverty or homelessness.  I feel that those of us who were given opportunities to succeed should pass along whatever we can to those who need our help.

It’s also really easy to serve, and I’m not sure that everyone realizes that. For most if not all people, finding two hours a week of your time that you’re willing to give to someone or something else, is not difficult. It just requires a commitment, and the size of that commitment is completely up to the person making it. I think that the general consensus among service ‘outsiders’ is that you need to pack a suitcase and head to a 3rd world country to make a difference in this world, and that just isn’t the case. I’ve gotten people to volunteer with me, to see what it’s like, and a few of them have gone back to do it on their own elsewhere. The biggest challenge is getting people to take that first step, and my goal in participating in the service movement is to prove how easy it is and encourage others to join me.

The Call to Service from President Obama last year was a huge step in the right direction for our country, and it played a large role in the increasing numbers of volunteers. His words struck a chord in me that still resonates today: “Economic recovery is as much about what you’re doing in your communities as what we’re doing in Washington – and it’s going to take all of us, working together.” This announcement, calling on a nation to help its government, was a turning point for me in how I viewed the service movement. I think a lot of citizens thought that it was the government’s job to fix everything, when in reality, we all need to pull together if change is going to happen. I honestly never thought of service as a means to an end on such a large scale; I saw it as one person helping another. And service is, in it’s most basic form, doing something for someone else.

So when I envision the service movement and the role it would play in New York, I see people helping people. Multiplying this singular action by thousands to create a city of service. This community action would help to fill the gaps where the government is unable to step in with funding or assistance, creating a self-sustaining city that relies less on outside sources and more on each other.

I hope you found this post useful-as a way to see something inside of yourself, or just to get to know me better. Take a moment today to remember September 11, 2001. It was tragic and scary and the saddest day New York has ever seen, in my lifetime and possibly ever. But what came out of the rubble was a city that realized the power of service; the power of one person helping another, to make the next day a little better than the one before it.

Visit some websites celebrating this National Day of Service, and see how you can get involved:

911 Day of Service

Service Nation

Hands On Network

Be The Change

Volunteer Match

National 9/11 Memorial

Advertisements

Jenny’s Garden a Hidden Treasure

28 Jun

Click formore pictures!

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.

 

Click for more pictures!

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.

Click for more pictures!

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.

 

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!

 


 

Engaging Younger Donors

17 May

I recently came across a brief article by Bill Jacobs called ‘Want to Attract Young Donors? Hire Younger People’, and felt like sharing it with my readers. I usually focus on volunteering, but I think that this article raises a really good point about the merits of using younger people to accomplish bigger goals within a large company or organization. Jacobs, who has years of experience in the area of direct response analytics pertaining to fundraising, describes that in discussions of acquiring new donors, especially young ones, the round-table usually consists of middle-aged white men. In thinking about new donors, this is not the target demographic; it’s that 20-something who’s probably shuffling papers in the copy room or doing some other type of administrative work. So how do you reach this audience? Jacobs suggests hiring them:

“Newsflash! Us old-timers aren’t going to crack the code for acquiring younger donors. Our playbook is too old and we do not speak the native language. Hire a sharp 20-something, give her a goal and a budget, and turn her loose.”

The current generation of 20-somethings is readily active in today’s non-profit world. We’re volunteering more hours now than ever before, and our numbers continue to grow. A lot of us participating in this movement towards a service nation are open to contributing to efforts larger than the typical Saturday afternoon commitment, planting in a community garden. It’s at the juncture where the simple volunteer realizes their potential to grow into a more integral part of an organization, where a donor is born. There are young people throughout the country hoping to make a difference, and it goes beyond volunteering. We may not have as much money as our philanthropic, elderly counterparts, but what we lack in our savings accounts is made up for in our numbers and willingness to help. If we’re not donating as often as we should be, it’s probably because we’re not being tapped into enough or being reached effectively.

This is where I feel Jacobs brings up a great point: us young people are more than just a volunteer pool. We know about the current technology available for connecting people to your organization, because we use it every day; social media is not a veteran sport- it was born in a college dorm around the same time we were getting our degrees. We are resourceful and smart, and have probably already thought about how to further the mission of your non-profit while we were volunteering on the frontlines or helping with the necessary legwork to get things done. We might already be in your office, waiting to be asked for our opinion.

So, my thanks to Bill Jacobs for writing this piece and taking the bold step of admitting that us 20-somethings may have the advantage when it comes to knowing how to reach younger donors.

National Volunteer Week

1 Apr



On April 24th, I’ll be volunteering for Hands On New York Day, beautifying a park in Flushing, Queens. What will you be doing during National Volunteer Week?