Thursday, November 1, 2012

Martin Luther King Day of Service

In honor of the upcoming national day of service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I've compiled a list of some of my favorite nonprofits working for change in New York City and beyond. If you want to get involved but aren't sure where to turn, start here!

Yorkville Common Pantry is a truly amazing place that helps thousands of people who are homeless or living in poverty to get the nourishment they need. What's more, over 80% of their fresh produce is from NY state farms. They offer food pantry and meal distribution programs, as well as, nutritional education, basic hygiene services, homelessness support and related services to underserved communities in East Harlem and throughout New York City. They strive at all times to dignify the experience of their clientele and are a wonderful example of an emergency food program that really makes a difference.

Occupy Sandy (an offshoot of the larger Occupy movement) jumped into being and action directly following hurricane Sandy. Concerned citizens from all over the country and all walks of life came together to help in the immediate relief effort and now with long-term recovery. The energy and commitment of occupy volunteers is truly amazing to witness and the lack of bureaucracy is refreshing and motivating. I would recommend heading out to their Bay Ridge, Brooklyn kitchen to help prepare hot meals for people still struggling to get back on their feet in the Rockaways, Coney and Staten Islands, and elsewhere. 

New York Cares serves as a clearing house that connects volunteers with opportunities at over 1,300 nonprofits, city agencies and public schools in the Greater NYC area. I recently attended their required orientation for new volunteers and I left feeling inspired and so glad that this organization exists. Since then, I've volunteered helping fourth graders make environmentally focused art projects and high school juniors and seniors learn math and life skills through cooking. 

Women for Women International is a powerful organization that offers ļ¬nancial assistance, job training, rights education and trauma counseling to female survivors of the too oft forgotten war in the Congo. My husband and I fundraised for and ran their 5K Run for Congo Women on Roosevelt Island this past October. It was a deeply moving event and we were honored to take part.

Sustainable South Bronx helps under-served urban communities transform themselves by addressing environmental, economic and social concerns through green job training, community greening programs and environmental education. My hubby and I ran the Hunt's Point Hustle 5K to support this fantastic organization. The run was so well organized and we had a blast at the post-race festivities.