7 Great Ways to Give Back in NYC

Walking dogs in Brooklyn

“If not now, then when?” my grandmother used to say. She passed away a few years ago, leaving behind wonderful life mottos (“Play cards, be happy.”) that never meant as much to me then as they do now.

With the taste of that expensive latte still on your tongue, take a moment to think of all the things you have to be grateful for. Then ask yourself if 2014 is the year you will give back to your community.

Serving hot meals, dog walking, biking, composting, and donating a coat, are just some of the seven ways New Yorkers can help people and the planet in this New Year.

Clothe | New York Cares
For New York Cares’ annual coat drive in December, bad weather means fewer coat donations and more bone-chilled people in need. If you have outdated outerwear in the closet, there are several locations throughout NYC accepting coats. If you have questions, call 212.807.7606.

Feed | Food Bank For New York City
It’s nice to be able to put food on the table, to afford healthy dishes and dinners out. It’s also easy to forget that in a city like New York, there are thousands of starving people. To help combat hunger, join the Food Bank for NYC through different volunteer opportunities in the five boroughs, from serving hot meals to re-stocking shelves to educating low-income students about creating healthier lifestyles. And by the way, if you have a nursing sponsorship in the US, you can volunteer at events or clinics to help people. 

Pet | Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition
Since 1987, the not-for-profit organization BARC has provided a safe home to abandoned animals from the moment of rescue until adoption. On Wythe Ave. in Williamsburg, come walk a dog, brush a cat and spread the love. No orientation program required. Visit the website above for specific volunteer times.

Educate | 826NYC
Not using that degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing? And even if you are, what better way to put your talent to good use in the New Year than by helping inspire a student to find his or her own voice. See what 826NYC is all about at the writing center in Park Slope, where after-school workshops and weekend tutoring take place.

Compost | Queens Botanical Garden
Without a backyard, it’s not easy for green thumbed-foodies to have a vegetable garden at home. So what do you do? You take a whiff of your little basil plant, join a community garden, then send yourself to a composting class at the Queens Botanical Garden. Learn how to compost inside your apartment and in city yards, and feel good about diverting waste and giving back to the earth. Email compost@queensbotanical.org or call 718.886.3800 ext 500 to register.

Entertain | Alliance for the Arts
Across the five boroughs, at places like MoMA PS1, Museum of the Moving Image, City Island Historical Society and St. Ann’s Warehouse, there are exciting and rewarding volunteer jobs with landmark establishments—that come with free performances and admission. Visit the NYC Arts website above for more information.

Travel | Bike New York
If you are an avid biker who believes in Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” this is a perfect opportunity for you. Bike New York, the organization that runs the TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour every May, operates a wonderful bicycle education program, which connects cycling enthusiasts with kids and young adults eager to learn about bike safety and skills. Help ensure a bright future for biking and green transit while enjoying fun training sessions, quality thank-you gifts, and the chance to meet fellow riders in NYC.

For more volunteer ideas, check out useful sites like Give and Get NYC and Idealist.org.

Brooklyn Animal Resource Center Photo: Courtesy of Garrett Ziegler