14 Ways to Give Back in NYC, Based on What You’re Into
From food museums to after-school programs, these are the best ways to help out in New York.
If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that no one can get through it alone. Whether as citizens of the world or simply just New Yorkers, helping our fellow neighbor (or subway commuter) is more important than ever, and not just on Giving Tuesday, there’s never a wrong time to give back in whatever way we can.
So, to help you pitch in to make New York better, we’ve rounded up a list of ways to contribute to a safer, cleaner, and friendlier city—whatever your interests happen to be. From virtual options to get involved from home to future in-person opportunities for people who want to get their hands dirty (when it’s safe to do so), these organizations will allow you to explore your love of food, animals, the arts, and more and do some good in the process.
For the foodie
New York’s food scene can satisfy any palate, including those craving some philanthropic flavors. P.S. Kitchen, a vegan fine-dining restaurant in the Theater District, donates 100% of its profits to local and international charities. Even if you can’t go in and sit down to eat, P.S. Kitchen offers gift cards, including philanthropic gift cards where you skip the meal and just donate to the restaurant's charity partners.
Volunteering at the Museum of Food and Drink as a docent or program assistant helps support their efforts to educate people about food issues through creative exhibits focused on underrepresented cuisines and chefs. While MOFAD’s next installation is still TBD, you can donate to the museum online and check out their COVID-19 resource page with links to numerous ways for New Yorkers to help restaurants and restaurant workers.
Helping communities gain access to sustainable and healthy eating is another way food lovers can do good on the ground. Every Saturday on 134th Street you can volunteer with Harlem Grown to plant fruits and vegetables at its urban farm, or become a donor to help fund their garden-based programs for uptown youth.
For the animal lover
Becoming a foster pet parent through NYC orgs like Best Friends Animal Society, Social Tees Animal Rescue, or Animal Haven helps dogs and cats on their journey to finding a forever home. If you don’t have room for more pets in the house, current pooch parents can apply to Bideawee’s pet therapy program to bring furry love to nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. If you’d rather support animals from afar, Bideawee also has lots of amazing programs you can donate to, like the Veteran Pet Project, which offers free pet adoption for veterans.
The Good Dog Foundation pet therapy program brings animals to visit people who are suffering from trauma and serious illness, many in NYC. The best part: the foundation has extended their therapeutic services with virtual visits so that pet families can still help those who need it from the safety of their homes. Donate, enroll your dog to become a therapeutic paw, or use special events like birthdays and weddings as The Good Dog Foundation fundraisers to show your support.
Even if you can’t afford to adopt just yet, you can still spread some good to furry friends by becoming a volunteer dog walker for Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn’s Windsor Terrace neighborhood. There are also a number of other ways to support SCAR, including donating your old car or making an in-kind donation by purchasing items from their wishlist.
For the education advocate
Help the 1.6 million NYC adults who do not speak English proficiently gain literacy skills through Literacy Partners, where you can sign up to be a volunteer tutor (either virtually or in person), facilitate an English practice group, or help out in the program office. You can also donate to their book fund, which provides low-income immigrant children in NYC with 15 books per child, per year to encourage daily reading habits.
Artsy types can become volunteer mentors or donate to Art Start, which connects NYC creative professionals to marginalized youth for arts education. You can also teach budding young actors and dancers through volunteering with All Stars Project, a performing arts after-school program. Even if you lack creative skills, save your old art supplies, jewelry, digital cameras, or other potentially crafty items from the landfill and divert them to arts classrooms and nonprofits in need through Materials for the Arts.
Your next haircut could support vocational education, too. Stop by Chelsea hair salon My Darling Ivy during one of their promotional windows to have the proceeds from your cut donated to huMANE Beauty, an org that leads hairdressing training and gives free haircuts to kids in underserved communities all over the world. Or you can skip the new hairdo and donate directly online to huMANE; right now they're raising funds for out-of-work hairdressers, and when salons reopen, donations will go toward their Uganda 2020 initiative to build a cosmetology school for Ugandan locals.
For the green at heart
If you really love New York, you want to keep it clean and green across all boroughs. Donating to Sustainable South Bronx helps the organization train members of the community to revitalize public spaces. You can also contribute gently used clothes to provide participants in its green jobs training program with a new wardrobe for interviews.
Turn your organic waste into high-quality compost with BK ROT, a POC-led organization that bikes around Brooklyn to pick up food waste from businesses and turns it into compost. Giving a monetary gift or volunteering by becoming a biker are both ways to contribute, or help the environment from home with one of their home-composting kits.
Through the NYC Parks’ Green Thumb program, you can volunteer to help tend to a community garden right in your neighborhood. You’ll not only beautify your block, but turn neighbors into friends and increase the sustainability of our planet. Membership to the gardens is free, and if you’re moved by the cause but don’t want to get your hands dirty (literally), you can donate to individual Green Thumb groups.
Doing better in the Big Apple can come in many different forms. But no matter which way you choose to help out, you’ll be bringing more positivity and goodness to this wild city. So grab your friends, pick an organization, and go out and make a difference.