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Natural Awakenings New York City

Volunteer In Person or Remotely through New York Cares

Unlike 9/11, when New Yorkers could quickly channel their fear and sorrow into volunteerism, the uncertainties surrounding Covid-19 have made it hard for citizens to know the best ways to help. New York Cares, founded in 1987 to harness New Yorkers’ famous spirit of giving through efficiency and economies of scale, has partnered with the city’s Volunteer Coordination Task Force to centralize and coordinate coronavirus volunteer efforts.

“As this crisis changes reality for millions, New York Cares has a full perspective of the evolving needs of the city, helping to make the most direct and meaningful impact,” says Erica Lockwood, the nonprofit’s director of marketing and communications. “Since mid-March, a record number of new volunteers—more than 12,000—have expressed interest in volunteering with New York Cares, consistently filling volunteer programs as needs across the city continue to grow.”

In a typical year, 52,000 New Yorkers volunteer through New York Cares, but that number will almost certainly rise appreciably in 2020 with citizen’s response to the current crisis. In March 2020, 6,468 new volunteer accounts were created, compared to 2,243 in March 2019. On April 3 alone, 1,700 new volunteers signed up—more than any one-day record during Hurricane Sandy.

“New York Cares has quickly adjusted programs to adapt to the changing needs of local communities,” Lockwood says. “In April, 65 percent of our volunteer programs were focused on food insecurity, including meal delivery services.”

Here are some of the efforts New York Cares is currently spearheading:

  • Running on-the-ground volunteer programs that focus on urgent needs, like providing meals for food-insecure and homebound New Yorkers.

  • Enforcing health and safety (including social distancing and PPE) protocols for volunteers and nonprofit partners.

  • Shifting existing programs from in-person to online and adding new virtual volunteering opportunities. Recently launched projects include virtual yoga and judo for elementary school students, a virtual fitness dance party for students and families, virtual SAT tutoring, phone-banked wellness checks of homebound seniors, virtual citizenship-preparation help, and an online current events discussion group with adults and seniors who are blind or have low vision. 

To look for volunteer opportunities that can be done remotely, visit the NewYorkCares.org search page and look under the Location filter “Virtual.”

“We expect to have projects more widely available soon,” Lockwood says. “One of our newest initiatives is in partnership with New York City Department of Education to provide volunteer coordinated technology support to parents and students living in temporary housing. Hundreds of trained volunteers will be calling each of these families to provide technical assistance.”

Individuals who are looking for opportunities to help during this time can receive updates about upcoming Covid-19 relief opportunities, both on the ground and remote, by signing up at NewYorkCares.org or checking for new projects posted weekly on the website’s search page. Another way to help is to support the Covid-19 Relief Fund at NewYorkCaresRelief.FunRaise.org or NewYorkCares.org/Donate 

For more information, visit NewYorkCares.org.