Reasons You Should Volunteer

Though many people have busy schedules, especially if you live in New York City, you should always make time to volunteer. Finding something you are passionate toward and helping the people in that specific community will forever change the way you live your life and give you hope for a stronger, kinder future. You’ve probably thought about volunteering in the past, but haven’t quite made the strides to dedicate your time. The time is now – get out there, make a difference! Here are just few of the many reasons why you should volunteer as soon as possible:

jack ryger volunteer

First off, it’s good for your health. This may seem a little selfish when speaking about volunteering, but it’s important for you to recognize the many health benefits that stem from helping others (it’s a two-way street). Not only does volunteering help reduce stress by having you focus on others instead of yourself, it also increases positive emotions in your brain – like optimism and joy, and can help strengthen your immune system.

Volunteering also helps bring people together so you can all experience a sense of community. Regardless of your background or social status, individuals who are passionate for the same subject and are working together toward a common goal are united through philanthropic work. Not only can you meet life-long friends through volunteering, but you also learn the importance of teamwork, a skill that will be used in various fields, consistently throughout your life.

jack ryger community-service_beach-cleanup

Furthermore, when a community comes together, it gets stronger. By supporting families through daycare and eldercare, feeding the hungry, improving education, supporting youth programs, and beautifying the community, members are proud to be a part of it, and will become more and more willing to help out other members of their community.

Lastly, when you volunteer, you recognize you can make a difference – even if it’s small. Helping others gives you the opportunity to realize that small things have a great impact on the world around you. You learn to appreciate the power of single individuals working together as a whole, helping the world for the benefit of humanity.

About the UJA-Federation

Jack Ryger UJA Full Building CROP500The UJA-Federation (United Jewish Appeal) is a leading force in the fields of community and philanthropy for the Jewish community in New York.  The UJA-Federation was established more than 90 years ago, and has now pulled together over 55,000 donors to help those in need, along with inspire a passion and commitment to Jewish life in order to strengthen the Jewish community across the globe.

The UJA-Federation works with 100 network beneficiary agencies, synagogues, and various other Jewish establishments to help an astounding 4.5 million people from all around the world. Through hard work and organization, the UJA-Federation is able to carry-out services and provide resources in order to change individual’s lives for the better.

Through this nonprofit organization, volunteers learn the importance of helping those in need from their own city to halfway across the world. The UJA-Federation has helped Holocaust survivors in Kiev by providing meals at community centers, Ethiopian Jews by teaching skills they can use to support their families, and children with disabilities so they feel welcome into their Jewish communities.

Jack Ryger Holocaust survivors video project

According to the UJA-Federation’s official website, http://www.ujafedny.org/, “Our caring hand extends to those living in poverty, the aging, Holocaust survivors, children and adults with disabilities and special needs, and the unemployed across the economic spectrum. We provide access to crucial human services to all New Yorkers, whoever they are, and Jews everywhere.”

Jack Ryger UJA Fed

The three main goals of the UJA-Federation are: to establish a sense of community, especially for those who undergo crises and struggle at various tasks associated with daily living, inspire Jews by teaching them Jewish values and giving them access to high-quality education, and to connect Jews across the world, reminding each other that we are all part of one people.

Ways to Help Local Domestic Violence Shelters

One great branch of community service to get involved with is helping out at a local domestic violence shelter. According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Victims of Crime, 25% of women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime – that’s one out of every four women you pass on the street each day. Women are abused in different ways, ranging from financial situations to being abused mentally and physically.

jack ryger stop domestic violence

Unfortunately, it’s very hard for these women to flee their homes and get away from their abuser. But, domestic violence shelters have been set up across the nation for these women to feel safe, and with your help they can get even more of the resources and care that these shelters provide. Here are some ways you can help:

First, donate gift cards. According to an article published by the Pixel Project, “Women many times leave their homes very quickly without packing. All they take with them are their children and the clothes on their back. A great way to assist would be clothing or superstore gift cards…” (16 Ways to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter). With these gift cards, women can buy the right size clothing for themselves and their children, along with getting professional attire to wear to job interviews so they can secure their finances independently.

jack ryger women's shelter

Next, volunteer to work at a hotline. Local shelters or even rape crisis centers have hotlines that are in need of volunteers since they are generally open 24/7. Volunteers usually have to go through certain training courses and commit to work a few days per week answering phones, so being willing to do these things even though they can be time consuming is key. Just remember, working for hotlines is extremely rewarding – you can save lives.

Lastly, think about writing a newsletter. Especially if you are a strong writer, using words to assist a local shelter’s quarterly or monthly newsletter can help the shelter out immensely. Writing articles about women’s rights and healthy relationships are two great topics to speak about and may even help women reach out about their own struggles. Keeping people aware and educated of the problem at hand (in this case, abuse) is the most important step towards eliminating it.

If you want to know more ways in which you can help your local domestic violence shelter, please read Pixel Project’s article here, where you can further learn about their previous campaign concerning women’s rights and domestic violence.

Why You Should Join the Peace Corps

After a decline in voluntary membership from 2009 to 2012, the Peace Corps is happy to see a resurgence of eagerness to participate in developing foreign communities.

jack ryger peace corps logo

The Peace Corps itself can attribute this to a simple tweaking of its application for participation, whereby it allows volunteers to select the country in which they wish to serve. Of course, volunteers without any inclinations can let the organization decide their location for them. Any 18 year old American citizen can pick his destination of choice, even his own country of origin, and begin contributing to the development of health and education programs, environmental sustainability programs, economic programs, etc., thereof.

The Corps is certain many will appreciate the opportunity to go back to their countries of origin and help out, even after leaving for the United States. In its youthful years, the organization was a little less liberal with its offerings, designating locations to applications based on need. The attraction of the modified system is that volunteers can choose locations that offer programs in line with their interests and skills from farming to computer science.

The Corps also encourages volunteers to develop their own clubs and programs with purposes that tend to to a community’s specific needs. In this way, the Corps mimics the college major-minor system, which grants students control over what they study. This lets the Peace Corps better guarantee the education and growth of not only the countries it serves, but the volunteers it hires. There will undoubtedly be far more productive use of talent when it is focused to certain tasks over others.

jack ryger peace corps

The socio-political principles of the Peace Corps are also adapting to today’s climate, a necessary change if the organization is to stand by its mission to promote and stimulate cultural growth. President Barack Obama has requested greater funding for the programs, now upward of $400 million dollars, which will be used to develop more technologically relevant programs, even helping developing countries gain familiarity with social media platforms and developing their own business ideas. Graduate students are also offered scholarship opportunities, and benefits like greater chances of being hired for governmental positions.

If the program’s service isn’t enough of an educational experience on its own, its aftermath advantages should convince the unsure. Students can expect tuition cost defrayment, access to scholarships, and government stipends for their service. What’s more is applicants can also apply to serve as couples given that they provide the appropriate documentation. Both heterosexual and same-sex couples are invited to participate, able to serve as a unit in the same location if they so please. In this day and age, adaptations such as these are pivotal to the continuing success of the organization.

Straight to the Doorstep

A recent New York Times article highlights a health initiative making waves in the South Bronx. The project is known as the South Bronx Mobile Market, and aims to bring fresh produce and healthy food options to impoverished communities in the City’s northernmost borough. The South Bronx has some of the highest indices of health issues associated with poor nutrition: obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. But many residents are concerned; fresh produce or healthy food options are not readily available. In fact some residents say that its actually easier and cheaper to grab fast food than go to a grocery store for a more nutritious option. And when they can make it to a grocery store? Lots of large chains label their produce with heightened prices (the article makes reference to one grocery store charging $7 for one pepper). One resident featured in the pieces says that she has to make the trip to Washington Heights or Chinatown- quite a ways from the South Bronx- for affordable food.

But South Bronx Mobile Market looks to challenge that unhealthy danger by breathing new life into the community. The program, modeled after similar initiatives in New Orleans, Detroit, and Chicago, was funded from about $65,000 of donations and grants to BLK Projek, an NPO that envisions food as a means to empower minority women and youth. The Mobile Market utilizes a repurposed school bus that runs on used vegetable oil that provides curbside grocery service. Customers climb aboard, and examine a healthy variety of produce. Founder Tanya Fields goes out and buys the produce, loads it onto the bus, and takes it to the communities in need. South Bronx Mobile Market accepts food stamps, as well as credit cards and cash. But for those who can’t afford the food, Ms. Fields says that she gladly gives it to them at no charge.

Although its making a beneficial impact on the community, there’s much room for growth and improvement. Right now, Ms. Fields just transports and delivers produce, but she hopes for the installation of solar panels. That way, she can power a refrigerator and provide meat and organic dairy. There were also a few kinks this winter- at least one occasion saw the bus’s need to be started with the assistance of jumping cables, and another that saw it fail to turn on altogether. However, its future looks bright; residents welcome the good will of BLK Projek and South Bronx Mobile Market, with a warm hope.

God’s Love We Deliver

God's Love We Deliver

God’s Love We Deliver is a charity that is dedicated to improving the health of people affected by serious illnesses. They do this by delivering nutritious meals to people living with these illnesses who are unable to prepare the meals themselves. They also provide nutrition education and counseling to clients, families, care providers and other charities.

God’s Love We Deliver provides meals to almost 5,000 clients. They serve people of all ages. The diagnosis of their clients include: HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Alzheimer’s/Neurological Disorders, Kidney Disease, MS/Musculoskeletal Disorders, among others.

Clients are so grateful for what God’s Love We Deliver has been able to do for them. Brian, after being diagnosed as HIV positive, turned to God’s Love We Deliver. He says, “It was a blessing from the very beginning.” Before starting the program, Brian’s budget often only allowed him eat one meal a day. Even then, that one meal lacked nutritional value. God’s Love We Deliver put Brian on their Grocery Bag Program. On this program, Brian receives one bag of nutritional foods per week, including fruits and vegetables. Brian says, “I am healthier than I have been in a long time and it is due to the help I receive from God’s Love.”

God’s Love We Deliver has a variety of programs that address specific needs of their clients. In addition to the Grocery Bag Program, they have: Home Delivered Meals, Children’s Meals, Senior Caregiver-Program, and the Cancer Program. They even have a Community Partners Program, where God’s Love We Delivers partners with long term care programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and etcetera. All services are provided free of charge.

God's Love We Deliver Volunteers

God’s Love We Deliver started by delivering 671,789 meals in 2007. They have projected to deliver 1,460,629 meals in 2015. This growth demonstrates the need for expansion, which is why they launched a $35,000,000 expansion campaign on October 19th,  2001. Currently they have raised $29,000,000 of their $35,000,000 goal. They have received generous donations from: Michael Kors, Steve and Alex Cohen, Jeff Gates, and Mike Moran. They’ve also received an $8,000,000 capital allocation from the City of New York.

The charity is largely supported by the kindness and commitment of volunteers. They have 8,000 volunteers annually, which totals to 132,000 hours of service annually. Only 5% of God’s Love We Deliver is run by a paid staff.

God’s Love We Deliver has a wide variety of opportunities for people to volunteer. They have opportunities for volunteers to: work in the kitchen, deliver the meals, assist van deliveries, assemble meal kits, and assist in the office.  With prior experience, volunteers can also work as videographers, video editors, and graphic designers!

To learn more about God’s Love We Deliver, visit their website. To sign up to be a volunteer, fill out a volunteer application.