In these heady economic times, it’s a bit
too easy to become self-centered.
Yes, your bank account and family’s bellies
need filling, but countless members of our community
have spent the better part of the past year scrounging
for any means of survival.
The nonprofits that often provided a safety net
for the homeless and needy have seen a significant
decrease in funding and a jump in demand, according
to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger’s
Annual Hunger Survey.
Over 80 percent of agencies that responded to
the survey showed an increase in demand. The same
amount said they found themselves helping more
families with children.
But money has not met the growth in need. In fact,
it’s going in the opposite direction. About
70 percent of agencies saw a drop in funding and
food. The resulting lack in money has forced over
half of the respondents to dip into their own
bank accounts to help the shelters run.
With the Farmer’s Almanac predicting a particularly
hard winter and 21 homeless shelters facing closure
citywide, the lives of our neediest will become
more grueling and precarious.
“In tough economic times, we need to ensure
that those who need help the most are not forgotten,”
Councilman Eric Gioia said.
Gioia, along with other members of the City Council,
were present for the unveiling of the Coalition
Against Hunger’s Survey.
“We can’t allow ourselves to turn
our backs on the voiceless and repeat the same
mistakes from the past,” he said.
Help requires little more than time, tenacity
and talent. And various agencies have been working
as hard as ever. Donations are nice, but representatives
from various agencies said they value time and
energy equally. All they need is you.
New York Cares has been the most visible of these
groups. (Who can forget their ad of the Statue
of Liberty shivering in a merciless winter wind?)
Yet it is also the most overlooked.
Its annual coat drive is in full swing and in
its 20th year. There is also their 20th annual
Winter Wishes program. Families and children send
letters requesting a gift this Holiday season.
Volunteers receive however many letters they want
with the expectation they’ll make the writers’
wish comes true. Over 9,000 letters remain, and
for many, the gifts they receive may be the only
ones they get this year.
Likewise, the Coalition for the Homeless has been
taking steps to prevent homelessness or help people
get a roof over their heads. Volunteering for
any of its myriad of programs, from the mobile
soup kitchen program Grand Central Food to tutoring
in Bound for Success, can help in a way that’s
hard to underemphasize.
For all things food, check out City Harvest. The
organization has everything, from basic food drives
to food rescue programs, which takes leftovers
from trade shows and conventions and passes them
along to the homeless.
For the most hassle-free experience, the Coalition
Against Hunger has pioneered a unique online Volunteer
Matching program. The Web site corrals volunteer
opportunities down to the zip code and subway
stop, matching the time and talent you have to
A spokesperson at the Coalition said the biggest
need is for prolonged service.
“Helping on the holidays is nice, but people
are still hungry in March,” the spokesperson