How To Volunteer At Columbia And In The Community

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Tulips in West Side Community Garden
Tulips in West Side Community Garden

One way to help is by gardening in the community!

If you’re confused about all of the yellow balloons on campus, today is Columbia Community Outreach Day of Service, when Columbia encourages student groups to get involved and give back to the community. If you’re participating, good for you! But whether you are or not, you can help the community more than just one day out of the year. In honor of the Day of Service, we’ve compiled some resources for Columbia students looking for ways to help out.

Find ways to volunteer through:

  • Deed, “an on-demand app that makes volunteering easy,” purports to be an “Uber for volunteering” which connects volunteers who can’t commit to weekly volunteer spots. Not currently available on Android.
  • NYC Service, a 2009 creation in response to calls for volunteerism by President Obama, has listings for official NYC government-sponsored events, but also lists miscellaneous opportunities.
  • New York Cares focuses especially on three key issue areas of education, immediate needs, and public spaces.
  •, which lists over 1000 opportunities in NYC, also offers over 100,000 volunteer positions across the nation.
  • Cherry Ivy attempts to “make philanthropy accessible” by showing how easy it can be to get involved.
  • Idealist,  run by Action Without Borders, has been around since 1995 and promotes over 2,500 opportunities in NYC.

And if you’re looking for some specific ways to help out:

The Columbia University Food Bank, supported by the student councils, was created last year in response to food insecurity issues on campus. Volunteers collect materials, shop, and disburse food to fellow students.

Musical Mentors Collaborative gives music lessons to public school children in the neighborhood, and also provides instruments to low-income schools.

Donating blood is a great way to volunteer on a no-commitment basis. The Red Cross has regular donations at 520 W 49th Street, a short walk from the 1 train, and the New York Blood Center runs drives on campus and on the Upper East Side at 310 E 67th Street.
Red Cross: 520 W 49th Street, 8 minute walk fro the 50th street station

The Harlem Arts Festival is in its sixth season of supporting performing arts by putting on shows and offering discounted and free rehearsal space and recording time. They’re currently looking for volunteers at their upcoming gala on Thursday the 30th.

The Harlem Educational Activities Fund is seeking tutors for middle and high school students who can commit to an entire semester once a week on weekdays or Saturdays, but they are also seeking volunteers for one-time events such as High School Career Day and College Decision Day.
The Hudson River Park Green Team meets once a month to plant, weed, prune, mulch, and trim the Hudson River Park in Downtown Manhattan

Habitat for Humanity revitalizes community spaces through the Brush With Kindness program to paint, garden, and construct playgrounds, community centers, and public parks across all five boroughs.

If you want to help immigrants in NYC, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs is looking for volunteers for their IDNYC program and Know Your Rights Forums.

The Coalition for the Homeless runs the Grant Central Food Program, which provides food across New York City every evening of the year, as well as distributing food clothing, and blankets.

The Food Bank For New York City offers many volunteer positions, including Senior Breakfasts in West Harlem and pantry distributions in East Harlem. You can sign up with only 24 hours advance notice.

Pretty Flowers via Britt Fossum

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