How to Give Back This Summer

June 24, 2019

Start spreading the news...I want to be a part of it - New York, New York...'

Immortalized in song, film and prose, New York just conjures so many meanings and images in our minds. Breakfast at Tiffany's, Spike Lee, The Catcher in the Rye, the Beat Poets, Frank Sinatra, A Tribe Called Quest, Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada - art that has captured the ephemeral, inscrutable nature of the most populous city in the world. Many of us first experienced New York through media and images. Although the reality is not far off from most artistic interpretations, there are stories that fewer of us understand when we're not living in New York to see them every day, stories of insecurity and homelessness.

The other night, we were on a subway heading home. Across from us was a young woman and girl trying to get cozy to sleep on a brightly lit, relatively noisy, midnight train. Summer is difficult for insecure families as schools provide some stability and predictability in the lives of children and their parents. Nationwide, the nonprofit research center Child Trends found that in 2016-17, 1.4 million students (aged six to 18) experienced homelessness. The Coalition for the Homeless concluded, "homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s." Further statistics from New Alternatives indicate that LGBTQIA+ youth make up 40% of all homeless young people.

And the reasons for it are many: lack of affordable housing, overcrowded housing, domestic violence, job loss, dangerous housing conditions, mental health and other illnesses.

Our campaign with No Kid Hungry

If you haven't seen our campaign yet, we at Elysian have committed ourselves to donate a percentage of our profits to No Kid Hungry this summer. No Kid Hungry is a campaign that was launched in 2010 by hunger-focused nonprofit Share Our Strength. Its goal is to provide free healthy meals to children all year round, but especially in summer. Not only does food insecurity affect homeless families, but it also affects more than 12 million children living in low-income households. Incredibly just $1 can provide up to 10 meals! This is why we're in this mission to help ensure as many children are nourished as possible.

Here's where we turn to you. Every creative is exceptionally well positioned to lend a hand to a cause important to them. Whether it's to publicize or create a fundraising story for an organization, to create a mural or other artwork for a community or creative arts therapy group or to pick up waste and plant flowers or trees in a neighborhood garden, there are wonderful ways to take action in your communities!

Using your skills for a positive impact

One of our favorite organizations is Art Start. Art Start connects thousands of mentors to the city's underserved youth, nurturing in young people (ages five through 21) the creative skills they desire to have in order to pursue their ambitions. For more information on Art Start, check this link out and see if you can meet the requested commitment.

Another great avenue to give back to your community is with the American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA). AIGA services about 70 events annually and relies on volunteers to help with everything from event preparation to designing brochures and posters. Not only is this a great way to offer value to communities, but it's also a great way to network and attend presentations on the future of art and design.

While there are far too many to list here, we highly recommend spending some time on We Are New York Values, which provides comprehensive lists of organizations working on issues close to New Yorkers' hearts. Some of these include volunteer opportunities with organizations looking for designers, communicators and project managers to work in support of Arts for Social Justice, Gender Justice, Media and Democracy, Voting Rights, Access to Health, At-Risk Youth, and much, much more.

Growing your community

It's proven that being in the presence of greenery and biodiversity improves our mental health and reduces stress. Due to the necessary uptick of urban developments as the city's population grows, it's so important to have green spaces for all New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy. A leader in this effort is City Parks, who has been working on the mission to transform parks into places of community engagement and recreation since 1989. You can volunteer to help with a number of projects including painting, planting and weeding to beautify any of the over 400 parks in the city.

For those of us living in Brooklyn, United Community Centers has been protecting green spaces and food justice, as well as providing health education and administering neighborhood beautifying projects to the East New York neighborhood for over 60 years. You can volunteer to help by volunteering with the UCC Youth Farm all summer, painting wall, door and window frames, as well as tutoring elementary school students or providing fresh goods for neighborhood bake sales that raise funds for school trips.

Finally, New York is one of the most multicultural cities in the United States. You can volunteer with the Mayor's Office for Immigrant Affairs to protect and develop immigrant communities throughout the five boroughs, and help with everything from translation services to supporting special events like Immigrant Heritage Week.

When time is of the essence

Naturally, creatives are some of the busiest people in the city, especially for those of us working in agencies where client needs can change at the drop of a hat - even on weekends. When you want to take on a project for your community but lack the time to do so, there are instead small, meaningful ways that you can give back.

Donating clothes to shelters like the Bowery Mission or to Dress for Success (for women only) will guarantee low-income and homeless New Yorkers are able to have weather-comfortable and work-professional clothing. Donate to organizations like No Kid Hungry or the ACLU. And, if you're a property owner, you can request to have a tree planted on your street for free!

Not only does giving back provide some value for your community, but it can also make you feel lighter and more at ease. Feel free to talk about your experiences on your résumé or CV as well to give others greater insight into your values and character. Be kind, be aware of others and enjoy the beginning of summer!

Warm regards