Where to Volunteer Locally in New York & New Jersey

Last Updated on March 6, 2020

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, people across the northeast were united by in the aftermath of the storm’s wrath—many were not lucky in being spared the full effects of this storm. Displaced New York and New Jersey residents were huddled in gas lines or bus lines with just about every aspect of their lives disrupted.

While there were many post-disaster type volunteering positions open across the region at the time, what many don’t know is that there are still many local volunteer opportunities for New Yorkers and New Jersey residents. Grassroots Volunteering is about not just heading out into the world on international volunteering trips, but also using time to support worthy causes right in our own communities.

There are a number of places you can volunteer in the New York and New Jersey area. If you look widely enough, you can surely find a cause close to your heart that needs your time as a volunteer, and your support as a vocal advocate. These are just a few ways you can give back locally in the region. If we’ve missed one you love, leave it in the comments so others can find and support it, too.

NYC Skyline

New York Cares

New York Cares is “the city’s largest volunteer organization, running volunteer programs for 1,300 nonprofits, city agencies and public schools.” It recruits volunteers to help in all manner of ways. Volunteers mobilized by New York Cares were knocking on doors at senior centers during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, and giving assistance where needed. Coordinator Lizzie Shipley states that contributions “of any size”—of either time or money—are extremely valued, given the magnitude of need in the community.

Support Habitat for Humanity

Habitat For Humanity is another widely-recognized organization that always needs local volunteers in the New York and New Jersey area. GVs founder has worked on Habitat projects in the past and these are an incredible way to support local families as they build toward their dream: an affordable and safe home. Projects typically even short term (one-day) volunteers, though you are certainly welcome on a regular basis as well.

Volunteer at Community Foodbanks

Foodbanks are at the frontline of creating food security for the most vulnerable in your community. And volunteering at your local foodbank is usually pretty easy—they always need the support and most regions have at least one.

The Community Foodbank of New Jersey works year-round to distributing thousands of pounds of food to local families. You can either give your time, or donate shelf-stable food items and items from the organization’s “most-wanted” list. Volunteers are also sorely needed.

The Food Bank for NYC is one option, and St. John’s Bread & Life needs volunteers in Brooklyn.

If none are local to you, check the Food Bank Association of New York to find one near you, or use Food Pantries’ extensive list.

One more niche and quirky volunteer experience is through Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, which coordinates volunteers to pick up leftover food from restaurants and prevent excess wholesome cuisine from being wasted and bringing it to areas where that food is most needed. What’s great about the organization is that the handy scheduling calendar allows you to exactly choose a range of volunteer pick up times that match your schedule.

Give Back to Your Local Humane Society

The Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals exists to ensure that animals across the country are given the protection they deserve. You can volunteer in support of higher level animal rights issues, or work at local shelters. Volunteer with the ASPCA or local SPCA shelters, both of which provide a wide range of volunteer experiences that allow you to help create meaningful change right within your own community.  They will find them safe foster homes until the point that the animals can be reunited with their owners. Both foster families and funds are needed to help out.

Still looking for more ways to volunteer locally? This is a list of quirky and offbeat volunteering ideas for New Yorkers that provides some niche and fun opportunities.