"New Year, New You" is a concept that we're all familiar with. January 1 is often the arbitrary day when we decide to get highlights, join a gym, call an old friend, make a new one... But what if we took the concept more seriously? What if we decided to challenge ourselves in a big way? What if we chose to do better, to be better, in the upcoming months?
A good place to start is by volunteering within your community. There are so many places in need, so many places that would be grateful for your help: Every community center, every place of worship, every hospital, every school could use a boost. This list is a launchpad of ideas and a chance to spotlight a few hard-working organizations.
Tulane Medical Center
Did you know that you can volunteer at hospitals? It's extraordinarily rewarding. No special skills or training are required to lend a helping hand. You'll be matched according to your interests and talents. You can work at the Information Desk or in pediatrics, in patient relations, in the emergency department, the surgery waiting room, the cancer center, discharge, or as an admit escort. Sign up to volunteer at TulaneHealthcare.com.
If you're short on time, donating blood is always a valuable gift and can be done at Ochsner Blood Banks, where they state that they are "in urgent need of donations," at The Blood Center, a nonprofit community service organization linked to UMC Hospitals, or at several other locations.
You can also pick up volunteer shifts at the Children's Hospital of New Orleans. Their hospital gift shop is run by volunteers, and they could always use help organizing fundraising and service projects.
House of Tulip
House of Tulip is literally building a community. They're raising funds to buy and restore a centrally located multi-unit property, near all essential resources, that will serve as their pilot permanent housing campus, to house transgendered and gender-nonconforming people in need of assistance. They're also working to acquire and develop a community center where TGNC people can safely access social safety net navigation, community programming, a hot meal, a shower, or a safe place to just hang out or do schoolwork.
Their mission statement is: "According to the U.S. Trans Survey, 1 in 3 trans people in Louisiana report experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives. House of Tulip will provide zero-barrier housing to trans and gender nonconforming people in need of a safe place to stay, while growing the supply of affordable housing in New Orleans. It's a long-term investment in housing solutions. The path from homelessness to home ownership is long and hard, but we will be there every step of the way for TGNC Louisianans. Meanwhile, House of Tulip will continue to own the land, ensuring our housing stays affordable forever."
Co-founders Mariah Moore and Milan Nicole Sherry are featured in this year's Gambit "40 Under 40." They run a remarkable organization and make volunteering fun. So far, they've done voter registrations, clothing drives, virtual galas, resilience marches, shopping donation partnerships, raffles, and giveaways. Go to HouseOfTulip.org to volunteer.
The Green Project & Green Light New Orleans
It's easy being green with these two organizations!
The Green Project runs a retail store out of a large warehouse space in the Marigny, with the mission of selling recycled building materials to local residents. Their salvage store is 100-percent donation-based, with an emphasis on keeping historic architectural pieces in New Orleans and providing affordable building materials. Buying from them supports the nonprofit, as does donating time or materials. You can donate tools, siding, garden supplies, house paint, lumber, tile, plumbing, light fixtures, doors, or windows. They also run an edible garden and oversee a paint-recycling program. There are many different opportunities for volunteering. To do so, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Green Project accepts drop-off materials at 2831 Marais St., 11:00 a.m. - 5 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Go to thegreenproject.org/donate-materials for do's and don'ts.
At Green Light New Orleans, there are plenty of hands-on, crafty ways to volunteer. You can paint and personalize a rain barrel, plant in the teaching garden, or install energy-efficient light bulbs. You'll be able to help others while learning how to offset your own carbon footprint. Go to greenlightneworleans.org/volunteerapply to sign up.
New Orleans Mutual Aid Society
The New Orleans Mutual Aid Society was founded at the beginning of the pandemic, by six friends living in the Bayou St. John neighborhood. They pooled their resources and rented a house at 3122 Cleveland Ave. They started by delivering groceries to people who were at high risk of infection and could not leave their houses. Since then, they've grown to over 30 regular volunteers and have made a massive impact on the community.If you need warm meals, groceries, toiletries, clothing, or other things, you can stop by their house on weekdays, from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m., or Saturdays, from 2 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Everything they provide is based on what neighbors and volunteers are able to give. They could use extra volunteers to help cook meals, volunteers to deliver meals, volunteers to grocery shop, to coordinate produce-overflow pickups, and to manage the space, as well as donations of food supplies. The best way to contact them is through email: email@example.com
One Book One New Orleans
One Book One New Orleans runs a campaign for literacy and community for all of its residents. They partner with the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society, the New Orleans Public Library, and WRBH Reading Radio to provide adult literacy programs and access to books and to host quality community programming for those with visual impairment. Through the Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans, Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners, and the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings, they help run book drives for extraordinary organizations such as Travis Hill, located inside of the juvenile detention center, which provides legitimate, interactive education behind bars and helps students re-engage with school upon release. They are always looking for volunteers in several capacities and are flexible and accommodating about schedules and physical challenges. Sign up at onebookonenola.org/#volunteer
[Lead image Sabrina Stone]