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A Guide to Volunteering in North Brooklyn on MLK Day

By Mary Emily O'Hara | January 19, 2014 11:22am
 North Brooklyn's community service agencies and non-profits rely on volunteers to keep things going. DNAinfo has compiled a list of volunteer opportunities to help readers participate in the 2014 MLK Day of Service holiday: "A day on, not a day off."
Volunteering on MLK Day
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BROOKLYN — January 20th not only marks the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., it also represents the only federal holiday that is nationally mandated as a “day of service.”

Designated by Congress in 1994 as “a day on, not a day off,” the holiday has also been adopted into President Barack Obama’s "United We Serve" initiative, with the Obama family famously choosing to spend a day volunteering during inauguration week in January 2012.

For residents looking to participate in what United We Serve says has Americans “coming together on the King holiday to serve their neighbors and communities,” DNAinfo New York has compiled a list of ongoing volunteer opportunities in Williamsburg, Bushwick and Greenpoint.

Not all of the organizations listed here are participating in Day of Service on Monday, but all have openings for volunteers who want to get involved on a regular basis.

Time's Up!

This rabble-rousing group calls itself “NYC’s Direct Action Environmental Organization” and is famous for organizing its Critical Mass bike rides. These days, Time's Up! runs two community centers with free bike repair classes, movie nights, and information about some of its campaigns, which include projects with names like “Chelsea Piers Sucks.”

Volunteers can state their preference for bike repair, fundraising, outreach and other programs here99 South Sixth St. Timesup.org.

Make the Road New York

A community organizing group that seeks to empower Latino and working-class communities, Make The Road New York runs a Bushwick site in addition to others in Staten Island, Queens and Long Island.

Although the organization offers a variety of internships, it also relies on volunteers to teach English to Spanish speakers and to help run its computer-literacy classes. Contact the adult literacy coordinator at monica.robles@maketheroadny.org or call 718-565-8500 ext. 4463.

301 Grove St. in Bushwick. Maketheroadny.org.

Empower Community Empowerment Center

Run by the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen’s Council (RBSCC), the Bushwick center is one of three (there’s a Brownsville location and one at 90 Beaver St.) offering adult education, legal assistance, veterans programs and help with homelessness.

Volunteers are encouraged to call 718-366-4300 for more information.

1475 Myrtle Ave. Empowermentcenter.org.


A nonprofit branch of the 826 Valencia project founded by writer Dave Eggers in San Francisco, 826NYC is devoted to helping kids ages 6 to 18 develop writing skills and do well in school.

The group mans an off-site “tutoring annex” at the Brooklyn Public Library Mondays through Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m. Volunteer tutors help with homework and, according to 826, “get to flex your math and science skills, as well as your writing muscles.” Email volunteer coordinator at Rebecca@826nyc.org.

The Brooklyn Public Library is located at 240 Division Ave. at Marcy Avenue. 826nyc.org.

Greenpoint Church

This liberal Christian congregation at 136 Milton St. is run by two female ministers who stress that their 150-year-old church is for “all kinds of people.”

The church prepares free community meals on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and relies on volunteers to cook, serve and clean. Volunteers are also needed to help with general maintenance and office work. Email CB@greenpointchurch.org or call 718-383-5941.

136 Milton St. Greenpointchurch.org.

Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (BARC)

This no-kill animal shelter has been finding homes for dogs, cats and other pets since 1987. Back then, neighbors would drop off unwanted or abandoned animals at the tiny storefront pet store that BARC still operates at the corner of Wythe Avenue and North First Street. Now, BARC works out of a warehouse that holds more than 100 cats and about 35 dogs at a time, with many more placed in foster homes until adoption.

Volunteers can walk dogs and hang out in the cat loft, cuddling with kittens. Volunteers are required to be over 21 with ID and proof of address.

253 Wythe Ave. Barcshelter.org.

El Puente

This community service organization, founded in 1982, runs four centers across North Brooklyn that offer kids homework help, arts classes, sports and community action projects. El Puente also runs a full-time high school and a community garden, Espiritu Tierra, on South Second Street.

Check out the website for more specific information on the variety of programs El Puente coordinates. Elpuente.us.

211 South Fourth St. 718-387-0404.