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Red Hook Nonprofit Offers Chances to Volunteer with New 'Allies Program'

By Nikhita Venugopal | January 23, 2014 10:29am
 Crystal Ross, 18, a high school student who has been attending programs at the Red Hook Initiative for six years.
Crystal Ross, 18, a high school student who has been attending programs at the Red Hook Initiative for six years.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

RED HOOK — When Hurricane Sandy battered Red Hook, volunteers traveled from across the country to lend a helping hand in the neighborhood.

And now, a local nonprofit is harnessing that benevolent spirit into a new program.

The Red Hook Initiative launched the “Allies Program” this week, a new way for people to volunteer their time and expertise to the organization that primarily works with young people in Red Hook.

The Allies Program lets people sign up to participate in one-time fundraisers and activities, as well as join a training program for those interested in working directly with students and young adults.

“Whether you’re from the neighborhood or not from the neighborhood, you can definitely lend some talents, some skill sets, a helping hand, when we need it the most,” said RHI Executive Coordinator Frances Medina at the program’s launch on Monday.

Quarterly training sessions will begin in March for prospective mentors and tutors. Students will also have a chance to provide feedback on the volunteer teachers.

“The trainings are really great for people who are looking to be dealing with youth,” she said.

Activities like tutoring, reviewing resumes and essays, or even speaking at workshops and career panels are ways volunteers can work with youth at RHI.

Volunteers can also host benefits and organize fundraisers, share technical skills and expertise for RHI programs, and arrange internships or job opportunities.

Even without going through the training program, there are other ways to help out, said Medina, such as signing up for one-time opportunities or signing up for an “on call” list so RHI can contact you if the need arises.

RHI offers programs for middle and high school students and young adults, ages 19 to 24, such as academic tutoring, counseling and college and job-readiness workshops.

Students can also take part in activities like radio internships, reproductive health counseling and HIV testing and a 10-week training program to sharpen students’ basic culinary skills. Young adults can work through the Red Hook WiFi project, which launched last year to provide Internet access throughout the neighborhood.

Crystal Ross, 18 has been attending programs at RHI for almost seven years.

Ross, a high school student in Red Hook, has participated in peer counseling, the culinary program and is now an office assistant.

“They help you with anything,” said Ross, who said the RHI team would even print out her assignments because she didn’t have a printer at home.

“Whenever you need them, RHI is there,” she said.

To register for the Allies Program, click here.