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Surge of Volunteers Sign Up to Help City Organizations in Election's Wake

By Eddie Small | November 17, 2016 2:25pm
 Groups in New York City focusing on issues such as immigration, women's health and LGBTQ rights say they have seen a surge in volunteers since the election.
Groups in New York City focusing on issues such as immigration, women's health and LGBTQ rights say they have seen a surge in volunteers since the election.
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NEW YORK — New Yorkers are signing up in droves in the wake of the election to volunteer with groups focused on issues like immigration, LGBTQ rights and women's health — as organizations ask for their patience as they struggle to keep up.

In the days immediately following Donald Trump's election on Nov. 8, for instance, more than 300 people signed up to assist the New York Immigration Coalition, according to communications manager Thanu Yakupitiyage, who described the surge as an "unprecedented" amount of people.

"It’s not like we can find something immediately for everyone to do," she said, "but at the same time, it’s really great that these people are there and willing to volunteer."

Volunteers with the NYIC typically help with activities like legal screenings, language translation and event logistics, and while Yakupitiyage said the group is currently in the midst of a "preparation phase," she anticipates that there will be plenty of activities for people to volunteer for by the beginning of next year.

"Come January, we’re going to have much more in place for volunteers to get involved with," she said. "We want to keep them engaged and alert for things to come."

New York Cares, one of the largest volunteer groups in the city, announced on Wednesday that the week after the election saw the organization receive its biggest increase in new volunteer registration since Hurricane Sandy and that people were specifically interested in its projects focused on serving people who are still learning English and preparing for their citizenship tests.

Sign-ups for projects in those categories saw a 137.3 percent increase last week compared to the same week in 2015, while new volunteer registrations in general were up 78.6 percent compared to last year, to the point where the group has had to add extra volunteer orientation sessions, according to New York Cares.

The Trevor Project, a national group focused on helping LGBTQ youths, has seen a huge increase in volunteers, too, particularly in New York City, according to spokesman Steve Mendelsohn.

It has reached the point where it may take some time to find projects for all of them to work on, he said.

"So many people have contacted us that we’re overflowing with volunteers," Mendelsohn said, "and so we are very grateful for that and need volunteers, but it might take us a while to get through to all of the people who have reached out to us."

Planned Parenthood of New York City has seen a surge in volunteers as well, receiving more than 500 calls and emails from people looking to help since Trump's election, according to the organization.

People asking to volunteer are concerned about issues such as the future of the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade, and while most are just reaching out to ask how they can help, others are approaching the group with specific skills that they think could be of service, according to Christina Chang, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of NYC.

"There are people who come, and they say, 'I’m a lawyer, and is there anything that I can do to help support you?' or I’m an artist, or I’m a filmmaker, and is there something that we can do together," Chang said. "Others are coming to us and saying they want to organize events where the proceeds would go to support Planned Parenthood."

She encouraged people to not lose their enthusiasm about volunteering going forward, stressing that Planned Parenthood will continue to need support as it solidifies its plans for operating under a Trump administration.

"We’re so grateful for this outpouring of support, and it’s incredibly affirming for us, but I think a message that we want to get to folks is we want to keep them coming to us," she said, adding that the group is "in this for the long haul."