YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood

Volunteers at the Y: How a Small Group of People Make a Large Difference

The Y has stood at the center of the evolving community of Washington Heights and Inwood for almost 100 years. Since 1917, the founding ideals are still rooted deep in our agency, ideals like helping the vulnerable and less fortunate by providing services and resources that would otherwise be unattainable. The Y’s Friendly Visiting Program ensures that home-bound seniors receive adequate support on a weekly basis. The free Family Literacy Program gives children from immigrant homes a chance to improve their literacy skills in order to succeed in school. The Center for Adults Living Well @ the Y (for adults 60 and better) offers free programming to stimulate the mind and the body, while distributing hot meals daily, even on Sundays. We offer both inclusive and self-contained programs for children with special needs, welcoming them into our youth community and celebrating their diversity. The Y offers free ESL classes to help immigrants achieve independents and self-sufficiency.  

                To sum it up in one word, the Y is about “providing”. We provide our community members with what they need, when they need it. But what is more meaningful for us is the response we receive on a daily basis from the community. We get inquiries from people in the community and even outside of the United States asking how they can help. Nothing is more rewarding than to know we inspire others to give back to the community. From Nursery School to the Center for Adults Living Well, the Y cannot function without the hard work from community volunteers. Volunteer help ranges from teaching to educating, from supporting and serving, with active participation in our programs. Y volunteers range from 12 years old to 104 years old.

                Matthew Kenvin is one of our young volunteers. In conjunction with his becoming a Bar Mitzvah, Matthew felt compelled to give back to the community by volunteering at our Sunday Funday program for children with special needs. Besides for modeling appropriate social skills, developing relationships and forming friendships, Matthew came up with an idea to enhance the program. The center-pieces for his Bar Mitzvah party were made up of games and toys to be donated back to the children of Sunday Funday.

                Earlier, during the Jewish holiday of Suckot, a Bat Mitzvah girl was inspired by our work with local seniors. Facilitated by the UJA-Federation of New York and run by our Jewish Cultural Educator Cyndi Rand, the Bat Mitzvah girl and her friends shared in the joy and celebration with local older adults, distributing holiday baskets of gifts to everyone in the group.

                In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Y expresses gratitude for the many people who help us on a daily basis. Because of our volunteers, the Y has been able to provide our members with the high-level programming and respond to their needs.   

About the Y
Established in 1917, the YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood (the Y) is Northern Manhattan’s premier Jewish community center — serving an ethnically and socio-economically diverse constituency — improving the quality of life for people of all ages through critical social services and innovative programs in health, wellness, education, and social justice, while promoting diversity and inclusion, and caring for those in need.

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