|I’ve made volunteering at the Bowery Mission my personal Thanksgiving tradition.|
Thanksgiving is the kickoff to my favorite time of year – the holiday season. Like most New York transplants, I don’t have any family in the city (or the entire Northeast, actually), so I’ve grown accustomed to spending turkey day with my best friends instead. To me, they’re family anyways.
For my first, NYC Thanksgiving a few years back, I decided that I wanted to make my own holiday tradition and get involved in charity work. Having been involved with various charities my whole life, I wanted to make sure I continued to make some sort of contribution once I moved here. So since then, I volunteer at the Bowery Mission and serve food during Thanksgiving week.
The Bowery Mission is a wonderful organization, headed by an amazing staff of caring individuals. What really sets it apart is that the location is open 365 days a year and provides shelter, showers, clothing, and three meals daily for anyone in need. Rather than having a buffet-style setup, people are invited in and served directly at the table, giving the Bowery the reputation for being “the busiest restaurant in New York City.” In addition, computers and mentoring programs are available to help individuals find jobs and get back on their feet.
While New Yorkers can volunteer year-round, Thanksgiving volunteer spots book up insanely fast. I didn’t realize how popular the Bowery program was until I noticed reporters and news crews buzzing around, as several high-profile celebrities make it a point to stop by and help out for a couple hours with their families.
For my first year there, I was working alongside one of the Baldwin brothers, as well as Mario Batali, who insisted that his kids be assigned to the toughest kitchen duty positions available. The year after, I was volunteering with Bill de Blasio before he became the mayor of NYC (I had no idea who he was at the time).
Despite all of the chaos, everything always runs like a well-oiled machine. I can’t really describe what it’s like to volunteer at the Bowery, except that it’s one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had. The men, women, and children we serve are no different from the people we encounter on a daily basis. Donating my time to the Bowery Mission is a huge reality check.
As a New York resident, it’s way too easy to get caught up in the hustle of everyday life and give in to the “look out for number one” mentality. That’s why I’ve made it a point to help out with the less fortunate during the holidays. It’s the one time of year when I refocus on what’s important, remember how good my life is, and do something nice for someone other than myself.
All photos courtesy of The Bowery Mission.