by Kavitha Mathew
In December and January, AIA New York and Center for Architecture staff continued our tradition of giving back to our local community by organizing staff service opportunities. Both centered around providing food to those in need.
Our first event was in December with the God’s Love We Deliver, bringing medically tailored, nutritious food to those living with severe illness. While several staff volunteers came down with a cold and our group was significantly reduced, the remaining intrepid crew headed out in a torrential downpour, doubling and tripling up on the heavy bags of food meant to be spread out among a larger group. Undeterred by the added loads, we boarded the subway and made our way through a rainy Hell’s Kitchen. Our personal interactions were varied and eye opening; to think that hidden away behind closed doors, so many are struggling with basic tasks and the loneliness that too often accompanies illness. Our bags and our hearts became a little lighter with each stop on our delivery route.
In January, we continued our tradition with a larger group of staffers. This time, we volunteered to assist with a soup kitchen at the Hebrew Union College (HUC), located on the north side of Washington Square Park. For over 30 years, HUC students have been providing weekly meals to the homeless and hungry in this neighborhood. Executive Director Ben Prosky, Assoc. AIA, fondly recalls volunteering at HUC in his school days. Our group joined others for an orientation meeting, then donned caps and hairnets and got to work serving guests who came in as they sat at their tables. The room was thoughtfully appointed with tablecloths and centerpieces, and even featured a volunteer pianist from NYU. The dignity and warmth of the event was heartening to those of us who volunteered. The dinner ended with a rendition of “Hey Jude” by The Beatles, sung by one of the attendees and accompanied by the pianist; many of us joined in for the chorus. It is so often that we pass by strangers in the streets of New York who are homeless or struggling and grapple with trying to determine the best way to help those in need.
AIA New York and the Center for Architecture understand that service and outreach begin in the neighborhoods where we live and work. We encourage our members to volunteer for similar activities in their neighborhoods, individually or perhaps with coworkers. We look forward to once again helping multiple nonprofit organizations around the city with our Day of Service on May 18th. More details about the projects will be available soon; we hope that you will join us in making a difference!