Actively engaging with your neighborhood is more vital than ever, and here in Hell’s Kitchen, there are myriad volunteer opportunities to support fellow neighbors, local public spaces and cultural organizations. We’ve compiled a list of ways to get involved on the West Side — let us know of any more that we should add!
CLEAN STREETS AND HYPER-LOCAL RECYCLING
Faced with increased sanitation challenges since the COVID-19 lockdown, several local organizations are actively working to clean things up on the West Side.
The Litter Legion — incorporated as a 501(c)3 and founded by Hell’s Kitchen’s own Trash Queen, Catie Savage — organizes regular community cleanups as well as support for solo litter-busting efforts. As the Legion’s website states: “Building community one piece of litter at a time.”
[UPDATE — the HK Free Store was vandalized in April. They are currently not open and are looking for a new home] If you’re reorganizing your home, put your gently-used items back into the community at the Hell’s Kitchen Free Store (previously located on W45th St bw 9/10th Ave). It’s not only a place to donate (and pick up) household items, but also a community-focused group looking for volunteers to help maintain the space and participate in regular giveaway events.
PARKS, PUBLIC SPACES AND ENVIRONMENTAL MAINTENANCE
Think farm-to-table isn’t possible in Midtown? Think again. The Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project is a fully functioning, volunteer-powered urban farm on the roof of the Metro Baptist Church and Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries (410 W40th St bw 9/10th Ave) that grows fresh produce to be distributed locally through food pantries and CSA programs. The rooftop farm is closed for the remainder of 2023 but its new season will kick off in early 2024.
The Clinton Community Garden (434 W48th St bw 9/10th Ave) is a green oasis in Midtown’s concrete jungle. Keep an eye out on their website for opportunities to help with clean-up days during the season and special projects!
Another great way to keep Hell’s Kitchen green is to help out at the Mathews-Palmer Playground Compost Site (W45th St bw 9/10th Ave), where organizers partner with the Lower East Side Ecology Center to sustainably reuse compostable household food scraps.
Speaking of Mathews-Palmer Playground, if you’d like to get involved with programming, beautification, and community events in the space, reach out to the Hell’s Kitchen Commons group, which works to maintain the park and surrounding areas and create all-ages programming for the neighborhood to enjoy.
Hudson River Park is one of the West Side’s greatest gems — and with recreational spaces to performance venues to ecological sanctuaries and additional composting bins, the Hudson River Park Trust has ample volunteer opportunities to help clean, plant and maintain the sprawling waterfront space.
While we’re on the waterfront, why not join up with the Manhattan Community Boathouse (Pier 96 at W56th St), a volunteer-run non profit offering free kayaking on the Hudson River between June and October!
Back on land, the longstanding Clinton Housing Development Company has ongoing one-off and regular volunteer opportunities to create community programming in spaces around Hell’s Kitchen — reach out to learn more!
FOOD DISTRIBUTION, DONATIONS, AND SUPPORTIVE SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS
Founded in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hell’s Kitchen Community Cupboard (10th Ave bw W45/W46th St) is a mutual aid organization dedicated to the philosophy of neighbors working together to provide food for each other. The food share seeks regular volunteers to help maintain the cupboard, organize distributions and donations as well as help out at events.
In addition to hosting the Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project, the Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries (410 W40th St bw 9/10th Ave) have a wide variety of volunteer opportunities to assist with their food pantry, clothing collection and after-school programming.
And if you’re looking for additional food distribution volunteer opportunities, there are many faith organizations on the West Side organizing regular food distributions who need volunteers — among them are St Luke’s Church (308 W46th St bw 8/9th Ave), Saint Paul House (355 W51st St bw 8/9th Ave), Saint Paul the Apostle Church (405 W59th St bw 9/10th Ave), St Clements Food Pantry (423 W 46th St bw 9/10th Ave), Holy Cross Church Crossroads Pantry (329 W42nd St bw 8/9th Ave), Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church (457 W51st St bw 9/10th Ave), St Francis of Assisi Church (135 W31st St bw 6/7th Ave), Metropolitan Community Church (446 W36th St bw 9/10th Ave) and Crossroads Seventh Day Adventist Church (410 W45th St bw 9/10th Ave).
OneCoHK (345 W45th St bw 8/9th Ave), part of the OneCo Community Church, seeks volunteers to help them provide regular community meals, community art events, coat and supply drives, open mic nights and job training for recently arrived asylum seekers.
Team TLC is a grassroots organization dedicated to assisting migrants arriving at Port Authority — they are seeking volunteers to assist with legal paperwork (such as work authorizations) for new New Yorkers.
The Open Hearts Initiative has also been active in supporting local asylum seekers, as well as those experiencing homelessness housed in Midtown. Sign up to volunteer with Open Hearts as they organize supply drives, welcome events and advocacy meetings to campaign for safe, available housing for all.
Urban Pathways (575 8th Ave bw W38/W39th St) guides New Yorkers experiencing homelessness “home” with outreach, meals, showers, safe havens, temporary and permanent housing placement. Volunteer opportunities include leading workshops, assisting in social gatherings and teaching classes.
The Gay Men’s Health Clinic (307 W38th St bw 8/9th Ave), established in 1982 as a reaction to the devastation of the early years of the AIDS crisis, is a West Side stalwart providing supportive services to those affected by HIV and AIDS. Volunteers are needed to work with GMHC clients 1-1, lead workshops, provide administrative support for their STI testing services and help with their meal delivery service.
SENIOR AND YOUTH SERVICES
For over 50 years, Covenant House (460 W41st St bw 9/10th Ave) has provided shelter and supportive services to young people experiencing homelessness. While COVID-19 affected the program’s volunteer capacity, interested locals can reach out to inquire about volunteer opportunities that have in the past included working the yearly “Sleep Out”, workforce training, life skills training and personal styling.
Encore Community Services (220 W49th St bw Broadway/8th Ave), known as “Broadway’s Longest-Running Act of Love and Care”, provides meal services, outreach programs and senior housing — sign up to volunteer with meal delivery, shopping and transportation for seniors, administrative assistance and even bingo!
Hartley House (413 W46th St bw 9/10th Ave) — a Hell’s Kitchen social support organization for over a century — provides after-school and summer camp programming for local youth as well as outreach, case management and community for seniors in the sea. Sign up to volunteer and help out as a tutor, senior outreach member, or to help maintain the historic Hell’s Kitchen structure.
The Project Find (331 W42nd St bw 8/9th Ave) senior center has grown from a small, Port Authority help desk in the 1970s to a robust space for senior support programs in 2023. Volunteers are needed across services as well as at the organization’s other centers citywide.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (165 W46th St bw 6/7th Ave), founded in 1988 as a reaction to the AIDS pandemic’s effect on the New York theater community, has not only continued its lifesaving advocacy and support work for those living with HIV/AIDS across all 50 states, but expanded its outreach to raise millions of dollars for COVID-19 relief and other humanitarian crises. Volunteers are always needed to help collect donations at Broadway shows as well as work community events and fundraising performances!
For over 40 years, The 52nd Street Project (789 10th Ave bw W52nd/W53rd St) has enriched Hell’s Kitchen with vibrant, free theater education and performance opportunities for young performers. Sign up to volunteer as a theatermaker, administrator, tutor or educator, creating art and changing lives on the West Side.
Founded by actor Rosie O’Donnell, Rosie’s Theater Kids (445 W45th St bw 9/10th Ave) works with local public schools to provide a multitude of educational arts programming to get kids involved in and regularly consuming theater. Sign up as a volunteer to join in the act!
ANIMAL RESCUE AND LOCAL PET GROUPS
For citywide organizations with local volunteering opportunities, New York Cares has a highly-searchable platform where you can find organizations in all sectors, time commitments and areas around the five boroughs!
Breaking Ground, dedicated to providing additional housing and supportive services for New Yorkers in need, recruits group volunteers to help with property maintenance and homeless outreach.
God’s Love We Deliver is a New York-based meal prep and delivery organization that is always looking for volunteers!
Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is a national food rescue organization headquartered in New York City, with plenty of local opportunities to donate and volunteer!
And for more food volunteering opportunities, check out City Harvest’s citywide food waste reduction programs and distribution events!