Given that the “season of giving” is upon us, perhaps, we as students, can attempt to give our time to any of the number of organizations beyond the NJIT community who work to better the greater Newark community that we are also a part of. These organizations serve the local populations of Newark, and always welcome the eager college student interested in volunteering their time.
One such organization is the Urban League of Essex County (ULEC), which is composed of a group of professionals, volunteers, and trustees who seek to sponsor programs and initiatives “dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged residents throughout Essex County.” The ULEC was founded in 1917 on the basis of providing a support system to help African Americans and other disadvantaged residents of Essex County to achieve economic and social self-sufficiency.
With a varied approach to community development and empowerment of residents, the ULEC has implemented a range of different programs addressing various issues prevalent in local communities, including access to affordable children’s education, housing counseling, financial literacy education, and youth reentry and empowerment programs. Volunteers are always welcome to assist with ULEC associated programs and initiatives, including serving in the youth education projects, adult tutoring programs/workshops, fundraising events, and community beautification works. Interested volunteers can access a short form on the ULEC website, or visit their office at 508 Central Avenue, located about a mile away from NJIT.
Another organization working to serve the Newark community at large is the Greater Newark Conservancy. According to their mission statement, the organization seeks to promote “environmental stewardship to improve the quality of life in New Jersey’s urban communities.” The Greater Newark Conservancy maintains two different farms in the city of Newark.
At the Court Street Urban Farm, you can hear the clucks of chickens on the almost acre-large piece of land situated next to the Krueger-Scott Mansion, a Newark landmark. In just one growing season the farm alone was able to produce over 15,000 pounds of produce.
The farm has been a source of locally sourced, fresh, healthy food for the Newark community through their Farm Stand Program. The other farm owned by the Greater Newark Conservancy is the Hawthorne Avenue farm, which is a 2.5 acre site that features rows of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, beans, melons, and squash plants. Both the Hawthorne Avenue Farm and the Court Street Urban Farm are sustained through the efforts of volunteers, participants in various programs sponsored by the Conservancy, and local residents.
The Hawthorne Avenue Farm even hosts Open Volunteer Days on the fourth Saturday of every month between April and October. In addition to providing locally sourced foods to local residents, the Greater Newark Conservancy also hosts numerous community events that are designed to educate and interest residents of all ages.
For example, in the upcoming weeks, the organization will be hosting their first ever Holiday Market on December 2. The organization always welcomes volunteers; individuals and groups of students can reach out to the organization to inquire about regular volunteer opportunities through their website. In fact, one student group at NJIT, the Biology Society, has an existing partnership with the Greater Newark Conservancy. For instance, in October, members of the Biology Society volunteered at the Conservancy’s Fall Block Party.
Jersey Cares is another volunteer organization that serves the needs of Newark residents. While the organization leads volunteer initiatives around New Jersey, several initiatives are based in Newark specifically. The mission of Jersey Cares is to serve as a unique volunteer organization that “increases the level of meaningful volunteer engagement by creating and managing efficient, impactful projects.”
Jersey Cares maintains a regularly updated, comprehensive “Volunteer Opportunity Calendar” of one-day volunteer events and programs that interested NJIT students can view and register for through their website. Such one-day service programs include “Community Clean Sweep” programs, which involve service toward beautification of various sites in Newark to open them for community use, and “Hunger Helpers” programs, which involve joining other volunteers in helping prepare and distribute meals in Newark. These are just two of several different types of programs run by Jersey Cares.
The ULEC, Greater Newark Conservatory, and Jersey Cares are only a few of the many local organizations serving Newark residents. There are a variety of skills needed by these organizations, and they are always eager to welcome new volunteers. As members of the NJIT community and greater Newark community, we can consider giving back to our community through such organizations.