In a bold effort to combine ancient Jewish values with cutting-edge technology as it enters its centennial year, UJA-Federation of New York has rolled out a new website to motivate volunteerism and make it easier for people to engage in a wide range of projects that help others.
The major initiative is called Time For Good (TFG), and the handsome new site, timeforgood.org, in the works for two years, is launching on the eve of Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 16). New Yorkers can sign up and use this holiday weekend to participate in one of more than 30 projects in eight locations around the city.
More than 1,200 people are expected to volunteer this weekend, from beautifying spaces at an Educational Alliance senior center in the East Village, to giving out soup packets at a food pantry at the JCC Harlem, to a teen effort in Westchester country to collect humanitarian supplies for Syria refugees.
UJA-Federation, which has always relied on the leadership and support of volunteers, works with nearly 100 network beneficiary agencies, synagogues and other Jewish organizations. More than 200 TFG opportunities are now available at more than 35 agencies, and as the project and the website become better known, the numbers are sure to increase dramatically.
Time For Good allows an individual to go to a single integrated site and see hundreds of volunteer opportunities in 12 categories: arts and culture, children and teens, the elderly, education and literacy, Jewish life, community building, people with special needs, poverty and hunger, employment, health and wellness, and the environment.
A person can specify a category, an agency, a geographic area, and a day and time during the week when he or she can help on a regular or one-time basis.
“What’s different and most exciting is the ability to harness the power of volunteerism through this one platform and to address the needs of agencies at a time of increasingly restrained resources,” Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation, told us. He noted that today, “the needs are far greater than the capacity of agencies to address them. More agencies are receiving fewer dollars from the government.”
To expand volunteerism, professionals have been trained so that federation network beneficiary agencies can become “service enterprises,” in Goldstein’s words. The agencies can better provide meaningful work for volunteers, from millennials to boomers, harnessing their skills and desire to help fellow New Yorkers.
It’s fitting that as UJA-Federation marks its 100th anniversary in 2017, it not only looks back with pride at its achievements of the past century but directs its energies to the future, seeking to sustain and strengthen the community — and sense of community — at a time when Jewish continuity is far from assured.