Volunteer mural artists, Roberto Fantuzzi and Charlene Lyu, recently completed some work at the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club – Joel E. Smilow Clubhouse. They were nice enough to answer a couple questions about their service for us. Learn more about this great artistic team, and check out the beautiful mural they created:
1. How long have you been a volunteer with New York Cares?
We were turned onto New York Cares five years ago by a friend and fellow mural artist, Ed Miller (Ed Miller Designs). Since then, we’ve branched out into working on our own murals.
(Pictured below: Before shot of tech room)
2. Do you use art in your career or studies or is volunteering as a mural artist a hobby?
We are both graduates of the Product Design department at Parsons the New School for Design. We are in the midst of launching our own company, happy-funny.com. Our toys and home products are very much inspired by street art and centered around the ideal “to create things that make people happy.” Working on murals for New York Cares came naturally. Our projects and our character designs inform our resulting murals.
3. How long have you lived in New York?
Over twenty years combined. For us, New York is an amazing place to live in. We are surrounded by a great supply of inspiration, from street art to fashion to art in museums.
4. Do you volunteer on any other New York Cares projects?
Yes, we have worked on five murals in the last 5 years. We are very grateful for the opportunity and very proud of the resulting work.
5. What do you like about volunteering with New York Cares?
With every project, we have come in contact with some great organizations. Even with the stress of prep and finishing, the process is bolstered by amazing people from volunteering organizations and the New York Cares team. It all comes from a very unselfish place and ultimately for the betterment of our community. Also, the appreciation and joy of the finished projects makes the process worthwhile.
6. Why you would recommend other volunteer mural artists to become involved?
New York Cares connects fellow artists with fantastic organizations around the city. It is a great way to get involved in your local community, make a difference and meet people who are passionate about helping others. It’s allowed us the ability to beautify spaces with our own style.
(Pictured right: after shot of tech room)
If you’re interested in mural painting, please email Danielle Chery for more information.
A big part of organizing New York Cares Day Fall takes place away from our office in classrooms all around our great city. You’ll go weeks without seeing anyone from Service Events. But there are two people who never, ever get to leave their desks once New York Cares Day Fall (or NYCDF as we abbreviate it in the office) rolls around: Joseph Salas and myself. That’s because we work in the printing and digital world, respectively. It may seem like a lonely, sunless existence, but we get through it by yelling at our computer screens about html (me), debating how many posters to order (Joey), and going back and forth about which red is really red.
A typical day for Joey and I usually begins with me asking Joey for a logo or header that I forgot I needed. He’ll kindly send me a jpg of whatever I need and we’ll both go back to our music (usually Jock Jams). Three minutes later I’ll turn around and ask Joey another question about what he just sent me, saying that the color red doesn’t look right. Like this:
Why are those two reds different colors? Our Photoshop told us they were the same, but our browsers told us otherwise. I don’t know why things like this happen, but I’ve found that yelling at your computer about it doesn’t help, but it does make you feel better and you get to startle your coworkers in the process. Win-win! It’s all just part of the magic of creating the Internet.
The microsite we use for NYCDF is different than our usual site, and a lot goes into it. There are confirmation emails to be edited, donation pages to update, discount codes to enter, and pages and pages of text to update. For someone like myself who considers writing html similar to using magic, it’s a gloriously happy nerdtastic time. I’m working on my third creation of the site right now, and I know on July 30th when the site goes live, I’ll be nervous, proud, and excited all at the same time.
When you sign up for New York Cares Day Fall you know you’ll be participating in an important day of service that will benefit public school students all over the city. But more importantly, you’ll be signing up on a site where all the color reds match.
Each June, as the children of New York City rush out onto the streets fleeing the heat of their classrooms and the oppressive reign of multiplication tables and verb conjugation that have held tyranny over their lives since September, a team of intrepid New York Cares staff members bravely do the opposite. Dodging the storm of paper and workbooks fluttering through the air, they bravely enter these rapidly emptying buildings, like salmon moving courageously upstream, all with the humble goal of determining what kind of revitalization tasks will take place months in the future, on New York Cares Day Fall—October 13th.
We meet with principals, teachers, custodians and PTA members. We explore basements, snap pictures of blank walls begging for murals of dancing fruit, and take copious (and generally unreadable) notes. But mostly, we sweat. We sweat in art rooms in the Bronx, and cafeterias in Queens. We sweat in basements in Manhattan, and stairwells in Brooklyn. Principal’s offices become sweet oases (Did you know the plural of oasis is oases? You do now!) of AC, while any school with more than one floor is dreaded more than Christina Aguilera’s next movie*.
For the team visiting schools, breathable fabrics are strongly suggested, walking shoes are de rigueur, and water bottles are mandatory. It’s all worth it though, for the opportunity to see how many dedicated people are working together throughout the city to make our public schools better places. Visiting over 100 schools in two months is an endurance sport, but all the stories heard along the way act as adrenaline shots for wearied muscles and brains. At PS 11 M – The William T. Harris School in Chelsea, they’ve created a ‘Kids Care Club’ modeled on New York Cares in which the elementary school students work to engage their neighbors to help clean up their block. At HS 533 K – The School for Democracy and Leadership in Brooklyn, they’ve created a Justice Room which functions as a court where middle and high school students learn to adjudicate conflicts amongst themselves. And CS 321 Q – The Growing Up Green Charter School in Queens, focuses on sustainability and the environment using garden beds and chickens to teach practical lessons. Any place that combines 2nd graders and chickens is worth a little sweat.
Summer in New York City makes even the most basic tasks a little more challenging. Simply standing up requires epic amounts of motivation, and any commute that requires a transfer feels less like you’re boarding the subway to head to another borough, and more like you’re yoking up the oxen in St. Louis in 1848—there’s a good chance you’re going to suffer dehydration (and maybe cholera!) before you get to raft down the Columbia River**. Somehow though, every year, it’s totally worth it. Kid’s Clubs and Justice Rooms and 2nd Graders with chickens. They’re all out there—just waiting for us to visit. Just don’t forget your deodorant.
*Full disclosure—I secretly kind of liked Burlesque. Don’t judge me.
**This classic Oregon Trail™ reference has been brought to you by me, an actual Oregonian.
That’s the question being posed to thousands of revelers in Times Square, drivers on the Gowanus Expressway, and shoppers in White Plains. It’s being posed to passengers in taxis, Mets fans at Citi Field, and elevator riders everywhere.
Throughout July and into August we are running a series of digital and print ads across the region as part of our New Yorkers Who Care campaign. The ads feature a series of 10 volunteers who chose to share the diverse ways they care, and diverse is an understatement.
They showcase veteran Coat Drive volunteers, an SAT tutor, and a mural artist. They also show a food pantry Team Leader, a children’s yoga instructor, and a GED instructor. But what they really show is that there is a limitless way to be a New Yorker Who Cares.
Thanks to Saatchi & Saatchi, we also have a great new video in which the Roots and Brooklyn native Harvey Keitel pose that same question: are you simply a New Yorker, or are you a New Yorker Who Cares? Watch the video and decide how you would answer that question.
Share the video with your friends, family, and coworkers and ask them: “I’m a New Yorker Who Cares, are you one too?”
We always love it when one of our Community Partners is recognized for the amazing work they do. So we were super excited when Carl Siciliano of the Ali Forney Center, was recognized by the White House for his work with homeless Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth. Siciliano founded the Ali Forney Center in 2002 to provide LGBT youth with a safe, homelike environment. The White House named Siciliano a “Champion of Change” for his dedication to making New York City a safer place for LGBT youth.
Our volunteers frequently work at the Ali Forney Center. Unfortunately, there are many more people in need than there are beds available at the center, so volunteers from Eximius College Prep in the Bronx created these care packages to further help the youth at the center.
Each one contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and a pair of socks. These simple items are a great comfort to those at the shelter – every little bit counts. They even included encouraging messages on the outside of the bags to make the packages more personal.
Congratulations to Carl Siciliano and the Ali Forney Center for the great work they do.
A recent article in The New York Times has been generating a lot of buzz lately. It discusses the resurgence of gardening in the city – on rooftops. The last bit of real estate in the city is increasingly being used for growing crops, and some urban farmers are even selling their produce to big name stores like Whole Foods. In addition to having your own home grown vegetables, the gardens catch rainwater which helps prevent the sewer system from overflowing during storms. So you’re helping yourself, and the city.
Working in community gardens or tending your own garden on your roof is a great way to be hands on about what you eat, learn more about your neighborhood, and spend time outside. And we have just the projects to help you get started. Head to Long Island City where you can learn to compost and spend time in one of the city’s largest rooftop gardens. Sign up for a project in Socrates Sculpture Park and you can compost while teaching the community about the process.
Another exciting project is Gardening Explorers with New Destiny Housing. You’ll encourage the green thumbs of 6 to 11 year olds in the housing facility by teaching them about vegetables and gardening. One participant recently picked her first tomato, ran off to eat it by herself and exclaimed, “That was so awesome. I’ve never eaten food that I grew myself before.” And who wouldn’t want to witness that? Or you can get back on the ground and do some gardening in Red Hook, where you’ll weed, seed, and transplant in an urban farm.
Whether you’re up on top of the city, or on a farm within the city limits, there’s a plethora of opportunities for you to grow your own produce. Sign up for one of these amazing projects today!
Every month, we follow a department of New York Cares so you can learn more about how we work. This month, we’re following our Communications Department. Ever gotten an email from us? That was us. Learn more about the department and our newest member below:
My name is Steve Streicher, the new Director of Marketing and Communications at New York Cares. I arrived here at the end of May by way of Princeton University where I worked for the Pace Center for Civic Engagement.
I am not from New York originally. I was born in Toledo, Ohio and have lived in such places as Columbus, Princeton, Ann Arbor, and even Ukraine. I remember the first time I visited New York as an 11-year-old, walking out the doors of Grand Central into a different world. I marveled at all the people, not just at the sheer quantity, but at all their activities. Some were speaking languages I didn’t recognize, some were weaving deftly through traffic on bicycles, others were walking rapidly and with purpose. Everyone just seemed more dynamic, energetic, and vibrant.
The people defined New York City for me on that first visit and still define it for me today. That is one of the reasons I wanted to work at New York Cares, an organization that provides opportunities for New Yorkers to improve their city and their communities. We live in an increasingly interconnected world that, at times, leaves the local susceptible to the ebbs and flows of the global. However, I believe nurturing and investing in local communities and cultures is essential in order to sustainably integrate and leverage future global changes. New York Cares gives New Yorkers the power to do just that.
As the Director of Marketing and Communications, I directly manage two people, our Digital Marketing Manager and our Production Manager. All of our posters, tshirts, emails, pamphlets, and marketing materials are created in our department. We strive to make sure all of our communications have the same voice, and highlight the amazing work our volunteers accomplish on the projects we manage. We work with every department to make sure they have all the materials they need for all the amazing events they organize.
Stay tuned all month long for more insight into our department, and make sure to follow along in the coming months for some new, exciting changes.
Do you want to spend a Saturday on Governor’s Island? Are you passionate about the New York – New Jersey Harbor and the role it has in our city’s health? Do you just want to soak up some sun and be a part of one of the free activities that New York City summers are famous for? Then we have just the project for you!
Sign up now to volunteer at the 5th annual City of Water Day on July 14th. This exciting event, presented by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, is dedicated to all of New York City’s waterfront activities. Up to 25,000 people are expected to migrate to Governor’s Island and Liberty State Park for the day to learn more about our waterways and enjoy the day’s festivities.
From port commerce to water recreation, City of Water Day highlights the importance of protecting one of our city’s most precious resources. Volunteers can choose from activities like greeting visitors upon arrival, helping set up and break down the booths and equipment for the day, and organizing family activities. With the wide range of activities, there is something that everyone can enjoy and fit into their schedule. A free lunch is also provided on the day of the event. We are still looking for volunteers for almost every shift, so if you are interested in volunteering, check out the list of shifts that still need your help!
We’ve been following our Corporate Relations team on the blog all month long, and our big month of corporate service has come to a close. So what did we get done? Read on to see how the month went.
Our customized volunteer projects are the “crown jewel” of our corporate partnerships, and never does that jewel sparkle brighter than the busy month of June. In the last month alone, we engaged more than 4,000 corporate volunteers on nearly 100 projects. A huge thanks to all our wonderful corporate sponsors for a great month of volunteering – we appreciate your ongoing support and the time you take out of your busy schedules to give back and make a difference.
Some of our highlights from the past month include sweating it out on L’Oreal Gives Back Day with more than 500 volunteers on 15 projects in 99-degree weather; celebrating Citi’s 200th anniversary with revitalization projects on the beach and in schools; teaching Credit Suisse summer interns about teamwork through service; and welcoming new sponsors such as Diesel. Oh, then there was Morgan Stanley’s Global Volunteer Month, for which we planned 19 projects for 1,000 volunteers!
That’s just a small sample of the amazing work that our corporate sponsors accomplish in one short month. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. There’s no better way to bring your team together than by giving back to the community. Where else can you see your executives trade in their ties for paint-splattered jeans or watch your boss face-off with a third-grader on multiplication tables?
Are your coworkers ready to step out from behind your desks and get your hands dirty in transformative service projects? Learn more about our corporate sponsorship program, or contact us at 212.228.5000.