Meets pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service.

The Taste of Home

Karen Ash has been volunteering for the Art & Acceptance program at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields located in Manhattan for two years. The program, which is supported by New York Cares volunteers, is a Saturday evening drop-in program for LGBTQ youth between the ages of 16-24, who are currently homeless.


“I'd always been interested in volunteering but never really made it a priority,” Ash said. “I became especially motivated after watching a documentary about homeless teens, however, and made a New Year's resolution in 2015 to volunteer more and do my part to help others as much as I could.


The New York Cares website is so comprehensive and makes it so easy for volunteers to find projects of interest. I wanted an activity with a strong community aspect and the ability to make individual connections with the people I was assisting, and I was particularly inspired to work with LGBT youth and youth of color. The program at St. Luke’s was perfect.”

Since then, Karen has served on more than 30 New York Cares volunteer projects, both at St. Luke’s and at other nonprofit partners throughout the city. In her work at St. Luke’s, she incorporated her passion for baking into her service, regularly bringing in cookies and pies for the clients. Early in 2016, on a whim, Karen entered the King Arthur Flour “Bake for Good” Scholarship competition, which rewards amateur bakers who give back to their community with a baking course at King Arthur’s education center in Vermont. In July, she received an email informing her that she was one of two winners out of 10,000 entries.


Her winning words:


“I have the privilege of volunteering at St. Luke’s Youth Night, a weekly education and activity center for LGBTQ teens and young adults of color in NYC. Many of our clients are homeless, in shelters, or have been disowned by their families, and the amazing community of staff and volunteers at St. Luke’s provides a safe haven, companionship, and warm meals.


I have been bringing desserts to the program since I started volunteering a year ago, and it’s always amazing to me how much a gooey chocolate chip cookie, a fluffy strawberry shortcake, or a misshapen but tasty apple pie can mean to someone who feels alone and outcast in the world. It’s not just dessert – it’s a tangible representation that someone cares and loves and wants them to be happy, even if it’s just for a few hours a week. My desserts may be the first homemade treat a teen has had in some time, and I know how poignant a simple reminder of home can be to someone who doesn’t have one.


In sharing my passion for baking with these clients, I want to encourage them and offer guidance, friendship, home, and sweetness.”


Click here to join Karen in volunteering for Youth Night at St. Luke in the Field.

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