Annual volunteer day coordinator
St. James Presbyterian church on 141st. St. and St. Nicolas Ave. in Harlem is the oldest African-American Presbyterian congregation in NYC. Its building is cut into the hillside along 141st. St., opposite Hamilton Grange and has a long narrow plot of land behind the Sanctuary. An small underground stream travels downhill but where the church building was cut into the hillside, the stream empties out in this lot creating a marshy area. The church has been getting fines, both for the mosquito-breeding potential of this wet area, and because people routinely toss garbage into it. For the last ten years I’ve been leading a once or twice a summer volunteer clean-up, which has saved the church fines it can ill-afford. The volunteers have always been supplied by an organization called City Service Mission (CSM), a Christian youth organization that brings church youth groups to nine different cities in the US for a week of service projects. The Coordinator needs to arrange a weekday with CSM for one of their groups to come to the church, and clear about 30-50 bags of weeds (usually in 3 hours) and garbage out of the lot. St. James provides work gloves, garbage bags, and snacks for the volunteers. This winter I’m leaving NYC and looking for someone to take over this project.
You will need to e mail CSM several months ahead of time and arrange a weekday when you will be available to lead a group they provide; groups can be anywhere from 10 to 30; I usually ask for about 15. I will provide you with contact information with the church and CSM; both are wonderful folks and very appreciative of the help. I usually do this once a year, but you can do it twice; once early and once late during the spring/summer. Church membership tends towards the elderly, which is why they can’t do the work themselves, but they are REALLY appreciative and provide water, snacks, work gloves, and much love.
The coordinator needs to work well with volunteers, who have traveled at their own expense from anywhere in the US to spend a week sleeping in a church basement and do service projects in NYC. You will need enough horticultural knowledge to simply be able to direct the volunteers in removing weeds, cutting up saplings, and dealing with a small marshy area full of phragmites. The ability to provide just a few tools; pruning saw, maybe some loppers and pruners, would be fantastic, but not required.
I was leading a group of ex-offender landscape trainee’s with the Horticultural Society of NY who had been hired to landscape Hamilton Grange in 2009, and was approached by an Elder from St. James across the street about the problems they were having with fines incurred by the condition of the plot of land they owned but could not maintain. I had worked with CSM, and knew they would be a perfect resource of energetic, enthusiastic volunteers. I have had SUCH fun and satisfaction going in there once/twice a year keeping the area cleared up for them, but a real long-term solution would be too expensive for them. If you have grant-writing skills, you might be able to create a permanent solution for them, but I have no idea what that would be.