As the Yale Day of Service celebrates 10 years, yale.NYC looks back on the foundation of the initiative, and the leadership that created this important part of alumni life.
Early Days of yaleNYC (YAAMNY)
In the summer of 2008, the Public Service/Social Justice (PSSJ) Committee of yaleNYC, which, at the time, was called the Yale Alumni Association of Metropolitan New York (YAAMNY) was founded by Amanda Taffy. The goal of the Committee was to get Yale alumni in New York City involved in community service and social justice initiatives by having monthly activities planned by the committee members and recruit fellow alumni in NYC to join existing or propose new initiatives. My Luu was President of YAAMNY at the time.
The first two volunteer initiatives were Prospect Park and St. Xavier’s Soup Kitchen held in Fall 2008/January 2009, respectively. At the time, PSSJ meetings were held every third Wednesday evening on a monthly basis at various NYC restaurants. Among the inaugural committee members at the first meeting in September 2008 were Amanda Taffy, Andrew Burgie, and Tracey Ober, then Treasurer of YAAMNY.
Inaugural YDOS in May 16, 2009
In the Spring, the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA) was trying to establish a country-wide initiative in May 2009 to expand their YDOS initiative that originated in New Haven in Fall of 2008. Amanda was approached to coordinate the NYC effort since the PSSJ Committee had already coordinated some successful NYC volunteer outings up until then.
About 19 NYC sites were established in YDOS 2009, 15 run by yaleNYC board members. In addition to Prospect Park, which was coordinated by Andrew Burgie, and St. Xavier’s Soup Kitchen, which was coordinated by Amanda Taffy, other popular early sites (15+ sign ups) were The Doe Fund, Streetwise Partners, La Plaza Cultural, and a few others. These efforts attracted about 578 volunteers. (source: AYA)
Other yaleNYC committee members who served as site coordinators in YDOS 2009 were: Anne Moss, for Children for Children; Ceu Martinez, for Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, Floral Park Conservation Society "Centennial Gardens", Lenox Hill Neighborhood House "Senior Center", Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter "NCS Residence", Streetwise Partners, and Yorkville Common Pantry; Amanda Taffy for Junior Achievement of New York, La Plaza Cultural Community Garden, Lower Eastside Girls Club Walk-A-Thon for Girls' and Women's Health, PortSide New York, and Riverside Park Fund; Karin Weiner, for Children for Children; and Mike Jacobs for The Doe Fund.
About 20+ YDOS NYC sites were sponsored by yaleNYC and 10+ coordinated by board members. In addition to 2009 sites previously mentioned, other popular sites (15+ sign ups) were Central Park Conservancy, Upwardly Global, Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program, Junior Achievement & the New York City Mission Society, 25th Annual Aids Walk New York, PortSide New York, Project Sunshine, and Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. These efforts attracted 482 volunteers (source: AYA). At this time, these initiatives began to receive support from community leaders including former New York City mayor, David Dinkins, who spoke at the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program Event.
The following two years, 2009-2010, YAANY was charged with organizing the NYC YDOS volunteer effort . The other PSSJ Committee members who stepped into leadership roles to achieve this goal were Karin Weiner, and Jeremy Leeds. The result of their efforts helped lead to the creation of a YDOS “lessons learned” living document.
Astrid Andre, who at the time was head of our Haiti Task Force, became a Committee Co-Chair in 2010 and coordinated the YDOS Haitian Relief initiative in 2010.
In 2010, a regional AYA Coordinator was assigned to the YDOS NYC efforts that helped to focus the efforts of YAANY under a larger regional umbrella. This effort was led by Steven Scher, who is now the Graduate School Committee Liaison Chair at yaleNYC.
While the PSSJ Committee was leading public service activities, they simultaneously started the Juvenile Justice Committee Task Force, chaired by Karin Weiner and Amanda Taffy, which collaborated with then Mayor Corey Booker of Newark, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, which at the time was led by Cornell Brooks, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Craig Levine, Senior Counsel and Policy Director, and the Public Catalyst Group, to recommend reforms to the juvenile justice laws in the State of New Jersey including those related to the juvenile waiver laws. The Task Force received the Community Builder Award from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the Outstanding Innovation Award from the AYA.
One of the positives of YDOS NYC participation was the opportunity to work with some of these organizations beyond the initial positive YDOS experience. Streetwise Partners, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, and Upwardly Global, were a few sites that allowed us this opportunity early on. At the same time, some dynamics developed that changed the landscape of volunteering in NYC in general, and these newer models, though perhaps fiscally sound, augmented the model of volunteer service, depending on one’s organizational structure. That being said, there are still many opportunities to explore.
Every year, yaleNYC has been proud to help coordinate YDOS activities in the NYC area, by expanding opportunities at existing site partners, recruiting team leaders for new and existing sites, and co-sponsoring sites with other Yale groups.
yaleNYC Legacy - Extending Service
The projects started in YDOS have often resulted in continued service opportunities with various organizations.
Astrid Andre has been very instrumental in coordinating quite a few Haiti-related initiatives through yaleNYC. From YDOS 2010 to 2012, in collaboration with Dwa Fanm and Global Potential, Haiti Task Force members held three annual service projects entitled “Mother’s Day of Respite.” The project focused on providing a day of activities for children of mothers who participate in various Dwa Fanm programs. The Day of Service including arts and crafts projects, and college workshops. In addition, volunteers participated in organizing various donated items. Beyond YDOS Haiti Task Force members held events ranging from Haiti educational services sessions featuring various support groups to working on Toy Drives for Youth in Haiti during the Holiday seasons in 2013 and 2014.
Astrid has also coordinated many food-related volunteer efforts for Foodtober and beyond through the Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger and New York Common Pantry throughout her Co-Chairmanship of PSSJ.
Prospect Park Brooklyn has been a regular yaleNYC volunteer site for YDOS since 2009 and has facilitated volunteer activities year round for such events as their Fall (September) and Spring Cleanups (April), “It’s My Park! Day (May), International Coastal Clean Up (September), MulchFest (January), and the Halloween Day Parade. This site was initiated and coordinated by Andrew Burgie, PSSJ Co-Chair, also a member of the Prospect Park Alliance since 2003. Andrew was also the site coordinator for the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative events in the early years and many St. Xavier’s Soup Kitchen events as well.
St. Xavier’s Soup Kitchen proved to be a popular event in Winter of 2009 and follow up events were usually held during Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and various dates throughout the year, as available. Over the years, spaces became harder to come by due to popularity and the evolution of other volunteer groups like NY Cares, and the revised processing of volunteers by St. Xavier’s. However, it is still a location that we visit every October for our Foodtober initiative, which focuses on food-related community-related issues as well as YDOS. One of our very early recruits, Tamara Mack-Lowe, was a very enthusiastic volunteer, and we are proud to say that she stuck with the effort from the beginning and still volunteers beyond Yale on a regular basis and, when able, manages yaleNYC-sponsored volunteer groups as well to this day at St. Xavier’s.
YANA and yaleNYC – Yale Community Connect – Next Chapter
We are proud to celebrate 10 years of YDOS and look forward to May 12 and other participation dates. After enjoying your YDOS event, we welcome both new and existing volunteers to build on their YDOS experiences and engage in ongoing volunteer opportunities by joining the new initiative, Yale Community Connect, managed by the Yale Non-Profit Alliance, YANA, under the direction of Alison Gardy to further engage Yalies in volunteering and connecting with the extended community in which we all share.
We look forward to partnering and seeing this initiative grow into a larger and more encompassing global enterprise and we support YANA in this initiative, inaugurated earlier this year. They can be reached at:
We also invite those who are interested in creating new projects focused on public service or social justice (either educational or service oriented) to contact email@example.com. Looking ahead we look forward to creating other opportunities for Yale alumni to stay engaged in public service/social justice activities on various fronts.
On behalf of YANA, yaleNYC, and AYA, a huge “Thank You!” to all of the work and efforts of our partners, coordinators, and volunteers! Onward and Upward and we look forward to ongoing future community team building opportunities!
Ready to get involved?
The Yale Day of Service is always looking for volunteer leaders to spearhead sites, and participants who want to role up their sleeves.
Check out the Day of Service website for details on this year's calendar, and more!
If you have questions specific to YDOS in NY, email the New York Coordinator, Brian Hammerstein: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yalies serving their fellow New Yorkers at the Bowery Mission, 2017
By Andrew Burgie with special thanks to:
For their helpful contributions to the article