Tracey Lewis

Tracey Lewis

Although giving back to the community has always been in my heart, I officially began volunteering during the summer of 2010. I had joined New York Cares, a wonderful organization that allows first-time volunteers to get immersed in various projects around the city. The best thing about New York Cares is that you can try out as many projects as you’d like — of any type — until you find one (or more) that truly touch your heart and drive your motivation to give back on a regular basis. This is all done in a non-intimidating way; once you attend an orientation, you are free to begin volunteering at your leisure.

My first project was at the St. Francis Xavier Church in Manhattan. That day, about two dozen volunteers served meals to hundreds of homeless families and New Yorkers-in-need. It was a lot of work but such a wonderful experience! Mainly adults and seniors, everyone who stopped by was kind and such a pleasure to speak with. A lot of the visitors wanted to share their stories and that is perfectly fine — in a city like NYC, you never know who you are talking to and what fascinating lives they have lead! For whatever reason, circumstances have lead them to the church to receive a meal, but at the end of the day, we were all brought together in the same place at the same time to enrich one another’s lives. With volunteer work, your approach has to be open minded and compassionate — you should be getting as much from the moment as the people you are helping. I always leave my projects with a feeling of having had the unique opportunity to touch one life or many. And that is an addictive feeling!

The experience at Xavier whet my appetite for volunteering and philanthropy on a larger scale. I wanted to know how I could give back in many ways: with my time; financially; and with my own talents and skills. Since that time, I have had the opportunity to serve several nonprofit organizations through event planning, fundraising, and hands-on activity. These experiences have opened my eyes to causes that will indelibly touch my heart, moving me to learn more, act more, advocate more, and give more. Some of those issues are clean water, quality education, and HIV/AIDS prevention. It hurts me to no end that each of these matters can be tackled and even prevented when the right action is taken, but are often taken for granted and overlooked. There are families and young children facing these issues each day with next to no control over their circumstances or the life they were born into. It is so empowering to know that my peers and I can make a remarkable difference by doing simple things. In the case of volunteer work, imagine potentially saving someone’s life just by showing up.

Obviously, no one person can change the world. But everyone’s effort can indeed make a monumental impact. My goal is to make the task as simple as possible for my readers by sharing ways to give back in your daily lives, just by doing the things that you already do. All I ask is that you spread awareness… that gives your small action a super blast of impact!

I look forward to sharing my experiences here with you!

- Tracey Lewis