Volunteers fanned out across Brooklyn this weekend to lend a hand to projects at local schools, libraries, and community centers as part of a borough-wide volunteer initiative.
The occasion was an event called Love Brooklyn Day, which we celebrate every day, but which the volunteer group New York Cares kicked up a notch with work initiatives at nine locations around the borough on Saturday. The event is not to be confused with Brooklyn Day, or, as the bean counters in Albany refer to it, Brooklyn-Queens Day, which takes place the first Thursday of June each year, officially to celebrate the anniversary of the organization of church Sunday schools, but in practice to give the borough of Kings its due. First-time helpers said the inaugural Love Brooklyn Day got them hooked on pitching in.
“This was my first time volunteering in my community,” said Brandis Peeples, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant and helped paint a mural at a local do-good organization with her husband and three children. “Now I’m looking forward to volunteering again.”
Peeples and her family were among the 25 Brooklynites who painted at the offices of Children of Promise, a group that provides activities and counseling for children with parents in prison. Also in attendance was our illustrious arts editor Ruth Brown, who was determined to buck the stereotype of journalists as amoral sociopaths with a few selfless strokes of her brush. “Just because we try to remain objective doesn’t mean that we can’t do things like this in our spare time to help the community,” she said. “You certainly meet interesting people and you are more likely to find story ideas if you venture out of your cubicle, rather than sitting around writing smart-ass tweets.”
Professional artists drew an outline of the mural of kids playing in a park ahead of the event and the volunteers colored between the lines. Brown, whose brush-wielding experiments reinforced her confidence in her choice of careers, stuck mostly to painting the sky, leaving it to others to add in objects and improvise highlights on characters’ clothes. The resulting scene was a sight to behold. “It popped off the wall,” she said. “It was definitely better than the white wall that was there before.”
A honcho at the organization said the gesture means a lot to the kids.
“The murals will really be impactful for our students,” said Latoya Williams-Belfort, director of development at the facility on MacDonough Street between Tompkins and Marcy avenues. “We want to inspire our children.”
Volunteers had their paintbrushes out in Bushwick too, teaching a flower-pot painting class at the DeKalb library branch. The project brought local youngsters to the library in droves.
“The kids are curious,” said Noris Myles, who works at the library. “They want to learn new things,” she said. “They all got really excited for this project.”
Over at Saint John’s Bread and Life, which provides meals to poor people, still more volunteers helped run a healthy snacks workshop for families. Participants made tasty tidbits, including peanut butter sandwiches and fruit smoothies.
New York Cares claims to be the city’s largest volunteer organization, marshaling good Samaritans to run programs for 1,300 groups, schools, and city agencies.