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Volunteer FAQ

Thank you for your interest in volunteering at The Bowery Mission. Here are some frequently asked questions and related answers about serving with us. You can also view our full set of volunteer guidelines.

  • Does The Bowery Mission need volunteers amidst COVID-19?

    We are so thankful for you and all our volunteers who make it possible for us to care for our most vulnerable neighbors. In a time when so many stay at home, we remember those who do not have a home. And in the midst of this crisis, The Bowery Mission is seeing an ever-increasing need.

    The Bowery Mission continues to offer our most essential services: residential and shelter programs, as well as meals, clothing, shower and medical programs — and their related volunteer opportunities, so we need your help now more than ever.

    We ask everyone to follow the latest guidelines from city, state, and national authorities and remain home if possible. For those that are healthy and wish to serve, we have limited volunteer activities helping package and distribute meals.

    DO NOT participate in your scheduled volunteer event if you:

    • Have a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.
    • Have been in close contact with a person with a probable or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
    • Have not been practicing social distancing and/or limited travel.
    • Are at an increased risk for COVID-19 — ie, you are over 65 years old or have chronic health conditions, including chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system.

    We thank our volunteers for their flexibility in this time! You can stay up to date on our COVID-19 response and program changes at bowery.org/covid19, and our volunteer activities at bowery.org/volunteer.

    In lieu of supporting us on-site, you can help in a few key ways:

    • Pray with us — For the safety and health of everyone in our Bowery Mission family and their loved ones, and the care of our vulnerable neighbors who are experiencing homelessness or other crises.
    • Support financially — Your gift will help us serve our vulnerable neighbors. Your generosity can help us with unexpected costs of supplies as we package meals to-go and clean our shelter and residential spaces. Give today at bowery.org/donate-covid19.
    • Send needed supplies — See details of specific supplies needed at bowery.org/donategoods.
    • Spread the word — Remind others how vulnerable those without a home are in this crisis — and the ways The Bowery Mission is responding. Share our @bowerymission social media posts, a video of the live Q&A we hosted with friend of the Mission, Jeannie Gaffigan, or our video showing The Bowery Mission’s response to the coronavirus. You can also visit bowery.org/updates or visit our media page for the latest updates and mentions of The Bowery Mission in the news.
  • Where is The Bowery Mission located?

    Along with our flagship site on Manhattan's Lower East Side, The Bowery Mission has a total of nine locations across New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania! Most volunteer opportunities are located in Manhattan or Newark, New Jersey. Please visit the Contact and Directions page for the addresses of our campuses.

    For the most up to date public transportation options, please visit mta.info and/or maps.google.com.

  • What should I wear to my volunteer service?

    Volunteers must arrive dressed appropriately for the work they will be performing. Our dress code exists to protect volunteer safety, follow safety standards, and show respect to our clients. Volunteers arriving dressed inappropriately may not take part in activities unless suitable accommodations can be made.

    Meal Service: Kitchen dress code is critical to ensure the safety of our volunteers as well as to preserve the quality of the food. Volunteers must wear:

    • Closed-toed shoes
    • Clothing that completely cover chest, shoulders, underarms, torso and knees
    • Hairnets (provided by The Bowery Mission) or a hat/cap (brought by the volunteer)
    • Gloves and aprons (provided by The Bowery Mission)

    Also note:

    • No bracelets, watches or dangly earrings
    • Long sleeves must be pushed above elbows while working with food
    • Clothing must not portray themes related to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex or violence

    Men’s and Women’s Residential Programs

    • Casual business attire is appropriate
    • Clothing must not portray themes related to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex or violence

    Children’s Programs

    • Casual attire is appropriate
    • Clothing should cover chest, shoulders, torso and thighs. Please avoid “sagging” pants
    • Clothing must not portray themes related to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex or violence
  • Can I take pictures during my volunteer service?

    With some important restrictions, volunteers are encouraged to take and share group or individual photos of themselves and their service!

    However, photography is not allowed in the kitchen at 227 Bowery and the Community Hope Resource Center (315 East 115th Street). Photos of our residents and/or guests are not allowed without express permission from Bowery Mission staff. In addition, photography is not allowed at any of our Women's Centers without express permission from staff. Please do not share pictures or names of individual residents or community members on social media.

    We LOVE sharing your experiences on social! Please share your pictures with us by tagging @bowerymission on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, or by sending to volunteer@bowery.org.

  • What is the age requirement to volunteer at The Bowery Mission?

    All Volunteers must be 14 years of age or older. Volunteers between the ages of 14 and 17 must have a parent or legal guardian sign a waiver, provided by The Bowery Mission prior to serving. They must be accompanied at all times by a chaperone, with a ratio of one chaperone for every four minors. Chaperones are responsible for the safety of minors while on-site.

    Minor Release Waiver

  • What is your Code of Conduct?
  • Do you accept walk-in volunteers?

    No. To protect the safety of our volunteers and our community, we cannot accept walk-ins at any time. Please visit bowery.org/volunteer to learn more about and to register for volunteer opportunities!

  • How do I volunteer on Thanksgiving?

    Thanksgiving is the biggest volunteer day of the year at The Bowery Mission. We are incredibly grateful and fortunate to have so many enthusiastic volunteers from all over the city and the world!

    Due to social distancing regulations in New York City in response to COVID-19, we will be operating a modified Thanksgiving meal service, and we will not open volunteer opportunities to the public. Thank you for your understanding, and check back here in the fall of 2021!

  • Do you offer volunteer opportunities during other holidays?

    The Bowery Mission operates seven days a week, every single day of the year — and we have volunteer opportunities to match! However, please note that our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day opportunities often fill up MONTHS in advance. If you would like to volunteer during a holiday, please be sure to contact us a few months before.

    On holidays like Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, we typically need MORE volunteers than we have! Please inquire if you are interested in serving on these days — we would be grateful!

  • Can I do Community Service or Court Order Community Service at The Bowery Mission?

    Yes, we have opportunities available for court-ordered community service; however, we do not allow those with convictions pertaining to violent crimes or theft. If you are completing court-ordered community service, please be prepared to share your paperwork.

  • Will my group be able to eat some of the food we’ve helped prepare at The Bowery Mission?

    Lunch groups who commit 5 hours to preparing and serving the meal are welcome to take a break for lunch from 12:00-12:45. Volunteers are welcome to eat the food prepared at The Bowery Mission, bring their own food, or find a neighborhood spot! If you would like to eat the food from The Bowery Mission, please ask the chef during your service out of courtesy.

  • I'd like to volunteer, but cannot stay for an entire meal service. Can I leave early?

    We STRONGLY request that volunteers stay for the entire service as sudden departures can severely disrupt the meal. However, if you know you will have to leave early, please just let us know ahead of time so we can make arrangements with the chef!