Neighborhood Strength Series: The Impact of Inclusive Spaces and Volunteering with Repair the World NYC
The second stop on my Neighborhood Strength tour of Crown Heights this summer was to Repair the World NYC, located at 808 Nostrand Ave, where I met with Alli Lesovoy, the nonprofit’s Program Manager.
(In case you missed it, check out my post about my visit to Bethany United Methodist Church here and my visit to Haiti Cultural Exchange here! You can also learn more about the Foundation’s Neighborhood Strength program here!)
As a national organization, Repair the World’s mission is to make local, meaningful service a part of American Jewish life. Alli Lesovoy came to Repair the World through the organization’s first fellowship cohort. Fellows are placed at a Repair the World location for almost a year, where they live in the community and work on addressing local social inequities through outreach and service. The introduction of the fellowship program also meant that there was a shift to a bigger focus on engagement with community residents.
The creation of the first New York City branch of Repair the World was led by Alli and Executive Director, Cindy Greenberg. They were drawn to Crown Heights as the location for Repair the World NYC because of its history as an immigrant and Jewish neighborhood.
The minute I sat down with Alli her eyes lit up while discussing how far she feels Repair the World NYC has come and how far it will go. Alli has helped develop Repair the World NYC into a space where Crown Heights residents can interact. She emphasizes her belief that volunteering is an effective way to connect to your neighbors. From the beginning, Alli talked about making sure the details of the space --down to decorations -- aren’t overly branded so other projects, events, and organizations are able to come and make the space their own. Recently, for three days a week, they began opening their doors to YO S.O.S. (Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets) -- a youth development program that leads training sessions on becoming peer educators and community organizers. Repair the World NYC encourages this kind of collaboration to make sure community members, especially youth, feel at home.
One of their most popular programs is “Cocktails with a Conscience,” a happy hour series that brings community residents and leaders together to discuss social justice issues happening locally. For the most recent one, they partnered with Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger and Brooklyn Community Services to discuss a lack of access to menstruation products, specifically in women’s shelters. Repair the World NYC tries to partner with as many organizations as possible to motivate and drive people towards volunteering.
Support from our Neighborhood Strength program has allowed Repair the World NYC to have a space to host frequent, free events. Alli also discussed the impact of the fellowship cohort by making sure they are involving the community and not shying away from the important questions whether it be, What does it mean to be a community member? or What is our role in gentrification? Going forward, she wants Repair the World NYC to continue being an inviting and inclusive space where people want to return.
Want to get involved with Repair the World NYC? Check out their website here!