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Image courtesy of Brooklyn Book Bodega

Brooklyn Needs You on Giving Tuesday!

I’m a Brooklyn girl, and I’ll always be a champion for our borough and its people. And that’s why I’m so excited about our #BrooklynGives campaign, which encourages Brooklynites to give to their community on Giving Tuesday, the year’s biggest giving day. You can search, discover, and support over 200 nonprofits all on one giving platform at

We’ve found that being part of the #BrooklynGives campaign is especially valuable for smaller organizations that may not otherwise have the capacity or technology to do their own Giving Tuesday campaigns. There’s also a benefit for donors who want to direct their giving to local organizations that really need the support. And I can say with confidence that Brooklyn’s nonprofits need you now more than ever. 

Among local nonprofit organizations we recently surveyed, almost 53% report a decrease in donations over the past 12 months. Over 98% indicate that expenses have increased during the same period, and 90% have simultaneously seen an increased demand for their services. 

This is why we want to sound the alarm and spread the love — let’s make this year’s #BrooklynGives the best ever! With Giving Tuesday just days away, we spoke with a few of the many organizations participating, to learn about what impact they hope this year’s campaign will have.

Teens of Color Abroad, affectionately known as TOCA, was created by Lamar Shambley after seeing how students of color are boxed out of life-changing study abroad opportunities. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Virginia, Shambley learned some Spanish in middle school, but it wasn’t until he was a 19 year-old college student that he had the opportunity to travel out of the country — the first in his family to do so — on a medical mission trip to Dominican Republic, followed a few years later by six months in Spain via a U.S. State Department scholarship.

Fast forward to 2018, as a Spanish teacher in Brooklyn, Shambley started TOCA to provide international study opportunities for high school students that inspire them to continue this journey while in college. He describes it as the nexus of language learning, cultural exchange, and study abroad. “I want students to see that there's a whole world out there, and by learning a language, they can access the world in a way that they never could have imagined.” This past summer, TOCA hosted a 100% donor-financed trip to Seville, Spain. 

Shambley is quick to point out that TOCA is a community-driven organization. Most of the people on its board have roots in Brooklyn and the students all come from Brooklyn. “Traveling abroad is truly a privilege, and we want to see more high school students from our communities have that opportunity,” he says.

Looking ahead, TOCA’s goal is to raise enough money so it can broaden the program to include other languages, and launch a podcast where students can reflect on their experiences. “I'm teaching full time while managing this organization, so it's been really helpful to fundraise through #BrooklynGives — and we’re all incredibly grateful for the opportunity,” says Shambley.

Brooklyn Book Bodega is on a mission to increase the number of 100+ book homes in Brooklyn, which is the threshold that research indicates you begin to see a boost in life outcomes for children and adolescents. 

Many parts of Brooklyn are classified as “book deserts” where very few books are available for sale or lending. Because purchasing new books is a luxury many Brooklynites can’t afford, Brooklyn Book Bodega aims to level the playing field so that all children can be book owners regardless of their families' economic circumstances.

As Seema Aghera, Brooklyn Book Bodega’s chief operating officer and co-founder explains it, the unequal hardships of the pandemic — i.e. remote learning, time away from friends, and the general disruption of valuable learning opportunities — increased the urgency for children to have access to a wide range of books. “In addition to having enough to feed their bellies, all children deserve to have access to books,” said Aghera. “Books feed their minds, while providing joy and inspiration. And we partner with community organizations to ensure that kids and families receive books as well as food and hygiene items.”

Brooklyn Book Bodega’s team of three does the work of 10, bringing together community members that help make their work possible–whether it’s people who want to donate books or others who simply want to donate their time. It operates out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where people from all across Brooklyn converge to be part of the mission to make books and reading more accessible. 

As we gear up for #BrooklynGives, the team at Brooklyn Book Bodega is excited to raise funding to help the organization grow and increase its staff. Moreover, #BrooklynGives helps them spread the word about the importance of books in children’s lives and their work in the community supporting children and their families.

Navigate the Maze to Achievement’s story goes back to 2010, when its founder and executive director Allison Shillingford started a company to help families get into the best independent schools in New York City and she saw firsthand how severely underrepresented Black and Latinx students were in the city’s specialized high schools. 

In New York City, Black and Latinx students make up 66% of all public school students, but less than 11% of the students in specialized high schools. Having spent years supporting Brooklyn families and students in obtaining quality education, Shillingford launched NTMA in 2016 to prepare Black and Latinx students for specialized and selective high school admissions. 

But what started as a test prep program has grown into something much more holistic. Today, NTMA follows students through their high school years, academically and socially. “I feel like I'm setting them up to fail if I don't support them while they're in these high schools,” says Shillingford. “It’s not easy having to navigate being the only person that looks like you in a class.”

Most recently, NTMA had 25% of its students selected for specialized high schools, and 80% received an offer to one of the city’s top 50 schools. But the past two and have years have made their mission even more critical. “I love what Brooklyn Community Foundation does, and the #BrooklynGives campaign will be invaluable for helping us get on people’s radars,” says Shillingford. “In fact, one of my givers that gives every year actually donated five times more because he loves Brooklyn Community Foundation.”

Although NTMA is a small organization, Shillingford is encouraged because Brooklyn Community Foundation has always been such an important booster of small nonprofits. “Brooklyn Community Foundation has helped us in so many ways. They're always sharing a wealth of resources that are valuable for new nonprofits that are trying to navigate their own maze.”

Spread love the #BrooklynGives way — support community-led nonprofits this Giving Tuesday at! We hope you'll also support Brooklyn Community Foundation's grantmaking for racial justice organizations year-round here.

Dr. Jocelynne Rainey

President & CEO (She/Her/Hers)
We’ve found that being part of the #BrooklynGives campaign is especially valuable for smaller organizations that may not otherwise have the capacity or technology to do their own Giving Tuesday campaigns. There’s also a benefit for donors who want to direct their giving to local organizations that really need the support. And I can say with confidence that Brooklyn’s nonprofits need you now more than ever.