Giving up a weekend night to bring food, toiletries and clothing to homeless people on the streets of Manhattan is a favorite volunteer activity for Cristina Barcia.
Barcia, 42, of Westbury, is a senior paralegal at Genser Dubow Genser & Cona in Melville, one of Long Island's foremost elder law firms.
She and nearly all of the firm's 30-member staff, including attorneys and partners, have participated in the Midnight Run, a late-night relief effort coordinated by a coalition of churches, synagogues, schools and civic organizations in the metropolitan area.
"The Midnight Run organization assigns to us an evening and provides us with a route and a guide and a commercial vehicle to assist us in getting products to the city to pass out," Barcia said. "It could be coats and sweatshirts, or something as simple as clean socks, bottled water and a toothbrush. To a homeless person they're gold. And they just want to have a conversation, sometimes. These are older adults, appreciative of what you give them but [also] because you're just there."
The runs are done in the evening, usually from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. "I have been in it three times," Barcia said.
The products they distribute are obtained in mass quantities from donations or employees' contributions. "We prepare for this one night for months," Barcia said. "We coordinate with local businesses to donate a hot meal."
Participation in the Midnight Run is all part of the firm's Charitable Events program, with a mission, Barcia said, "to provide an assurance in some shape or form that the elderly's needs are addressed.
"My favorite just happens to be that," she said of the Midnight Run. "I didn't find the cause, the cause found me. I support, I engage, I embrace."
SIGN ME UP
The staff at Genser Dubow Genser & Cona welcomes the public to join their volunteer efforts by making donations or helping out at events sponsored by the firm's charitable arm, GDGC Charitable Events.
"They can help, they can donate," said Jennifer Cona, the firm's managing partner. "If people donate, we can do that many more wishes," she said of the firm's Senior Dreams Come True program, which fulfills basic wishes of low-income and underprivileged seniors. Contact: Moriah Farrell, 631-390-5000; genserlaw.com.
OTHER VOLUNTEER OPPOTUNITIES
The Retired Senior Volunteer Program's mission is to provide diverse volunteer opportunities for people 55 and older. RSVP supports older Americans who wish to remain active and make a difference in their communities. Contact: 631-979-9490; rsvpsuffolk.org.
Rebuilding Together Long Island helps low-income residents, the disabled and veterans stay in their homes by providing critical repairs and renovations. The group builds wheelchair ramps, repairs kitchens and installs safety bars in baths and showers, among other projects. Contact: Bob Ellis, 631-777-7894
For more volunteer information and opportunities, contact the Long Island Volunteer Center at 516-564-5482; longislandvolunteercenter.org.