Anti-hunger coalition launches Web site for volunteers

THE BRONX - (AP) - New Yorkers interested in helping out at soup kitchens and food pantries can now go online to search for volunteer opportunities.

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger launched a Web site Tuesday that allows people to search by neighborhood or nearby subway lines for a program that best suits their schedule or skills.

"There are a lot of good Web sites to find volunteer opportunities, but then you have to call or e-mail and they have to e-mail back," said Joel Berg, the coalition's executive director. "Here you pick a specific spot at a specific site and you are automatically signed up, like buying a plane ticket."

New York has some 1,200 food pantries, soup kitchens and agencies that serve the poor. The better known charities, or those in midtown Manhattan, usually have enough volunteers, Berg said, while those in the outer boroughs often need help.

In addition to line workers, the aid groups are also looking for volunteers with professional skills including lawyers, graphic designers and writers.

"Five hours of accounting is worth 20 hours of serving soup to many of these agencies," Berg said.

Berg noted that charities have the greatest need for help after Jan. 1.

"Around the holidays, panties and kitchens often have more volunteers they can use, but after the holidays, they are in desperate need of such help," he said.

According to Berg, 1.3 million New Yorkers get help from the food pantries each year. City Councilman Eric Goia of Queens was at the launch of the Web site at the Holy Apostles soup kitchen in the Chelsea neighborhood.

"There are more than 400,000 children that go to bed hungry in our city," he said.

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