From Ranks of Jobless, a Flood of Volunteers
March 16, 2009, The New York Times — Until November, Lisa Traina had a classic New York glamour job: organizing private parties in the Art Deco opulence of the Rainbow Room. Now she spends 10-hour shifts walking down gritty sidewalks trying to persuade homeless people to go to the Bowery Mission for food and shelter.
“I worked at the top of the world,” she said. “And the next day you’re working down on Broadway and saying to somebody, ‘Let me show you where you can get a bowl of soup for the night.’ ”
After being laid off, Ms. Traina, 50, enlisted in the growing army of the newly unemployed that have been marching into the offices of nonprofit organizations since the recession hit, looking to do some good, maybe network a little or simply fill the hours they used to be at the office.
They have searched for tasks on volunteernyc.org — which last month had 30 percent more visitors than in February 2008 — and forced New York Cares, an umbrella organization, to add extra new-volunteer orientations at a Whole Foods Market downtown that quickly booked solid an unheard-of three weeks in advance. In Philadelphia, Big Brothers Big Sisters has seen a 25 percent increase in inquiries from potential mentors over this time last year. And the Taproot Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that places skilled professionals in volunteer positions, had more people sign up on one day earlier this year than in an entire month a year ago.
Many who run nonprofits have marveled at the sudden flood of bankers, advertising copywriters, marketing managers, accountants and other professionals eager to lend their formidable but dormant skills. The Financial Clinic, which counsels the working poor on economic matters, recently dispatched an M.I.T.-educated ex-Wall Street type to help people in Chinatown prepare their tax returns.