Opportunities for becoming more politically and socially active in the community?

garden shovel in dirtAlyssa emails:

Hey AOA! After the most recent election, I'm looking to be more politically and socially active in the community. Know of any local activist groups I can join?

We've heard something similar from a lot of people recently, that they're interested in actively getting involved with some sort of cause, campaign, or effort. So, we'll expand Alyssa's question a little bit to include not just activist groups, but also non-profits pushing for change that have volunteer opportunities.

Got a suggestion for Alyssa, if not a specific group then maybe a cause to focus on? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: It's time to dig in.


What community is Alyssa located in?

Alyssa's intent is terrific. It is too bad the local democratic party is so hopelessly corrupt, because that is precisely the vehicle through which we would hope would be in a leading role these days. But the local party is almost purely concerned with slotting loyalists into jobs; there is no other agenda.

The Working Families Party is only slightly better.

Citizen Action is quite a bit better, staffed with good people, maybe not all that effective but they are making an honest effort.

What we need is a left wing breakaway faction of the county dems, large enough to be a political force. It's very unlikely to happen, partly because there are so few really progressive local office-holders. I struggle to name one, frankly.

The Regional Food Bank is an absolutely superb charity and always needs volunteers and support. The Director is a saint ( his nickname is "Saint Mark") so your efforts will go to the right places.

Trinity Institution is also a wonderful local group.

A population that often goes unnoticed that needs the most help are our men and women returning to our communities from prison. Albany has an unusually high number of returning citizens and most are returning to homelessness, joblessness, and other social barriers. Lack of preparation and planning inside our prisons will often lead to reoffending within 6 months to 1 year after release.

There is a program in downtown Albany that addresses this social problem each day. The Horizon House is a program of Community Resources for Justice and works with men and women returning to the community from federal prison. In almost all cases, these are non-violent offenders (drugs, white collar offenses, etc). Through a blend of evidence-based programming and accountability measures, the Horizon House has had a tremendous level of success with this population.

If you are interested in working, interning, or volunteering, please visit www.crj.org.

The Albany Social Justice Center

Citizen Action of New York

I contacted RISSE (Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus) after the "It's Time to Dig In" piece. They are looking for ESL volunteers for kids and adults. They are open Monday-Friday 7:00-6:00 but are looking to add weekend volunteer options soon. http://risse-albany.weebly.com/about-us.html

I spent a number of years volunteering for my local political party and personally I found it very rewarding. With so few people who are interested in participating these days, the ability to have an impact is actually pretty significant. I was able to do a heck of a lot of good, and only stopped because I moved and my work schedule changed significantly, so as to prevent me from continuing.

I would also disagree with the characterization of corruption. Of course a party apparatus rewards loyalty. It's a tent, it requires collaboration and compromise and long-term investment, messy as that sometimes may be, in order to be an effective institution.

Personally I find that people get frustrated with political work because they don't really understand it and do not find it as emotionally gratifying as they wish it to be. Or they don't want to do the boring drudge work that, perhaps counterintuitively, is what often makes the biggest difference.

@Rich I live in Cohoes, so luckily I am very central to the metro area! Also thanks everyone for the suggestions so far!

Great opportunity to become engaged!!! In the spirit of a tolerant and united community, we are creating a safe space to discuss current questions and concerns surrounding the recent election. We hope to generate purposeful dialogue as we find ways to move forward. Dialogue participants will discuss strategies to take action. Join Us!

The public dialogue will take place on Saturday, December 3rd from 1 to 4 PM in Milne Hall 200. Free parking will be available in the Thurlow Lot, across from the UAlbany Downtown Campus. http://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/dialogue.shtml

Justin, I am glad your experience with a local political party (you didn't say which one, which is fine) was rewarding.

But the Albany County Dem party is indeed deeply corrupt. It's not so much people taking money illegally; I don't think much of that happens any more. The corruption consists of people like county executive Danny McCoy and Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan taking political contributions from the same people who do business with the county and city. Its the petty corruption of other electeds who make all their decisions based on the next office they want to get, rather than any consideration for the people they represent. Ask yourself what our local Assembly and State Senate reps have done for this community. The answer is virtually nothing. Ask yourself why we have 39 County legislators who draw a lot of pay and do nothing. It is the corruption of so many committee people who spend all their time and energy worrying about which faction to support and what jobs will result, not in any policy issue or any concerns of their neighborhoods. To be fair, all committee people are volunteers, so they are giving a lot of time away, but they aren't doing much productive with that time.

There are exceptions - really honorable exceptions - but they are rare.

To Alyssa - A group of us that were heavily involved volunteers during Senator Bernie Sanders's Presidential Primary run in NY (he won basically every county in NY state, including all of upstate, by the way) have formed the Bernie Sanders Network, a progressive advocacy group. Here is our website:


We have already been working a lot with some of the other groups mentioned in previous comments, including Citizen Action and the Working Families Party. Additionally, efforts are underway to create a Capital Region wide progressive activism calendar so that any individual can view the events of all progressive groups in our region.

I encourage Alyssa or anyone else to e-mail info@berniesandersnetwork.com to learn more about our group.


In general, ask yourself a lot of questions; what you really want to do socially, what one thing do you not like about your community that you would want to fix, and so on. After that, try out a few suggestions that interest you;

In Schenectady, I recommend volunteering at Things of My Very Own, Inc.. Immediate impact for those who need care.

Also, contact a local, regional, or national, political party and volunteer your time.

Also, attend a fundraiser. The TimesUnion event calendar lists many.

Want to tackle a big issue with little people? Children's literacy is key to kids' future success as students --

The Wizard's Wardrobe -- a new manifestation of a partnership between First Presbyterian Church & Giffen Elementary School - it's an after school, free tutoring program for students in the South End to support and supplement classroom learning.


I know it's late notice, but their kick-off is 11/29, 7 PM, First Presbyterian Church - if you want to learn more about how to get involved.

Years ago I was a volunteered with Literacy Volunteers in their ESL program (or English language tutoring for non-native speakers..don't know the proper terminology used now) and helped a family learn enough English to pass their citizenship test. That in itself was gratifying but being a literacy volunteer to help people learn to read would be a great way to affect change at a local level. Knowledge is power, as we know.

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