City Engagement to partner closely with Bowery Mission after lacking House involvement


NEW YORK--After three years of reorganizing, City Engagement is planning to strengthen TKC’s partnerships with the Bowery Mission and Operation Exodus and shy away from strictly individual House initiatives. City Engagement sees its mission as connecting students with opportunities to serve in the city and organizations with committed volunteers.

Handmade cards are included in each kit. Photo by Katelyn Creech

“We’re here to get students out in the city and find commitments that work for them,” City Engagement Coordinator Allyson Philobos said. “We’re about investing in student development… developing a person to fulfill their biblical mandate,” not promoting the name of City Engagement, Philobos said.

City Engagement began as a House competition but was scrapped when Houses failed to follow through on plans to serve post-competition.

Since becoming part of Student Development in 2009, City Engagement has been adapting its strategy in response to the challenges it faces.

In its initial stages under Student Development, City Engagement asked each House to elect a representative and coordinate its own House project. The City Engagement committee planned to choose one House project to expand into a student body-wide event.

But in spring 2012, only a third of the Houses had active City Engagement coordinators. Now the Houses have “contacts.” Some are elected within the House, and others are simply the House president.

In a small survey the Empire State Tribune conducted online, 19 of 30 students said they do not currently volunteer their time at an organization outside King’s.

Twenty-seven of those students said they spend less than five hours a month volunteering. Three students said they spend 10 to 20 hours a month volunteering.

Global Engagement Coordinator Elijah McCready, who supervises City Engagement, said a significant challenge has been “enthusiastic students who are not willing to commit.”

The lack of long-term commitment in a few instances threatened to hurt the reputation of the college, McCready said. House initiatives can easily lose their zeal when the students most passionate about the cause graduate, and if students do not perpetuate these visions, the organization cannot count on volunteers.

Some students juggling classes, work and internships have asked for commitments that demand less time and regular visits. For example, several students were grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at the Bowery Mission’s annual Don’t Walk By event. Every Saturday in February, volunteers roam the streets and subways in teams and invite homeless people to dine at the Bowery Mission.

Some students volunteer every week. Last year a handful of students visited Operation Exodus every Saturday morning. King’s students serve

Wider view of the Here's Life Inner City warehouse. Photo by Katelyn Creech.

meals and clean the kitchens at The Bowery Mission 2-3 Saturday evenings a month.

“City Engagement is a dependent variable,” McCready said. He explained that it is dependent on the spiritual health of the student body and whether or not students want to “get out and get engaged.” To those students that have an interest or cause they want to serve, City Engagement promises to provide opportunities.

City Engagement is hosting a screening of the documentary Very Young Girls, about sex trafficking in New York City, today, Mar. 1. A Queens-based organization called Girls Educational and Mentoring Services will host a Q&A session after the film and provide King’s students with opportunities to volunteer.

“We’re trying to connect with them because it’s very hard to get involved with sex trafficking because there are so many security issues,” City Engagement student worker Stephanie Gardner said.

Gardner plans to increase the awareness of City Engagement activities through their Facebook page, signs on campus and flyers delivered to on-campus apartments.

“Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” McCready said.

When asked if City Engagement has inspired, motivated or practically helped them volunteer, most students were appreciative but admitted they have not participated in City Engagement events.

Despite the setbacks, McCready said City Engagement is at a “better place than it’s ever been historically.”

The Bowery Mission, where a handful of King’s alums work, now calls City Engagement to ask for volunteers.

“They know we’re dependable and cheerful,” McCready said.

Later this semester, a Bowery Mission representative who used to live on the streets is expected to visit King’s to teach students how to interact with the homeless on a day-to-day basis.