The 2nd floor office of Mixteca is separated into various sections where groups of migrants are receiving help with applications to get an IDNYC, taking English classes, making consulate appointments, or other services. Multiple conversations occurring simultaneously, along with the constant ringing of the telephone, tell how high the demand of their services are. Other migrants that arrive have to check in at the front desk, and then proceed to the waiting area to join others.
But the people that visit are not just those who need services. A person from the neighborhood brings in a bag of clothes, which the front desk takes and puts together with at least twelve other two-gallon-bags that have been collected throughout the week. The staff will have to go through them.
This is a typical Saturday at Mixteca, a staple in the neighborhood of South Park Slope that has helped immigrants and local residents with services for decades. Since the arrival of more than 45,000 migrants in NYC since last spring, many organizations like Mixteca have relied on volunteers and donations to bring critical assistance to them. Documented visited and spoke with some of these organizations and made a list of organizations helping asylum seekers where New Yorkers can volunteer or donate.
Different Ways to Help Migrants
Lorena Kourousias, Executive Director of Mixteca, explained that their services are always adapting to the demands of the moment, like it did at the height of COVID-19 pandemic. She says the organization helped families with information about accessing medical services, and also launched virtual group workshops to ensure that families do not have to mourn the loss of their loved ones alone.
Those group workshops have continued since then, and are now helping migrants deal with their traumas, Kourousias said, adding that every week groups of women and men meet for mental health counseling on different occasions. “We used to do a lot of the [workshops] online, but now people have been coming in person.”
Mixteca is also in the middle of three shelters. Many families with children have visited the organization for workshops that could help them find a sense of community, Kourousias explained. She said that during el día de los Muertos last November, the children made papel picado (perforated paper) and calaveritas de azúcar (sugar-skulls), both which are staples for the traditional Mexican day.
There are many different programs going on simultaneously, like food pantries, art workshops, and others. But for families who have just arrived, the need of legal screenings along with help getting an identification document is what has been the most requested.
Documented’s internal data collected from our WhatsApp channel — which has more than 4,000 subscribers — has also shown a high demand for help about legal representation from recently arrived migrants, followed by locations about food pantries, and clothing drives during the cold months.
“One of the frustrations people are having is that they get a list of folks who offer free immigration services … but a lot of them say no, which I understand because they are overwhelmed, too,” said Bethany Thorne, Chief of Staff at Project Rousseau, an organization that has been helping migrant families since last spring.
On average, between 40 to 50 families visit Project Rousseau weekly to use their immigration screening services. The migrants are then paired up with volunteers from larger pro-bono law firms who can provide a comprehensive evaluation of their case, said Thorne.
Although volunteers with experience in that area are highly needed, she adds that other skills are also welcomed. “Whether they are interested in something simple like handing out toiletries, food, or helping people with change of address form, that is of huge need,” she said, adding that some of the volunteers undergo workshops to get familiar with certain processes and programs at the organization.
Donations of food items — particularly snacks that can be microwaved and do not require cooking — are also needed, as there has been a huge demand from families, Thorne said.
Making a Difference
Abigail, 28 — who requested not to use her last name — says the help from local organizations have been crucial for recently arrived migrants like herself. She migrated from Venezuela to New York in the month of October.
While she stayed at the Women’s Assessment shelter at Franklin Avenue in the Bronx, she says that Manna of Life Ministries — a food pantry and soup kitchen located in the same block as the shelter — gave her food and clothing. “They gave me this jacket, these shoes, these pants” she said pointing at the clothes she wore that cold morning. She had lost all of her belongings when she was detained in the Southern U.S. Border.
“In this cold, they have been helping me a lot,” Abigail said.
Gladis Roman, Executive Director of Manna of Life Ministries, says that since the summer migrants residing at the women’s shelter and also families had started using the food pantry for hot meals.
“For families, I always ask them what kind of cooking facilities they have. If they don’t have enough, I am not going to give them something to put in the oven,” Roman said, adding that some of the families have access to plates and others to stoves.
The need for clothes has also been highly requested. Roman said that many of the migrants have told her that their documents alongside their belongings had been taken away by immigration authorities at the border, which Documented reported on in the past. As a response, the team at the food pantry have been making bags of toiletries and clothes for migrants that need it the most.
As the demand has increased, Roman explained that if they got more people picking up food than had previously scheduled, then they wouldn’t turn them away and find a way to ensure everyone had something to take with them. They do anywhere between 150 to 170 pantry bags a week, she said.
But the extra effort has put a dent in her staff that ranges between ten to fifteen volunteers. She said that volunteers — particularly those who can help with organizing and can volunteer on a long term basis — are always needed.
Two migrants, who had previously used the food pantry, have been volunteering and offering help with the new migrants that arrive. “They are doing an excellent job,” Roman said.
Where to Donate and Volunteer
These are the organizations that have been helping asylum seekers in New York City. Contact the organizations directly to inquire about physical donations, as the needs of each organization varies.
Note: The list is not complete, and it does not include the many other organizations that have been helping migrants in the five boroughs. If you would like add information of an organization helping migrants to the list please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
South Bronx Mutual Aid
New Immigrants Community Empowerment (NICE)
*** NICE is not currently accepting physical donations.
Manna of Life Ministries
Team TLC NYC
United Way of Central New York
Life of Hope
Community Help in Park Slope (CHIPS)
Make The Road NY
Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid
African Communities Together
New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
Also read: Organizations Serving Immigrants in New York