Finding Purpose by Giving Back

When Shamma Goodrich moved to New York in 2015, she was struck by the homelessness in Manhattan.

“I was basically in shock for a few years,” Ms. Goodrich said. “I was like, is this America? What happened? Where am I living? What am I doing?”

Donate now to the 110th annual campaign of The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. All proceeds go to nine organizations providing assistance to those facing economic hardship. Make a tax-deductible donation through GoFundMe.

Ms. Goodrich had become familiar with American culture through her work in business development and sales in New Delhi. But when she moved to New York in search of new opportunities, she encountered a level of need that she hadn’t been expecting.

Dismayed that so many New Yorkers did not have a place to sleep at night, she sought to volunteer, though she became frustrated when organizations she spoke with focused on fund-raising.

“I wanted to give time,” said Ms. Goodrich, 36. “I’m like, I have time, I don’t have money. I can give my time.”

She worked in a restaurant and in retail, and after a few years in Manhattan, she moved to Brooklyn, where she discovered Brooklyn Community Services, one of the nine organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

This year, she was able to start the volunteer work she’d been seeking, assisting with Brooklyn Community Services’ shower bus.

A Shower Bus Helps Those Without Access 🚿

A Shower Bus Helps Those Without Access 🚿

At about 9 a.m., three days a week, Brooklyn Community Services’ shower bus parks and begins its day. People without regular access to showers line up, and affiliate groups often offer food and medical care.

Here’s how it works →

A Shower Bus Helps Those Without Access 🚿

The bus, driven by Givenson Cadet, is the shell of a shuttle bus. Brooklyn Community Services bought the shell in 2019 and installed two bathrooms.

Typically, the bus operates in East New York, Coney Island and Park Slope.

A Shower Bus Helps Those Without Access 🚿

Before each client steps aboard, volunteers hand out hygiene kits that include toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap and towels. They also offer feminine hygiene products and P.P.E., such as gloves and masks, to help protect against Covid-19.

A Shower Bus Helps Those Without Access 🚿

Each client is given a token to start the shower, which allows it to run for three minutes and 30 seconds.

On slower days, clients are offered two tokens. Each bathroom also has a toilet and a lock for privacy.

A Shower Bus Helps Those Without Access 🚿

Between each shower, volunteers and staff members sanitize the bathroom, so each client has a clean room.

The bus provides about 60 to 75 showers a week.

A Shower Bus Helps Those Without Access 🚿

“It is very, very difficult to be out there on the street,” said Jodi Querbach, the chief operating officer of Brooklyn Community Services, which is continuing to provide hygiene kits in the winter when it’s too cold for the bus to operate.

“We’ve always known that being able to provide this meant giving people back some dignity.”

Learn more about The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

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