LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (PXI11) — Volunteers from Backpacks For The Street were out New Year’s Day at their usual Sunday Lower East Side corner of Delancey and Forsyth Streets.
They handed out burgers and backpacks filled with essentials. They’ve given out 80,000 backpacks and $1.7 million in aid over the last five years and their New Year’s resolution is to continue to care.
“There are so many people who need that compassion, need that hope,” Jeffrey Newman, founder of Backpacks For The Street, told PIX11 News. “I see you, you’re not invisible, and I care.”
Those receiving the backpacks were so grateful.
“This is one of the best things that happens around here,” Darryl Harris, who was formerly homeless, told PIX11 News. “To see a lot of people show up, I’m grateful for them.”
The volunteers say they get from the experience as much as they give.
“This is fun. This is meaningful in the community,” Manni Lee, a volunteer told PIX11 News. “It’s a way to be part of something bigger that you can’t do on your own.”
The Coney Island Polar Bear Club Plunge was also back in full swing this year. It was canceled in 2021 due to COVID and it had a smaller crowd last year. But thousands braved the 42 degree water temperature this year on the unusually mild New Year’s Day.
Many were freezin’ for a reason: to raise money for local charities.
“It was amazing. The water feels really great,” Mary Becerra, a Polar Bear Club swimmer, told PIX11 News. “The sun feels perfect. Best way to start the new year.”
Nearly 4,000 people rang in 2023 in the New York Road runners midnight run in Central Park. This annual run dates back to 1979 and many said it’s the best way to honor their resolution to be more fit in the coming year.
If you’d like to volunteer or donate to help the homeless through Backpacks For The Street, you can go to their website, BFTS.org.