Community Partners

The center of FOCUS — anchoring the speakers, events, and cultural activities that happen during the program — is a week-long service project. Small groups will work at various volunteer sites and bond together at night, creating a tight-knit community within the larger program. We greatly appreciate all of our community partners that do incredible work in New Haven year-round, and we encourage you to check them out!

Below is an alphabetical list of sites we have worked with in previous years, NOT a complete list of 2023 community partners!

All Our Kin (Website)

All Our Kin trains, supports, and sustains community child care providers to ensure that children and families have the foundation they need to succeed in school and in life. Through the programs, child care professionals succeed as business owners; working parents find stable, high-quality care for their children; and children gain an educational foundation that lays the groundwork for achievement in school and beyond. 

Their vision is that child care providers will have access to training and education opportunities, liveable wages and benefits, and respect for a hard job done well. Parents will be honored and supported in their difficult work of caring for children, and have access to safe, loving, educational child care options when they go to work. And children, regardless of where they live, their racial or ethnic background, or how much money their parents earn, will begin their lives with all the advantages, tools, and experiences that we, as a society, are capable of giving them.

Amistad Catholic Worker (Website)

The Amistad Catholic Worker is a community dedicated to the daily practice of non-violence, justice, and peace. Located in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, their home is open as a house of hospitality offering sustenance and companionship, including at least two meals a day to anyone who comes to the door. The populations they serve include those without homes, refugees,  people living in extreme poverty, and anyone else who asks for help.  They seek to be a safe haven and a public nonviolent witness in the neighborhood, and always try to blur the distinction between the people who are serving and those being served. Participants will help with large-scale projects around Amistad and get to know both the residents of the house and the residents of the neighborhood on a deep personal level. Past FOCUSers have developed meaningful, long-lasting friendships with the Amistad community, and have learned first-hand the meaning of creating community across barriers of class, race, and language.

Bregamos Community Theater (Website)

Located in the heart of the Fair Haven neighborhood, Bregamos aims to give people of all ages and background the tools and skills to create community-based theatrical productions that speak to the diverse stories and lives of New Haven residents. The theater offers after-school programs for young people as well as intergenerational workshops covering acting, writing, directing, casting, set designs, costume design, sound and lighting. In the past, FOCUSers have helped Bregamos renovate their building, design and build sets, and expand their programming.

Common Ground High School (Website)

Common Ground is at once an urban farm, a public charter school with a focus on environmentalism, and a community education center. It is a place where all members of the community – young and elementary-aged children, middle and high school students, the general public, and environmental practitioners – can find connections to the local environment, each other, and opportunities for learning and engagement. Common Ground’s working farm includes production and educational gardens and a variety of animals. Located at the base of West Rock Ridge, the site includes 20 acres of forest with hiking trails, wildlife, and diverse natural habitats. Within New Haven city limits, Common Ground seeks to explore urban ecology and develop paths to urban sustainability. FOCUS volunteers at Common Ground will be spending most of their four volunteer days outside.

Community Soup Kitchen (Website)

Community Soup Kitchen strives to provide free, nutritious meals on a regular basis in the downtown New Haven community for the benefit of the poor and underprivileged. They also work towards enhancing the dignity and sense of worth of those who come to the kitchen by welcoming them wholeheartedly and warmly as guests. In order to achieve this mission, they not only provide breakfast and lunches, but also give guests the opportunity to receive free, on-site HIV and blood pressure screenings. Participants will volunteer at CSK on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.

Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (Website)

Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) is an organization that strives to serve people experiencing homelessness or living in poverty. Starting in the 1980s, DESK began to serve the community through providing evening dinners, food assistance, and other services promoting community, health, and equity.  Participants will volunteer at the DESK food pantry on Wednesday afternoon.

Food In Service to the Homebound (Website)

FISH is a nonprofit social service organization that delivers bags of nutritious groceries to New Haven community members who are both homebound and food insecure. FISH is an incredibly special organization for many reasons, including the fact that it serves a huge diversity of New Haven residents, including children, veterans, the elderly, people with disabilities, and those who unemployed and underemployed. FISH is the sole agency doing this work in the New Haven area. Volunteering at FISH offers students the chance to learn firsthand about the struggles many residents of Elm City (New Haven) face related to food insecurity and to work on projects which aim to provide these residents with access to fresh, healthy food. We believe that working with an organization like FISH can help us become more aware, more informed, and more thoughtful members of this community.

Gather New Haven (Website)

The New Haven Land Trust protects six open nature preserves (approximately 80 acres) and oversees 50 community vegetable gardens across New Haven. In addition to  ensuring that New Haven’s precious tidal wetlands, coastal grasslands, and forests are preserved, the New Haven Land Trust offers educational programs for New Haven residents about the environment and helps community members grow their own produce in communal gardens. Moreover, New Haven is a coastal city, and the environmental and economic implications of climate change are already being felt throughout the city. New Haven Land Trust helps residents learn about sustainability efforts that can combat climate change on the local level and simultaneously builds a safe space for community members to connect. FOCUS Volunteers will help prepare community gardens for harvest season in the fall. We will also clean up nature preserves, make trails, or remove harmful invasive plants from the Land Trust’s preserves. Most importantly, we will learn about the ecological and biological diversity of New Haven, while learning how New Haven residents are responding to pressing concerns about climate change and sustainability.

New Haven Farms was founded in 2012 to respond to intersecting crises of diabetes, obesity, environmental degradation, and poverty by promoting health and community development through urban agriculture. New Haven farms transforms vacant, urban spaces into small organic farms in New Haven’s under-resourced neighborhoods. 

On their farms, they grow high quality organic produce and host educational programming for families in the community. They host many programs, including the Farm-Based Wellness Program, which demonstrates how regular exposure to and participation in growing food, combined with cooking and nutrition education and behavior change interventions, positively impacts the participants’ health, social capital, and food security.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven (Website)

Founded in 1986, Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the elimination of poverty housing through the creation of home ownership opportunities for low-income working families. Habitat builds and rehabilitates homes in the Greater New Haven area with the goal of creaing safe, decent, affordable houses that add to the revitalization of New Haven’s neighborhoods. Habitat accomplishes its mission by partnering with inidviduals, religious and civic organizations, local businessess and corporations. 

Using volunteer labor and donated materials, Habitat builds and rehabilitates homes in the Greater New Haven area and then sells the houses to families who have been selected to partner with us. Homeowners are chosen based on their need for housing, ability to repay Habitat’s 25-year, 0% mortgage and their willingness to partner with Habitat. Because of Habitat’s no-profit loans and because the houses are built principally with volunteer labor, mortgage payments are affordable for low-income partner families who would not normally qualify for a conventional mortgage. 

New Reach (Website)

New Reach: Building on 28 years of experience in helping children, youth, families, and chronically homeless adults, New Reach delivers a full spectrum of housing intervetions to over 2,750 Connecticut residents each year including over 1,500 children. They strive to help all youth, families, and individuals to find a safe, affordable home with services and supports necessary to achieve a fulfilling, self-reliant life. This year, FOCUS will volunteer at Martha’s Place and Life Haven through New Reach.

Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership (Website)

LEAP trains New Haven college and public high school students to work with younger children, providing a literacy based curriculum as well as classes in the arts, computer science, swimming, athletics, camping, cooking and team building.

In LEAP’s summer program, we work with children five days a week and place our college student senior counselors to live in public housing developments and other neighborhood housing so they are accessible to children, learn about the neighborhoods’ strengths and weaknesses, and infuse role models in places that benefit from the introduction of college students as neighbors.

During the school year, LEAP operates six days a week, using four to one child to counselor ratios to help children complete homework, engage in our literacy based curriculum and enjoy a wide range of opportunities in the arts, sports, and science that respect children’s “multiple intelligences” and often are no longer available in urban public schools which must now spend the majority of their time meeting strict standardized testing goals.

LEAP looks to significantly impact high poverty neighborhoods, building an institution that families come to rely upon, while working with a large number of children in a small defined area. LEAP believes different kids learn differently and that poverty limits access to different learning pathways. A child may have tremendous capacity to program a computer but if she is never introduced to computer programming will never learn to do so.  A young boy may really begin to open up and take on new challenges on an overnight camping trip in the wilderness but only if he is given the chance to camp.  We provide these learning opportunities to children who would otherwise not have them.

Neighborhood Housing Services (Website)

In revitalizing specific neighborhoods, increasing overall homeownership in the area, and creating more affordable and sustainable housing, NHS is committed to positioning New Haven inhabitants for success. In its mission, NHS has fully renovated and sold almost 450 housing units to low- and moderate-income families and has been guiding nearly 500 families a year on the path to homeownership.

With NHS, participants will lend a hand in a variety of currents projects, including an ongoing re-beautification of Beaver Pond Park, various housing refurbishments, and work in neighborhood gardens. In doing so, participants will have the chance not only to meet and work alongside local New Haven residents, but also actively participate in reshaping the city. In addition, participants will learn about how to increase sustainable housing within suburban and urban areas of New Haven.  

New Haven Reads (Website)

New Haven Reads aims to “share the joy and power of reading” by promoting literacy skills and a lifelong love of literature in local children. NHR’s four sites provide neighborhoods with a number of valuable resources, including one-on-one after-school tutoring, family education programs, and an extensive community book bank—all at no costs to participants. The organization, founded in 2001, has more than 350 regular volunteers who help manage the Book Bank, tutor local students, and distribute books throughout the community.

In March, Mayor Toni Harp announced an ambitious campaign to make New Haven “the city that reads.” FOCUS volunteers will have front-line access to projects in community development and childhood education. Participants will also gain first-hand familiarity with the historic Dixwell neighborhood, just minutes north of campus, and have the chance to develop a long-standing relationship with an organization that has proudly hosted hundreds of Yale volunteers. For proximity, impact, and heartwarming fun, volunteering at New Haven Reads guarantees a meaningful experience for all.

Sunrise Cafe (Website)

Sunrise Cafe operates under Liberty Community Services whose mission is to end homelessness in Greater New Haven. They offer services to homeless individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS, mental illness, and/or addiction. Sunrise Cafe is a free breakfast program that is open 5 days a week in which guests receive a cooked breakfast and access to the community space. They serve 120-140 people on a daily basis. However, Sunrise Cafe is special in that it’s restaurant-style, so volunteers take orders, fill orders, and run trays out to the guests at their tables. Past volunteers have emphasized how important this seemingly small difference makes - it often provides guests with a sense of dignity that they do not experience at regular soup kitchens. Participants will volunteer at Sunrise Cafe from Monday to Friday in the mornings from 7:30am to 9:30am.

Urban Resource Initiative (Website)

Urban Resources Initiative (URI) is a nonprofit organization run by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a local board of directors. URI’s mission is to provide environmental education, foster urban forestry, and provide Yale students with learning opportunities. URI collaborates with New Haven community groups and residents to replant, restore, and reclaim the urban environment. With URI, FOCUS participants will work on invasive plant control and plant trees in Beaver Pond Park. Through this project, participants will learn the importance of environmental conservation efforts in New Haven. These efforts are tied to the social sciences–through social revitalization with policy design and management of ecosystems–as well as the biophysical sciences through environmental restoration. Since URI is a nonprofit sponsored by Yale, the service that participants do will continue to strengthen the ties between Yale and New Haven. Volunteering with URI is a rewarding experience that allows participants to make a visible change in their community’s environment. Participants at this service site will need to perform moderate to strenuous labor and will be outside most of the day.