UWS Teen Creates Volunteer Connections

Pairing students with at-home community service

05 May 2020 | 11:24

Lucas Cohen, 17, told the West Side Spirit he had plans to do a community service project this summer, but when COVID-19 arrived he started a bit early.

On April 23, he launched IMPACT, which connects youths to virtual volunteer opportunities.

“I wanted to show other kids that volunteerism isn’t that hard,” he said. “I think there’s a stigma about volunteerism within the youth that it is [a chore].”

Cohen, who is the student government secretary of ethics and community service at Ethical Culture Fieldston School, explained this project was about six months in the making.

While visiting people isn’t feasible right now, he researched which hospitals, hospices and nonprofits throughout the five boroughs, Westchester and Long Island were looking for volunteers.

Cohen explained that simple things like calling hospice residents who are lonelier than usual or sending get well cards can go a long way.

“It’s not always talking about what’s going on right now,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just talking about these people.

"Submit a Story"

His passion for giving back runs in the blood. His mom, Jaci, works for the United Jewish Appeal - Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York (UJA) and his family has written cards to residents of a hospice in Westchester during the pandemic.

“A very small act on your end could mean the world to someone else,” Cohen said.

The IMPACT site has a section called “Submit a Story,” where people can tell describe what volunteering they have been doing during the crisis.

There is also a tab for “Student held Initiatives,” where kids have listed ways they have starred a volunteering project, including Night Bites, a nonprofit where baked goods are brought to night shift medical staff, and Circle of Friends, where high school students meet virtually with the children of essential workers, medical workers, patients or anyone suffering because of COVID-19 or fighting on the front lines.

While he knows he is just a student, Cohen hopes the site helps even if it’s in a small way.

“This is really to connect volunteerism within the community,” he said. “I’m appreciating learning what it’s like in the real world and I’m grateful for this time to be a real person.”

“A very small act on your end could mean the world to someone else.” Lucas Cohen, founder of IMPACT