For nearly 200 years, New York City Mission Society has been a force for positive change in the lives of New Yorkers in need.

Highlights of 200 years of service to New York City

New York City was in the midst of a severe economic crisis crowded with newly arrived immigrants, rampant with disease and widespread poverty.

New York City Mission Society (then called the New York Religious Tract Society) was formed in an effort to inspire hope to the masses that flooded the city.

At the time, the organization’s mission was to provide Christian tracts to every New Yorker willing to receive them.

First half of the 1800’s
New York City Mission Society provided relief in the form of food, clothing, schooling, and access to health care to people in need.

This work led to the development of the Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor (AICP), a “spin-off” organization that ultimately evolved into today’s Community Service Society, one of New York’s prominent human service providers.

Second half of the 1800’s
New York City Mission Society created ward libraries that were a forerunner to New York City’s public library system in the 1850s.

Developed an employment agency for women and children and established a visiting nurse service in lower Manhattan.

Continued expansion of reading programs, vocational training, trips to the country for urban children, and visiting nurse services.

Financed trips to the countryside for the urban poor that provided a model for the Fresh Air Fund, which was launched in 1877 with the strong participation of New York City Mission Society’s leadership.

New York City Mission Society primarily worked with the poor in the congregations of its affiliated churches.

First half of 1900’s
New York City Mission Society maintained firm authority over its churches, overseeing their budgets, raising funds for endowments, and other vital administrative responsibilities.

New York City Mission Society began to de-emphasize its direct work in and with churches.

New York City Mission Society opened the Harlem Unit, which provided services for the African-American children and families of this largely underserved community.

New York City Mission Society, in collaboration with several local churches, initiated New York City’s first sleep-away camp for African-American children.

Originally located on Staten Island, the camp moved to Dutchess County when New York City Mission Society received a donation of land bearing the name “Minisink.” With this move, the camp became known as Camp Minisink.

Minisink staff left their church offices and established headquarters in a townhouse at 348 Convent Avenue. Thus, the Minisink Townhouse was born.

The Minisink Townhouse operated numerous developmental programs during the school year, including the Leadership Training Class, the Girls Choir, the Dance Club, and the Indian Lore Club.

New York City Mission Society operated three camping programs, Camp Minisink and Camp Sharparoon for children and teens, and Camp Green Acres, for families and seniors.

New York City Mission Society opened a new Minisink Townhouse on 142nd Street and Malcolm X Boulevard in Central Harlem, bringing most of its programs under one roof and creating a vibrant community center in the heart of the neighborhood.

The alumni of many of New York City Mission Society’s Minisink programs have formed active and vibrant groups, and many host reunions to this day. For further details about these alumni groups and for links to their websites, visit our Alumni page.

After a fire at the camp during the off-season, Camp Minisink moved to the former Camp Sharparoon grounds in Dover Plains. Until the organization sold these campgrounds in 2005, New York City Mission Society’s camping programs defined summer for generations of inner-city teens and adults.

New York City Mission Society created its last religiously-focused endeavor—the Urban Ministry Program, designed to support recent seminary graduates and newly minted pastors. This program continued until the early 1990’s.

The 1990’s
New York City Mission Society took a decidedly more secular direction, formally ending its relationships with churches but retaining the core values that had always characterized its services: dignity, kindness and respect.

New York City Mission began to provide services within public schools, offering attendance improvement, after-school, and drop-out prevention programs in Harlem and the Bronx.

New York City Mission Society established its first Learning to Work program at Harlem Renaissance High School and its Amachi/NY mentoring program for children with incarcerated parents.

The New York City Mission Society continued its focus on  children and families in NYC by establishing additional programs such as Learning to Work (for Older High School Students), Operation Snug (to prevent gun violence in Central Harlem), enhanced the Power Academy (for academic support of school age children, along with before/after school programs) and the Summer Youth Employment Program (to bring New York’s youth into the actual working world).

The New York City Mission Society also welcomed a new world of communication with our children, families, corporate sponsors and benefactors by launching a new website and multiple social media channels. This allows the NYC Mission Society more access to their constituents and benefactors.

2012 was capped off with the Bicentennial Gala – a celebration of our 200 years of continuous service. In keeping with the best of company, New York City Mission Society honored many while raising much needed funding to continue the programs and services for youth and families in NYC. Honorees were Kathryn C. Chenault and Cicely Tyson. The co-honorees Citibank (also celebrating 200 years in NYC) and City Hall (which has been the seat of NY City Government since 1812) were delighted to be part of this philanthropic legacy of New York City.

Further information about New York City Mission Society can be obtained by purchasing the book, Images of America: New York City Mission Society.