Invisible Hands co-founders (L to R) Simone Policano '16, Liam Elkind '22, and Healy Chait

Each year, hundreds of Yale alumni, students, staff, family, and friends take part in Yale Day of Service, giving back to local communities across the country and around the world. In this series, we’ll be spotlighting a few of those Yalies, who discuss how they got involved and what service means to them.

This week, we feature Liam Elkind ’22, the co-founder of the nonprofit Invisible Hands and a recently named Rhodes Scholar.

How did you become part of Yale’s alumni service community?

I became part of Yale’s alumni service community while I was still a student at Yale. In March 2020, I was a junior on spring break in my home city of New York. When the pandemic hit, I knew I wanted to do something more than just stay at home. A fellow alum, Simone Policano ’16, and I started a group called Invisible Hands. We would go shopping and pick up any essentials that homebound residents needed throughout New York. Within three days of launching our service, 1,300 people had signed up to help. The outpouring of community support, from within the Yale community and beyond it, inspired us to keep the good work going.

Now two years into the pandemic, we have raised the money to hire staff and expand our impact to address the longstanding crisis of food insecurity. We partner with food pantries, mutual aid groups, and religious institutions to deliver food to those who can’t afford it. Seventy-five percent of people who are experiencing food insecurity don’t go to food pantries, due to logistical challenges, scheduling issues, or social stigma. We aim to provide a safe, efficient, anonymous delivery service to prioritize our community’s safety, dignity, and valuable time.

We are always looking for volunteers, either in person or remote. You can sign up at If you can donate to support our grassroots work, please join us at

Tell us a story that exemplifies service for you. Or perhaps a favorite Yale Day of Service memory.

I received an email from a woman in Michigan. Her 83-year-old father, Harry, lived alone in Manhattan and had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Isolated, he had no way of getting food. His daughter heard about us on “Good Morning America” and submitted a request on our website. Our volunteer, Duncan, started delivering food and medicine to Harry once a week. Then they’d sit on either side of Harry’s door and chat. They never once saw each other; neither would have recognized the other if they passed on the street. But they became friends.

His daughter said, “My father was lonely and afraid. But you made it possible for him to live as normal a life as possible. Although my father has passed from COVID-19, please know that your help was not in vain and that he spoke so highly of you and the help, reassurance, and relief that you provided.”

That’s the spirit of service that is within all of us. We all have the power to uplift others in our community. If we all do a little, no one has to do a lot. And the past two years have shown me that, even as the world pulls us all apart, we can still pull together. We have to pull together, because it’s the only way that we can pull through.

Why is service through Yale a priority for you?

Those of us who have benefitted from the privilege of attending a place like Yale owe a lot to our communities for investing in us. It’s incumbent upon every Yalie to get involved in service work – not as an act of charity, but as an act of solidarity. It’s on each of us to learn about needs in our community and do more to help address those needs. You definitely don’t need to start a nonprofit; I certainly didn’t intend to. But each of us can make a difference in someone else’s life. If you can find the place where your greatest passion overlaps with the world’s greatest needs, you’ll be well on your way to making a powerful difference in your community.

What would you say to a fellow alum about meaningful reasons to get involved in Yale service activities?

Yale provides a bevy of opportunities to get involved in service work with ease. The process is simple, the opportunities are endless, and the community is strong. There is no excuse not to volunteer! It gives you such a sense of fulfillment and joy to be a part of a community engaged in service work. You don’t need hours and hours of time – if we all do a little, no one has to do a lot.


For more with Liam, please see our 2020 webinar featuring Liam and Simone, and also the Yale Alumni LIVE with Liam held earlier this month.

To find a service project near you, visit our 2022 Yale Day of Service project page.

And visit our Spotlight on Service page to see all the service spotlight conversations.

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