Helpsters: Can You Be Cool And Help People, Too?

04/07/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Just when we found out how to define the "hipster," we have another somewhat amorphous designation to deal with. Justin Richards in the New York Press describes the "Helpster," a music-savvy, art-obsessed do-gooder who works to revitalize communities and promote activism.

Richards describes a recent They Might Be Giants/Nada Surf show in Brooklyn, which raised money to support a local cultural center. The typical hipster of '05 might dismiss this kind of community philanthropy as passé, or appear disinterested in engaging in productive, progressive dialogue. It turns out, however, that those Richards describes in Williamsburg do have opinions and a desire to make positive changes.

From The New York Press:

New York Cares, the city's leading volunteer organization, saw a 30 percent increase in volunteers from 2008 to 2009. That's approximately 1,100 New Yorkers who decided to spend large amounts of time working without compensation in hopes of making other people's lives better. A full 60 percent were between the ages 18 and 34.

Curious about the surge of interest, the organization delivered a survey to each of the newly recruited. One in five said they were motivated by Obama's call to service at his inauguration, and another 30 percent acknowledged a recent change in their employment. In the absence of lucrative employment, these young men and women have been committing the energy once squandered on office jobs to a less selfish use. But the recession and Obamamania are both on the wane, and whether the new altruism will dissipate along with them remains to be told.

It's not an easy conversion for all hipsters, however. Some volunteers express concern at the hesitance many in their communities have to give their time "if there's not beer involved."

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