A SOURCE FOR COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERS
AHRC Can Help You
Volunteers are the heart of a community. The committed citizens that volunteer to directly or indirectly provide services, or to promote a cause, contribute to society in important ways.
Volunteering is a way to give back to one’s street, neighborhood, community or the world. Through “giving back” a person feels better about him or herself. He or she is recognized for making a contribution and rewarded with feelings of appreciation. These “by-products” motivate individuals to volunteer their time and energy.
For the individuals supported by AHRC New York City—individuals who for too long were viewed only as recipients of care and assistance—the opportunity to contribute to others is extremely significant. AHRC individuals gain new skills and participate in new experiences. They are productive, making a difference in the lives of other human beings that live in the community. And in so doing the way these volunteers relate to the world around them is changed. Being productive makes one a valued member of society.
Personal fulfillment and satisfaction are gained by helping another. And mutual respect is inherent in the volunteer relationship. The grateful smile on the face of a housebound senior who is handed a packaged meal by an AHRC volunteer brightens up that volunteer’s day. It makes him or her feel useful and esteemed. An AHRC volunteer being told by a clothing distribution warehouse staff person that his or her efforts are so very helpful to the many people who will be given warm coats and hats is a powerful motivator. Helping to clean a park and then seeing appreciative park visitors sitting and enjoying a once littered bench area gives AHRC volunteers a sense of worth and empowerment.
In its efforts to find meaningful activities for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities to engage in during the work day when full time employment is not available, AHRC has for years secured volunteer opportunities around New York City in which individuals may choose to partake. The list of volunteer sites is long and ever growing as service organizations, businesses and charities around the city become aware of this powerful volunteer pool. We also offer featured stories that showcase some of the AHRC volunteers and their contribution to the neighborhoods in which they live.
Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen
St. John’s Bread & Life
Serving breakfast and lunch daily is a huge task and hence the AHRC volunteers from the Cyril Weinberg Adult Center have become vital to the organization. Sharon Jackson, St. Clair Comas, and Malcolm Gaffney work alongside the St. Johns staff members and other community volunteers in the kitchen where all food is prepared. They wash and dry dishes, put away clean plates and utensils, and clear trays from the main dining room. The AHRC individuals are treated as coworkers on a team where each team-member must learn the value of their task or responsibility. If one person on a team stops, the entire system fails. “They love this job—its’ so meaningful, a real contribution to the community,” said AHRC Developmental Specialist, Kasia Mysliwiec. Sharon Jackson, who does not speak but understands everything, is a very active member of the team. She beams with pride as she glances over at the people in the dining room who are eating the food that she has played an integral part in preparing. St. Clair Comas and Malcolm Gaffney also work diligently in their roles as kitchen workers. They too are excited to know what they are doing is essential in getting food to the people in the dining room.
The Jewish Community Council of Coney Island
Individuals from AHRC’s Siegel Center and Bush Terminal/Brooklyn Traumatic Brain Injury Services volunteer in the Jewish Community Council’s Friendly Visiting Program. The volunteers are assigned to visit a particular senior. When they arrive at that person’s home, the senior gives them a list of desired items. In addition to the list of items, the senior also provides them with information regarding the specific stores where they may obtain each of the items. Every Thursday, AHRC individuals Jason Willis, Tasha Anderson and Elizabeth Glantzman, pick up their list and go shopping. They return with bags of the requested items. The staff of the Jewish Community Council Friendly Visiting program encourage the AHRC individuals to learn directions for travel around the neighborhood including the subway and buses. Shopping helps the AHRC individuals improve skills such as identifying items, counting, and handling money. Jason, whose favorite hobby is reading, likes to announce each item on the list while in the store. Tasha and Elizabeth navigate the shopping cart down the store aisles and count out the money. The seniors who they assist are so grateful for the assistance with shopping, especially since they are homebound. But they are also appreciative of the company as they do not receive many visitors. These visits from the volunteers also are opportunities for the seniors to talk and have meaningful conversations as they inquire and learn who each of the volunteers are, where they come from and why they want to help others.
Helping Men Get Jobs and Keep Jobs
Career Gear and AHRC New York City
With the help of AHRC individuals like Daniel Klein, Carlos Rios, and Makenson Milfort, last year over two thousand men received a business suit and career counseling from Career Gear. Every Friday morning, Daniel, Carlos, and Makenson assist in the organization’s clothing room. They remove shirts and ties from packaging, place suit jackets, pants, and shirts on hangers, match similar size pants, shirts, and jackets to one another, and match similar colors of sorted out ties. Each task involves the AHRC individuals learning new skills or refining skills that will help them to eventually find competitive employment. “I like to do this stuff because it’s helping me prepare for work,” said Makenson, who would like to obtain a maintenance or clerical position in the future. Many of the men who benefit from Career Gear’s services return to lend a hand and give back, so Daniel, Carlos, and Makenson sometime volunteer directly with people they themselves have dressed for interviews. “We meet the guys that we help sometimes—it makes me feel good,” said Daniel, who also volunteers at Housing Works, another non-profit that provides clothing to less fortunate New Yorkers. “A lot of these outfits are worn by men the following week, so the volunteers have a direct impact on the lives of the people they are helping,” said Michael Obertacz, Career Gear Program Director. And since the volunteers from AHRC Brooklyn Day Habilitation have done such a great job, Career Gear provided them each with a suit for their own job interviews!
(ESS) Episcopal Social Services of New York
Each week, a group of AHRC volunteers from the Anthony Fisher Adult Center, located in Harlem, create beautiful, handmade birthday cards for underprivileged children. The volunteers, including Michael Perry and Richard Lewis and others, then personally deliver the cards to the kids at a Bronx day care facility run by ESS. Traveling out into the community, each AHRC volunteer learns how to use public transit and relate to individuals in the community with whom they come in contact.
Michael, a non-verbal individual, loves to hand-deliver these birthday cards. Though he cannot speak, seeing the excited young children always brings a huge smile to his face. Without his and other volunteer’s efforts, some of these kids might never receive a card or a gift of any kind on their special day. Individuals from AHRC’s Dean O’Hare Adult Day Center also create gifts and cards for children at a Brooklyn after school program operated by ESS.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy
Individuals served at AHRC’s Dean O’Hare Adult Center have provided much needed assistance and care for the City Section of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is located
directly in front of the AHRC center. From April to November, the volunteers help with weeding, mulching and planting. They also use clippers to pick up trash. Their efforts make an enormous difference and help to beautify the public space. The AHRC volunteers Jesus Perez, Joel Marty, William Schulze, and Franklin Montague, are all residents of Brooklyn. Through their volunteer work, they have each learned the importance of taking care of the environment, and have found a real way to help keep the borough in which they live clean. Working as a team, Franklin, one of the tallest volunteers, loves to push the wheelbarrow. Joel and Jesus like to shovel the woodchips onto the tree’s base, and William prefers to walk ahead acting as the team leader. “This program enables the group to work outside in a beautiful setting and engage in a project that has immediate and visible results. Once an area is successfully weeded, volunteers can look back at their work with a sense of pride as the native flowers are revealed and the path becomes more clearly defined,” said Kara Gilmour, Director of Education and Stewardship at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.
“…I believe that there is a therapeutic element to working in the park and getting your hands dirty. It is a way to truly connect to nature, and in this case with the immediate surroundings.”