Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A New Local Facebook Volunteer Unit To Help Those in Need

As Coronavirus cases surge, lending a helping hand as a community is essential. Over the weekend, this columnist, who is a co-admin of the 16,500+ member Facebook group, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens – “Our Communities” founded a new volunteer unit comprised of members who came forward within hours. The post reads, “Times of crisis can bring us closer together. Who would like to volunteer to help community residents in need? For example, we can run errands for seniors who are advised to stay home during the pandemic. We can commit good deeds that are small, while socially distancing ourselves among other precautions. As a large Facebook group, we can help some of our neighbors.”

Several members of a new growing volunteer initiative have spoken! “It’s always important to give back, but in this time of social distancing, it is imperative that those with stronger immune systems help those who cannot go out in public without risking their health,” said Batya Kaufman. “I have no family nearby, so I know how lonely and difficult it can be without a nearby support system. I also hope I will make some lasting connections that continue beyond this pandemic.”

“Volunteering in a time of crisis enables me to connect with my community and helps affirm my purpose,” said Melanie Rudolfo. She envisions picking up groceries for seniors.

A group member, Kris Supangkat of Kew Gardens, was able to help Forest Hills resident Barbara Glick, who was in need. “She offered to bring me eggs and face masks, and I never met her before. Our group changed overnight from simple posts to life-saving help for others who might die because they can’t get out or they don’t have money to buy stuff. We need to realize that we can be someone who needs others.”

Glick feels a “need to go back to the old Forest Hills and know your neighbors’ names.” She explained, “How can it be when you live in a building for 48 years that nobody knows who you are and nobody helps you? It takes a village, and more than ever that’s been proven. Giving back is great karma and receiving is love, but when it comes down to it, it’s about love and empathy. It doesn’t matter what religion you practice, or what political party you’re part of. Any of us could die from the Coronavirus!”

Alexandra Kay’s grandmother will always be a huge inspiration. “She is the definition of selflessness, and although she passed away, I will never fail to follow in her ways. I was raised around loving and giving people. I want to give back to the world everything that I got in my life, especially to people who need it and can’t always ask for help. I would like to see a significant amount of love and giving in a time where people and businesses are in a crisis. There shall always be light, even in the darkest of times.”

A crisis can particularly make people feel lonely, but Dina Bouzier Murphy hopes to make a difference. Her volunteerism is motivated by the recent loss of a neighbor. “We tried to help him as much as we can, since nobody ever came to visit. He passed away alone, and we realized that he had no surviving family or friends but us. He was grumpy at times, but now we understand why. For that reason, I really want to reach out to everyone that needs our attention.”

“No one is alone” is part of a Sondheim song, which is true, explained Marlene Meltz. “This is a crisis for all. The hydro- Christian teachings inspire us to reach out, so whenever people can share their time, do it.”

As for volunteering to help the community and elders, Mickey Zacarias said, “When there is a need, you fill the need. We are a community and that’s what we do. It’s just like helping a family member.”

In a time of crisis, our most vulnerable populations are at highest risk, explained Elizabeth Stoddard. “My idea for helping seniors would be to divide a call list, where volunteers could call seniors on their list to offer conversation, see how they’re feeling and if they have any medical needs, and offer to pick up groceries or medications.” After learning that schools are closing citywide, she said, “If anyone can’t feed their kid breakfast or anything, I have extra unopened cereal boxes among non-perishable foods.”

Christine Liem was raised in Indonesia and moved to America 15 years ago. “In Indonesia, if someone needed help, we would provide money or food.” Besides her husband Chris, she does not have much family in the U.S. “I can relate when someone lives alone and needs help, so I will contribute my time and energy,” she continued. Looking ahead, she envisions opening a local food pantry for all.

Congressional candidate Sandra Choi describes Queens as a model for the world and a collective community. She said, “Now, more than ever, we have to look after one another and continue to build a community, so no one feels alone.” She visualizes innovative policy reforms to support the most vulnerable in our community, and especially those left behind by policymakers. She explained, “No one lives a single issue life, as we are all impacted by a number of factors. For example, a senior in our community who lives on a fixed income and depends on homecare service will undoubtedly be affected by COVID-19 since it can isolate them, limit access to a caregiver, or they may no longer perform the basic tasks needed including errands to the pharmacy, grocery store, or bank. We need more collaboration among federal, state, local agencies, and private non-profits to ensure our seniors are able to lead lives with dignity and independence.”

“When people say they have no time, no one really does, but we have to find some way to get involved and serve,” said Patty Bugland, who served on her Forest Hills building board for 14 years. “The sense of being part of a small town within a 105 unit co-op is very real, and we can all benefit by being on call for each other. During those years, I worked anywhere from 35 to 60 hours weekly between my job as a special ed teacher for the DOE and a speech and debate judge for a Long Island high school.” She is willing to prioritize for people in need within a radius of 72nd Road, Grand Central Parkway, and Queens Boulevard.”

A list of volunteers and people who need their services is underway. To participate, contact Michael Perlman over Facebook or at and provide your name, Facebook link, phone number, and email.

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