ASB urban/suburban spent five days and a total of 28 hours volunteering. On Monday we worked at a place called the CAP center in Mamaroneck, NY. It’s a joint classroom and food pantry so we got a chance to work with kids in the classroom and also to help them organize their basement full of supplies. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday in NYC at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, which is a really special food pantry because they have it set up like a grocery store: all the food is very organized on shelves and so the people in need come in on a certain day of the week and, as guided by a point system (determined by how many people need to be fed), they are able to actually shop for what they want. We thought this was so cool because it seemed to restore so much more dignity back into the idea of being handed out food. These people can come and select foods based on their individual needs and preferences. While we were there, we helped prepare the pantry for shopping day and then we helped on shopping day to keep things organized and running smoothly. The other awesome part about this food pantry is that there is a chef there who teaches daily cooking lessons. So, unemployed people can come and become certified cooks. Also, they use all the food from the pantry to have these cooking lessons. Afterwards, the volunteers get to enjoy the meal that has been prepared!
Thursday and Friday we spent time at the Sarah Neuman Center in Larchmont, NY. It’s a nursing home so we helped with the transportation of the elderly over the course of two days. On Friday we got to participate in a Shabbat service. My favorite part about this experience was how touched the people there were by our interest in their lives. After several hours there, we all began to notice the pervasive indifferent feelings of the staff, which is understandable: it’s so difficult to attune to each person’s needs when there are SO many people that need constant help (getting out of bed, getting into a wheel chair, being pushed to physical therapy or lunch, getting back into the bed, going to the bathroom, etc). So, assistance becomes so much like a routine, and often the individual needs and feelings of the residents become secondary. We felt then, more than ever, that our volunteer work was important because we were able to provide that personal touch that so many of these elderly people were missing in their lives. We listened and spoke with them and they really did appreciate it so much. There was one woman suffering from dementia and she kept repeating “but I have no friends…but what if no one likes me?” It was really sad and hard for us to hear but we all sat with her as a group and tried to comfort her and prove to her that we were her friends. I think it really made a difference in her day and that made us so very happy.