Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: Friendly Visitor Viktorija Petrauskaite

Even before arriving in the US with her husband in February of 2008, Viktorija Petrauskaite knew she wanted to incorporate volunteering into her new life in New York City. Based on her experiences living in foreign countries, she knew how challenging it was to live somewhere without a network of social support. After looking into various nonprofits in the city, she came across JASA and decided to dedicate her time to assisting seniors in need of companionship.

Since September of 2005, Viktorija has been matched with Enid. For her, volunteering serves two equally important purposes: providing her with a new friend in an unfamiliar city and helping out a senior who was also looking for support. Viktorija has only been matched with Enid for 6 months, but it didn’t take long for the two to develop a close friendship. Early in their relationship, Viktorija introduced Enid to her husband. They both wanted to take Enid to Astoria, a place she had always wanted to visit, but had never got the chance to. Besides going on day trips, Enid and Viktorija, can most often be found chatting, drinking tea, sorting pictures, or making floral compositions. Viktorija reports that often time flies by so quickly that the setting sun is the only thing that reminds her that it’s time to leave.

JASA to Host Queens Volunteer Expo and Legislative Forum on Civic Engagement

Join us for two special events this spring! JASA and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) are partnering on a volunteer fair for older adults in Queens. The event will held on Thursday, April 30th, from 10am-2pm at the Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens and will feature a cross-section of Queens nonprofits with interesting volunteer opportunities for older adults.

JASA will also be hosting a special legislative breakfast on June 12th at UJA-Federation of New York entitled Answering the Call: A Forum on Aging and Civic Engagement. The event will feature City and State leaders discussing new initiatives to involve older adults in service and civic engagement programs.

For more information on either event, please contact Kerry Allison at (212) 273-5228 or kallison@jasa.org.

JASA Launches New Volunteer Training Program

In January, the Volunteer Department hosted the first in a series of volunteer meetings for current and prospective JASA volunteers. Those who attended were treated to a talk by JASA Caregiver Respite Program director, Roy Smith, who discussed what it means to be present and actively engaged with a partner in conversation. Opportunities for further involvement with JASA were also discussed. The next Volunteer Meeting will be held on April 1st from 6-7:30pm and will feature a talk by Angela Allyn of the Educational Alliance’s Project H.E.L.P. (Health Education Leadership Program). Ms. Allyn will discuss substance abuse and misuse among older adults, including how to identify a senior who might be at risk. The program will also feature Charles Anflick, Coordinator of the Senior Choices Gatekeeper Program, who will talk about geriatric mental health issues. For more information on the volunteer training program, please contact Kerry Allison at (212) 273-5228 or kallison@jasa.org.

JASA Launches Service Initiative with Areyvut

JASA is proud to announce that we have been chosen as one of Areyvut’s partnering organizations for Magen David Yeshiva’s Chesed Initiative. This student-run program places Brooklyn-based yeshiva students throughout their local community in different service positions to do acts of mitzvoth (charity) and chesed (kindness) for those in need. We are excited to say that a group of freshmen will be serving as computer tutors at JASA’s Warbasse Cares for Seniors NORC in South Brooklyn for the duration of the school year. The students will be helping clients navigate the web and use email and will be enjoying the company of some older New Yorkers!

Areyvut is a local organization that provides Jewish youth with opportunities to participate in social justice and community service activities.

HeartWatch Campaign Launched in Brooklyn

JASA is excited to be partnering on a new, one-year campaign to help improve the heart health of older adults in South Brooklyn. The HeartWatch campaign was developed in response to a United Hospital Fund study that demonstrated a clear and urgent need to improve heart health in the Brighton Beach/Coney Island area. The study surveyed senior residents at three JASA Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), where 40% of senior residents are living with heart disease, and of those, more than 75% describe their condition as fair or poor.

A unique component of this program is its focus on volunteerism to provide services, and the program is funding a dedicated, part-time Volunteer Coordinator. Cameron Gelisse, who served as an Americorps*VISTA Friendly Visiting Coordinator, in 2006/07 is back in the Volunteer Department as the Volunteer Coordinator for the HeartWatch Campaign. Cameron has been working on recruiting and training community volunteers to be peer educators, nutrition educators, fitness coaches, and outreach workers. The program has already increased interest in volunteerism in South Brooklyn

Other partners in this cross-disciplinary program include the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), Metropolitan Jewish Health System (MJHS), and Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY).