Despite sweltering heat and the threat of thunderstorms, NYCHA celebrated the volunteer service of its senior residents at the Excelsior Grand in Staten Island on Friday, June 22. Nearly 830 residents from 53 developments joined in an afternoon of recognition, refreshments, and entertainment to mark the occasion.
NYCHA Family Services Director Nora Reissig (right) with NYCHA senior. (Photo by LETICIA BARBOZA)
The Annual Senior Volunteer Floor Captain Luncheon, now in its 32nd year, was held to acknowledge participants of four invaluable NYCHA programs: Senior Resident Advisors; Service Coordinators and Companions; Elderly Safe at Home; and Resident Watch Programs. All honorees work to make public housing in New York City more pleasant and safe. Many of those present serve as Floor Captains in a “buddy system” on behalf of their fellow senior neighbors, meeting monthly to discus health and safety issues. These programs make it possible for senior residents to remain living independently in their homes for a long as possible.
“You inspire so many of us with your kindness and compassion and every day that passes you teach us about the meaning of community responsibility, said NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea to the attendees. “Services provide a sense of community and safety and fundamentally, you inspire us with your kindness and compassion.”
The luncheon also paid special tribute to nine senior residents who have served as both Floor Captains and Resident Watch members for at least 25 years: Rosa Lee Cobb, Cora Thomas, Onie Massey, and Nellie Wilson of Bethune Gardens; Willie Mae Davis of Conlon Lifhe; Josephine Delacy, Gertrude Hendriks, and Mary Tafauri of New Lane; and Lara Otilia of LaGuardia Addition.
“We look out for each other,” said Nora Reissig, Director of NYCHA’s Family Services Department. Ms. Reissig related the story of Woodside Houses resident Yeuteva Virgil, who recently came across an elderly man lying on a bench. Instead of walking by or assuming that the man was up to no good, Ms. Virgil approached the man to check on him; he was, in fact having a heart attack. Ms. Virgin quickly called an ambulance. “You saved that man’s life,” Ms. Reissig told the senior heroine.
One resident summed up the dedication and passion that the seniors show for their communities. Connie Harper, who resides in the Reverend Brown Houses in Brooklyn and has worked as a volunteer for 27 years, said “I love it. It’s my life and I will be doing this as long as I live.” Like many residents, Ms. Harper will go to any length necessary to improve her community- from helping a visitor find an apartment, to checking up on neighbors who she has not seen in some time.
As the speakers at the luncheon acknowledged, volunteering is a major commitment on top of seniors’ other responsibilities. For all volunteers, service is just another aspect of daily life.
By Ryan Dicovitsky
June 22, 2012