Alex Cohen - Next Generation, DOROT’s Teen Leadership Council, President
How long have you been a DOROT volunteer?
I think it’s safe to say that DOROT has helped raise me into a young adult. I have been a DOROT volunteer since I was four years old, so it’s been thirteen years.
How did you get involved with DOROT?
I first got involved with DOROT by attending the Bubby’s Bakery workshops with my grandmother and going on Package Delivery visits with my parents. As I entered the Bat-Mitzvah age, I started pursuing my own path at DOROT and participated in the Birthday Visit program. It opened so many doors for me, as these activities continue to draw me to DOROT and its wonderful range of opportunities.
What type of volunteer activities do you do at DOROT?
As a high school student, I have been most involved with the Summer Internship Program, Next Generation, and the DOROT Club at Heschel—my school. I have volunteered as a Summer Intern for two summers, and have really appreciated meeting so many new seniors and fellow students who are interested in working with the elderly. At DOROT, I participate in friendly visits, technology visits to help seniors with their iPads, computers, or cell phones, an intergenerational art class, and cooking for and eating meals with a senior. I especially cherish the weekly visits with seniors, because I have been able to develop strong connections that have helped shape my perspectives and ideas. Furthermore, as the coordinator of the DOROT Club at Heschel, I recruit students and partner with DOROT to plan their weekly visits. In fact, this year we have a record-high participation of 28 students! Our mission is to permeate enthusiasm for DOROT and encourage students to bridge their own gaps with the older generation.
In what ways has your DOROT volunteer experience impacted your life?
Working with DOROT has been an invaluable experience. Hearing about each senior’s story-whether it be from the Holocaust, earlier days in New York, or exploring life in Saskatchewan, Canada-has provided me with a greater understanding for history, and a deeper appreciation for New York City.
DOROT has also made me much more socially aware. Beyond the realm of seniors and the social isolation that plagues society, I have become more conscious of the other groups around New York City who may also need help. Though it is sometimes difficult to act upon these desires, I really empathize with people who face the many types of isolation. In addition, I feel that DOROT has encouraged me to be friendlier to seniors on the street. Even though I do not know their names or life stories, I now know that a smile can truly go a long way.
What motivates you to continue volunteering at DOROT?
DOROT has become such an essential part of my core as an Upper West Side native and enthusiastic volunteer. Being in the DOROT building and venturing into the seniors’ various neighborhoods feels natural, and I crave the interactions that DOROT provides me. What motivates me to continue volunteering is that there are always seniors who are looking for company, even just for an hour. Knowing that a small gesture on my behalf can have such a profound impact on someone else motivates me to continue forming relationships with these great seniors.
Most memorable volunteer moment:
This past summer, I had the privilege of meeting with a senior couple, Leon and Lily. Just a few minutes into our first meeting, we discovered that I had attended his Holocaust theater performance at my high school. While I intended to meet them and learn about their histories from scratch, I had actually already been familiar with their unbelievable background! The coincidence was amazing, and it allowed me to ask deeper questions about their past. To give a glimpse of how beautiful their love is, Leon and Lily met at their concentration camps through a fence. Immediately taken by her beauty and charisma, Leon gave her his picture to hold onto. Three years later, with nearly no family members remaining, they found each other and explored life in Germany and ultimately America. Hearing about the Levy’s connection both through friendly visits and theater allowed me to understand them on a very personal, deep level. Our instant connection always excited me for the summer’s Wednesday afternoons, as I could always count on hearing more incredible anecdotes and spending time with genuine, caring, and interesting people.
What would you want other volunteers to know about volunteering at DOROT?
I would want other volunteers to realize that even the smallest acts make such a great difference. For example, writing a birthday or holiday card for a senior can mean so much to them. At birthday visits, seniors have been in awe of the cards, and often comment on what a kind gesture it is. Just five minutes of a volunteer’s time can bring a smile to a senior’s face—something that, unfortunately, does not always appear.
Anything else you would like to share?
I would like to express my gratitude to DOROT for providing me with such a great home and multitudes of volunteering opportunities. Whether it is spending time with seniors, fellow volunteers, or the DOROT staff, I always have an enjoyable experience. I would also like to thank my dad, Rodney, for introducing me to this wonderful organization! Without joining the DOROT world at such a young age, I do not think I would have the same appreciation for DOROT’s continual evolvement and dedication.
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