Aviva Zablocki — Young Professional Circle
How long have you been a DOROT volunteer?
How did you get involved with DOROT?
I heard about DOROT after going on a 10–day trip through Poland that focused on Holocaust education. This was a program offered to Birthright Israel alumni. Once we came home, we were connected with DOROT and given the opportunity to volunteer with both survivors and seniors in general.
What type of volunteer activities do you do at DOROT?
My very first experiences with DOROT included making Friendly Visits to a very sweet senior named Rosemary B. — we even went out to see a musical together! It was a great date. After a few visits with Rosemary, my first big event was waiting tables at the Thanksgiving Banquet. I loved it! Around that time, my close friend Shira Cohen, a wonderful DOROT volunteer, invited me to join the Young Professionals Leadership Circle where she and several other volunteers in their 20s and 30s were meeting regularly to help plan DOROT activities and fundraisers. I have been a member of that group now for about two years and my role there includes brainstorming event ideas that will attract more young adult volunteers, executing, recruiting for, and promoting those events. I also continue to wait tables at the Thanksgiving Banquet, and this past winter I participated in my first Package Delivery. After Hurricane Sandy I made phone calls to seniors to ensure their needs were being met.
In what ways has your DOROT volunteer experience impacted your life?
DOROT has introduced me to some very special people — both seniors, peers...and of course to the wonderful and devoted DOROT staff. I feel like I now have a part in a community of people who all have the same compassion for others, and know the value of providing dignity and companionship to older neighbors. It has been wonderful to meet so many like–minded and kind people. I am constantly inspired by how selfless everyone involved is. DOROT also gives me an outlet to express my gratefulness — I feel blessed for so many reasons, and for that I want to give back to my community where I can. If I can make people smile, and brighten their day, which DOROT has given me many opportunities to do, then I feel so fulfilled that I can make that impact. I have a fantastic grandmother in CT, and without DOROT in her area, I see what it means to be a senior and not have regular visits from young people or not have the services that DOROT gives to its participants. In her honor, and being so inspired by what an important person she has been in my life, I am happy to give my time to senior citizens who live in my community in the hopes of enriching their day to day lives.
What motivates you to continue volunteering at DOROT?
I think my motivation for continuing to volunteer at DOROT is that I have seen first–hand how the smallest gesture can really brighten someone’s day...make them feel inspired, and know they are not alone. For that, I am happy to continue to volunteer with wonderful people in an effort to strengthen the bonds of our community and bring happiness and companionship to those in need.
Most memorable volunteer moment:
I’ve had many, but I think the one that sticks out was after Hurricane Sandy hit New York.
Because my office downtown had lost power (and there was no subway service), I was able to walk the short distance from my apartment to DOROT to see where I could help out. I did this for a few days. Although the Upper West Side was not directly impacted by the storm, there were many seniors in their apartments whose aides and family members could not get to them because those people lived in boroughs that had been damaged. So, the DOROT staff gave me two jobs — one was to call seniors in the area to see what urgent needs, if any, they had, and the second was to handle the overwhelming number of phone calls that had come in from people asking how they could help. (I did both of these tasks because many DOROT staff members were stuck in their homes unable to reach the office, and there was a need for additional help.)
Some of the seniors I spoke to were in need, and I was able to quickly dispatch help to them in the way of groceries/medicines or just a friendly visit. Other seniors I spoke to were perfectly fine after the storm, but expressed such gratitude when I called…just the fact that DOROT had thought of them was so touching to them. I was so pleased to be able to make those calls.
My other task, talking to young adults on the phone, telling them which shelters needed help, which buildings downtown they could go into with flashlights and food to help the seniors in need, was such a powerful experience. I spoke to people who were dropping everything just to climb flights of stairs in the dark to find elderly residents in need in lower Manhattan. (This was coordinated in partnership with DOROT and downtown organizations like the Educational Alliance.) There were more people ready to help than we could even handle! I felt so proud of my city.
It could have been easy to feel helpless on the Upper West Side, but volunteering allowed me to reach out and connect with my fellow New Yorkers, and help them where needed...or just offer a friendly voice to check in with. This was truly an important experience to me and I am grateful for it.
What would you want other volunteers to know about volunteering at DOROT?
I think it’s important to know that volunteering at DOROT doesn’t just mean doing one thing. I’ve danced the tango, I’ve waited tables, I’ve gone to the theater, I’ve participated in crisis management, I’ve delivered food and I’ve had great conversations in people’s homes. I’ve made great friends as well. There are so many opportunities to do so many things — it’s truly a unique organization.
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