Vol. 15, No. 24   Dec. 5 - 18, 2002

Many Ways to Lend a Hand


The holidays are a time when family, food and gifts come in abundance for many of us. But volunteering your time or donating goods to a local cause that serves the less fortunate can be a way of adding greater meaning to the season. The following is a partial report and listing of the many volunteer opportunities in the area that help give something to those missing out from the holiday abundance. As any program coordinator will tell you, volunteerism tends to run high during the holidays (or after a tragedy like Sept. 11), but dries up during the year. Ongoing volunteer opportunites are also featured below..

Work at a Food Pantry
Houses of worship, nonprofits and other emergency food providers help feed the needy both in traditional sit-down style meals and by delivery straight to recipients' doors.

That's how Guillermo Zepeda and his 14-year-old son David spent a recent Monday evening. The Zepedas and roughly 15 other members of the Church of Our Lady of Refuge in North Fordham delivered nearly 100 boxes to area families who had been identified by parishioners as needing some assistance. "It gives me so much pleasure to see the surprise and joy on people's faces," said Zepeda, in his fifth year of Thanksgiving volunteering.

The face of Zepeda's first customer, 10-year-old Alfreda Crespo, lit up when the box of canned and dried goods arrived. "It makes us happy," said Crespo, whose family participated in the program last year.

Area volunteers have been offering a bounty to those in need this season. PS 246 children collected a whopping 1,300 pounds of foodstuffs for City Harvest, a large city food distribution program.

The help is especially needed this holiday season. More Bronx families are experiencing times of food insecurity -- unable to meet their eating needs at all times -- in today's turbulent economy. Many more are relying on food pantries to supplement their needs, forcing providers to find more to give from dwindling resources. Demand at Bronx food pantries is up 84 percent this year from 2000, according to a survey released last week by New York Coalition to End Hunger (see p. 5). For children under 18, the rate has more than doubled.

Traffic at the Anjuman Hefaztul Al Islam Mosque in Bedford Park is way up, according to mosque administrator Rafeek Khan. Families being served have risen some 25 percent after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to Khan.

Many providers rely heavily on their volunteers, and are always looking for more. Of agencies surveyed citywide in the report, a third said a lack of infrastructure and volunteers was what prevented them from feeding more folks.

Volunteering has plenty to offer in return. "We have an intimate dining room... where people enjoy conversation," said John Hoffman of Part Of The Solution (POTS), a 20-year-old feeding program in North Fordham. "We encourage [volunteers] to sit down and eat with the guests. It's about the interaction just as much as the service."

Contact the following pantries and soup kitchens to volunteer during the holidays and the rest of the year:

Church of Our Lady of Refuge, 290 E. 196th St., 367-4690

POTS, 2763 Webster Ave., call Tim Dennehy at 562-3527. Morning, lunch and dinner shifts. Also needs help greeting participants in their medical and legal clinics.

Church of St. Brendan, 333 E. 206th St., 547-6655. Monthly food pantry on the second Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.

St. Philip Neri Church, 3025 Grand Concourse, (914) 969-0990. Every Tuesday volunteers make meals for the homeless, then distribute them in Manhattan. Need drivers and food donations as well.

St. Stephen's Meals at Epiphany Evangelical Lutheran Church, 302 E. 206th St., 652-6839. Served at 1 p.m. on Mondays thru Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Anjuman Hefaztul Al Islam Mosque, 365 E. 198th St., 733-0234.

Shrine Church of St. Ann, 547-9350. Serving meals during Christmas.

Tutor a Young Person
With overcrowding in district schools a perennial problem, area children can always use extra individual attention. There are plenty of structured tutoring opportunities available year round at various commitment levels.

Experience Corps, a national project run by the Retired and Senior Volunteer Corps, is an award- winning program that matches adults over the ages of 55 with children in New York City schools, many being in the Bronx. Thousands of at-risk children have benefited from instruction in class and one-on-one settings, improving their test scores significantly.

"I think that as we age, we have something that the younger generation needs: love, understanding, and responsibility," said Jesse Davidson, a Bronx volunteer. "If we don't educate [the kids] then we are hurting ourselves and hurting this country."

Experience Corps is currently operating at the MS 80 Beacon Program in conjunction with the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center.

Other programs that also need volunteers include the Montefiore Women's Center, providing after-school tutoring on an individual basis. The program was started as a way to combat illiteracy for kids who were "warehoused in special education," as director Anitia Pivick put it. Budgetary constraints and loss of manpower have made the need for volunteers even greater.

The following tutoring, after-school and mentoring programs need assistance:

Experience Corps, call Ritha Castillo at 295-7940. For older adults looking to provide intensive tutoring.

Montefiore Women's Center, at The Children's Hospital, 3415 Bainbridge Ave., call Maritza Villegas at 920-6773. Volunteers needed for one-on-one after-school program.

Williamsbridge Oval Recreation Center, (in Oval Park near tunnel entrance), call Norma Llanos at 543-8672. After-school program serving 35 children can use help from 3 to 6 p.m.

Tolentine Zeiser/St. Rita's Asian Center, 500 E. Fordham Rd., call Sr. Mary Burke at 733-8100 x628. Full-day tutoring program for teens who are refugees from Asia or elsewhere.

Epiphany Evangelical Lutheran Church, 302 E. 206th St., 652-6839. Mentoring program for children ages 5-13 on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m.

St. James Golden Age Center, 192nd Street & Jerome Avenue, 822-4271. Daily after-school program and teen mentoring on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Donate Blood
Volunteerism was at an all-time high in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy, when hospitals had to turn back the hundreds who came to donate blood. Today, supplies have plummeted.

"We are concerned about our ability to make up for the impending shortfall as local donations are not keeping pace with prior years," Dr. Robert Jones, president of the New York Blood Center, stated recently. Yet, "demand for blood is rising due to an aging population and advances in medical treatment that require transfusion support."

Currently, the Blood Center is importing about 120,000 units of blood domestically. But, as Jones warns, if shortages increase elsewhere, those supplies will go back to their own communities.

Last September, immediately following the attack on the World Trade Center, Dr. Joan Uehlinger and her staff at Montefiore Medical Center's Blood Bank had over 1,000 donors sign up to give blood. They could use that outpouring of support now.

"We know that people care," she said in a recent interview. "They just don't have time. You gotta make time."

Uehlinger urges people to give blood regularly, perhaps at a planned time of the year with coworkers or friends.

To donate blood, call the following:

Montefiore Medical Center, 111 E. 210th St., 2nd floor, call 920-4810. Ask for Ancee.

North Central Bronx Hospital, 3424 Kossuth Ave., call Percy at 519-4741. A blood drive will be held on Jan. 23 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Donate Stuff
Hesham Tomoum, a city taxi driver, went from victim to hero when he helped nab the perpetrator of a series of robberies targeting cabbies. His ammunition? A 911 programmed cell phone given to him by Cab Watch, a city program that arms cabbies with donated cell phones to prevent crimes.

In its fourth year now, Cab Watch has helped prevent over 1,000 crimes against cabbies, who suffer one of the highest rates of crime in an industry. "Driving a cab can be a dangerous job," said Jason Diaz, founder of Cab Watch, in an interview with New York 1. "So having the link to the police is a way to make it safer."

Cab Watch is just one of the many innovative programs that turns one man's junk into another's treasure. Most donations are tax deductible and many pay for shipping or arrange for pickups of the merchandise.

Perhaps one of the most visible holiday donation programs are coat drives. New York Cares, a city service Agency, arranges coat drives annually through police precincts and hundreds of other sites. Previous years have amassed thousands of coats for the homeless and other city residents needing something warm in the winter cold.

The PENCIL Box program (standing for Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning) salvages household items for city public school classrooms. "Every day, the principals in each of New York City's some 1,200 public schools face budget allocation decisions: textbooks or new chairs? A heating system or musical instruments? Art supplies or science supplies?" states PENCIL's website. The program, which brings goods to schools in need, helps to alleviate some of these no-win decisions.

Contact the following salvaging agencies to give your junk a new life:

Cab Watch, 305 Seventh Ave. - 15th fl., NYC, (212) 479-3380. For cell phones.

New York Cares, c/o 52nd Precinct, 3016 Webster Ave., 220-5824. For new and used coats.

Allen Cleaners, 387 Bedford Park Blvd., 584-9270. Annual "Coats for Kids" drive run by the Neighborhood Cleaners Association until Dec. 15.

The PENCIL Box, www.thepencilbox.org. Search the on-line database of schools to find the material needs of local schools. Books, musical instruments, computers, furniture, science equipment and art supplies are most in demand.

Salvation Army, 2359 Jerome Ave., 562-9023 (583-3500 for truck pickup). Clothing, household items and furniture accepted.

POTS, 2763 Webster Ave., 562-3527. Toiletries needed.

Buy Right
In the mad holiday shopping dash, the buying often becomes more important than the meaning of gift-giving. A little preparation, however, can both give something to your friends and family while giving back to charity.

Greeting cards are one of the easiest avenues for responsible gift-giving. Greeting cards are one of the easiest avenues for responsible gift-giving. Greeting cards are one of the easiest avenues for responsible gift-giving. The United Nations, which makes its well-known UNICEF cards, has sold more than 4 billion cards since they began in 1949. More than $1 billion in financial support has gone to projects helping children around the world. With the sale of just one pack of UNICEF greeting cards, UNICEF says it can provide enough supplies to vaccinate 22 children against polio or 42 children against measles.

Bread for the World is another source for donation cards. The organization, a Christian social justice group, sends money to help world hunger. Cards run for $15 a box.

Contact the following organizations to give conscious gifts this season:

UNICEF, (800) FOR-KIDS, www.unicefusa.org/cards

Bread for the World, (800) 82-BREAD, ext. 259, www.bread.org

Help However You Can
The following are a few more simple ways to lend a hand:

Provide company for a senior: Senior centers are often looking for volunteers to help in feeding and entertainment programs, and offer companionship. Area centers include the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center (call Cheryl Croce at 798-6601) and the St. James Golden Age Center (822-4271).

Expand Imaginations: The just-opened Twice Told Tales -- a used bookstore opened by the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center at 3085 Bainbridge Ave. -- is the only local bookstore and only one of three in the Bronx. Volunteers are needed to help organize the store and help with customers. To help, call Jane Chaney or Bob Altman at 652-3855.

Help in hospitals: Hospitals always need volunteers to provide a variety of services to patients -- from translation and tutoring pediatric patients to helping with art therapy and entertainment. To volunteer at Montefiore Medical Center, call Margaret Hamer at 920-4191. To help at North Central Bronx Hospital, call Luisa Hernandez at 519-4840.

What does your organization need?
Area social service agencies and other nonprofits are encouraged to send the Norwood News wish lists indicating what their programs need. Needs lists will be published in an upcoming issue.

Norwood News interns Joshua Durney, James Fanelli and William Wichert all contributed to this report.

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