The Schmooze

Local Retiree Finds Purpose in Helping Other Seniors

When Joe Elowsky first retired in 2000, “all he did was sit home, watch television, and look sad,” recalls his wife Marsha. Work had been a big part of his life, and without it, he wasn’t sure what to do next. Never one to sit idle, Joe found the unstructured time and lack of purpose unnerving. The toll it was taking on him was obvious to his wife, who was eager for a way to help him feel better.

Serendipitously, it was not long after Joe’s retirement that the Elowskys received a survey in the mail about POB Cares, a new program that was starting up to provide services to help older adults in the Plainview Old Bethpage area. They responded to the survey, and soon Joe was one of the program’s most prolific volunteers, driving seniors to local medical appointments and shopping, and participating along with his wife on the program’s Advisory Board. And as he participated as a volunteer, something special started to happen. The more Joe helped local seniors meet their needs, the more it helped to meet his need for activity and a sense of purpose.

Over a decade later, Joe hardly has any time to sit and watch television anymore. He volunteers 5 days a week, shuttling local seniors to and from the super market, picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy, and making sure that program clients get to their doctors’ appointments and physical therapy on time.

“This man is amazing,” says Abe Kirschman, who works for the POB Cares and Project PACE NNORC programs scheduling volunteer-based transportation for clients.

Joe is one of a small but mighty group of volunteers who help POB Cares and Project PACE, programs of the Mid-Island Y JCC, serve the needs of older adults who are aging-in-place within Plainview and Old Bethpage. Developed in response to an assessment of the needs of the community, these programs – called “Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Community” or NNORC programs – are aimed at helping the communities they serve to become “good places in which to grow old.” These programs are funded in part through New York State Office for the Aging and UJA-Federation of New York, but also rely on the support of the local community.

“A major feature of a NNORC program is that it leverages the strengths and resources of the community to help its older adult residents,” says Alana Rosenstein, NNORC Director. “Joe and other volunteers like him are a tremendous resource in the community and we are so fortunate to have them.” Rosenstein also notes that new volunteers are always needed, especially as several of the programs’ other volunteers have moved out of the area or are no longer able to participate at the same level that they once did.

“We try very hard to fill as many of our requests for transportation as we possibly can,” Rosenstein says. “It breaks our hearts when we have to say no to a request because we don’t have an available volunteer driver.”

“We hope that members of the community who want to give back will consider the NNORCs’ Volunteer Transportation program,” states Mid-Island Y JCC Director of Volunteer Services, Gail Warrack. “Volunteer drivers can make a real difference in the life of a local senior in as little as an hour a week.”

To learn more about POB Cares and Project PACE and how you can help seniors in our communities, please call Alana Rosenstein at (516) 822-3535, ext. 385. To learn about other volunteer opportunities through the Mid-Island Y JCC, please reach out to Gail Warrack at (516) 822-3535, ext. 347.

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