By Donna Liquori
When Kitty Ruderman, 72, arrived home in Queens after volunteering to complete a mailing at the AARP office in Manhattan, she received a phone call from a fellow volunteer. “She called to make sure I got home all right. Those are the kind of people you meet.”
Ruderman’s been an AARP volunteer for five years. She began with the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, then turned her sights to New York City advocacy work.
While working on issues that are dear to her, she’s made some good friends, noting, “There’s such a sense of camaraderie.”
AARP New York is hosting 15 to 20 recruitment events across the state this year, said Heather Joseph, its volunteer engagement and resources director.
Volunteers take on a variety of responsibilities, from mailings to lobbying state and federal legislators about the issues important to voters 50-plus, to demonstrating with placards at Gracie Mansion in New York City, at
the state Capitol or at a utility’s headquarters.
Often volunteers will staff tables at events, such as the New York State Fair, to educate the public on what AARP does and about affordable housing, Social Security, caregiving and other critical issues for older adults. AARP New York Executive Council members provide leadership and strategic support to the state office, drawing on their own professional skills.
“I see friendships developing,” Joseph said of the volunteers, who walk out of events chatting.
Volunteer, make a friend
Then there are the couples donating their time together.
“They come as a team, are very enthusiastic, complete each other’s sentences,” Joseph observed.
Paul Klein and Jeanne Chu, of Queens, who are married, sometimes tag-team. “If Jeanne is unable, I will make the effort,” Klein said.
Chu, 71, is a CPA and accounting software consultant, and Klein, 66, worked as a controller at a law firm.
They began volunteering with AARP at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, an annual event in Flushing Meadows Park. Regulars at an AARP table, they encourage people to sign petitions supporting its initiatives and suggest volunteer opportunities.
“I share my belief that people should go out and do something for the community,” Chu said.
Executive Council member Esther Greenhouse, 48, of Ithaca, began volunteering in 2017. As an environmental gerontologist and expert in aging-in-place design, she’s presented at AARP livability conferences.
“My favorite moment was becoming friends with a volunteer from the Bronx while we were both advocating in Albany,” Greenhouse said. “We really enjoyed each other’s company. She is a very sweet lady, and I was overjoyed to run into her a few months later at the volunteer recognition night. We keep in touch. It’s a nice perk.”
Fran Hamblin, 72, of Nassau in Rensselaer County, is a regular on AARP New York’s Legislative Patrol. “It gives you a feeling of helping those less fortunate than yourself.
“I think it gives you a voice,” Hamblin said.
Donna Liquori is a writing living in Delmar.