28 Apr

Helping Families Through Art

Nicole Walker, Art Therapy Intern, Parenting and Child Development Program

“Everyone is so close in the program – teachers, aides – everyone knows each other well,” said Nicole Walker, describing what it’s like to work in the Parent and Child Development program at LSA.  “It’s a very interactive environment, and they made it easy for me to jump right in.  It’s a lot of fun, like being with family,” she said.

Nicole is a senior at Marymount Manhattan College studying art therapy. She will be graduating in May, and says her time at LSA has reinforced her interest in becoming an art therapist.  In addition to spending thee half days at LSA, she is a part time nanny for a family with four children on the Upper East Side.

She said that the most exciting part of the volunteer work is “meeting and interacting with so many different children.”  Though she does not speak Spanish, the primary language of the majority of our families, she has come to know the children well. “I learned that each child is so different and has a unique personality,” she says.

Nicole describes her most memorable experience: “When one of the toddlers in the program, named Nicole, learned that my name is Nicole, she first didn’t believe there could be someone else named Nicole! But she finally accepted it, and now whenever she sees me, she comes running right up to me, and gives me a big hug. Every time.”

 

28 Apr

Finding Purpose in Service

Volunteer Laura Diaz

Laura Diaz, Volunteer Executive Assistant

“It’s such a different work environment at LSA” said Laura Diaz, who volunteered as an Executive Assistant at LSA recently. Having come from a corporate background –14 years at financial institution, UBS — Laura noted that “everyone is so open and friendly” at LSA and that it feels “like a family.”

Laura was volunteering two days a week offering administrative support to Russell Nobles, our Chief Program Officer.  Laura helped tremendously in a variety of ways – including putting together all the elements for a grant proposal so that it was more cohesive – (and the good news, we received the grant!) She also did research about background checks, putting together a detailed analysis of different background checking companies.

Laura’s reason for volunteering was to spend her time in a meaningful way while she looked for a job. She commuted all the way from Jersey City – about an hour and half each way to LSA. She said the time spent volunteering at LSA “helped me get a better sense of self and purpose.”

Laura now works for a private equity firm, Fortress Investments. While we were sorry to see her leave, we wish her well in her new position.  The service she gave while at LSA was invaluable.

 

16 Dec

A DREAMer Gives Back

Prioska

Prioska Galicia, volunteer with reception, data entry, and food pantry

When Prioska’s mom asked where they could go to get help with a DACA application, a friend sent her to LSA.

LSA has been on the forefront of helping people like Prioska apply for DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – which protects people who came to the country as children and know no other home. Our deep roots in the community help us to reach people who are eligible, and our partnerships with organizations like the Legal Aid Society and the NY Legal Assistance Group help us connect individuals to the support they need.

Through LSA, Prioska got assistance in completing her DACA application. Her mom got help, too: “we didn’t know she could get her papers – we thought that she didn’t qualify. But they told her, yes, you’re eligible to become a citizen.”

Her relationship with LSA did not end there. This DREAMer is now giving back to the LSA community through volunteerism.

On her first visit to LSA, Prioska befriended Melina, one of our client advocates. Prioska offered her volunteer assistance as she wanted to give back to LSA in some way. Since then, Prioska has been a regular fixture at LSA, helping out in our food pantry, at our reception desk, and doing data entry.

Prioska said:  “What I like is that I get to interact with people one on one, to practice both my English and my Spanish, and to learn how to be on time and have responsibility. At the reception desk, I need to be ‘open ears and open eyes,’ so I can see who comes in and who needs help, or I’m on the phone helping people. In the food pantry, I’m making them feel comfortable. I just like helping people.”

She has been volunteering since September of 2015 for about six hours a week. Her friendly face often greets our LSA clients at the reception desk when there is an Advocacy staff meeting on Monday afternoons or during an all-staff meeting. She moves seamlessly among the three programs with which she volunteers, and has become an essential help to all.

“Prioska is always enthusiastic and eager to help – she is very attentive to the children, very engaging with our families. Her positive energy is great for children to be around,” said Wendy Miron, Director of the Education and Youth Services program. Prioska helps Wendy with data entry, and also with child care activities on Friday afternoons.

Prioska’s first impression of LSA was the everyone was “very nice” “friendly” and “welcoming.”  Volunteering at LSA has really helped her “to be able to speak up more for myself – I  can get along with a lot of different people as I have to help many different people in the food pantry,” she said.

Through her volunteer work, she is gaining skills that she hopes will prepare her for a future career in Communications.  She says she feels “more prepared to face the challenges ahead,” thanks to her volunteer experience at LSA.

Where does she see herself in 5 years? “I see myself graduating college and having a stable job. I would like to do communications and I would also like to be in the community helping people. That’s my plan.”

Photo by Micah Rubin.

04 Dec

Q&A with Alice Nelson

Volunteer Alice Nelson

One of the nice things about LSA is that, once people have been a part of our community, they tend to come back:  old friends stop by to visit, clients return as volunteers, volunteers keep finding new ways to be involved.

They may even travel 10,000 miles, as volunteer Alice Nelson did, to work with us again.  Alice Nelson is a writer from Western Australia.  When she last volunteered with LSA, from 2001-2003, the agency was still in a brownstone on East 119th Street.  On a recent visit she found much changed, but the spirit and heart of the organization as welcoming as ever.

What do you remember about your first volunteer experience with LSA?

I came as a Little Sisters full time volunteer in 2001 and lived with the nuns.  I worked two years at the time in Advocacy.

I just loved how it was like a family, how there was no hierarchy and everyone pitched in. You’d have the bosses bagging food in the pantry as well as the volunteers.  The families felt that as well.  It wasn’t, you know, “us and them.”  It was a really lovely mutual feeling.

What brought you back to New York and LSA?

I’m in New York for the whole winter, staying in East Harlem for the next couple of weeks and pitching in in the food pantry.  I’ve got a novel which is actually set in East Harlem so it’s also a research trip.

Does LSA appear anywhere in the novel you’re working on?

It does!  Heavily disguised, but there is a Catholic social services agency that’s sort of at the center of the novel where the characters go and one character volunteers there.

LSA moved into this building in 2004 – a year after you returned to Australia.  What do you think of it?

I had no idea it was going to be so glamorous!  After my days in the freezing cold basement – freezing in winter and hot in summer – it’s amazing!

 

In the week since she’s been back, Alice has already been a great help to our Advocacy & Food Pantry, Parenting  and Childhood, and Education and Youth Services programs.  Thanks, Alice!

Photo by Micah Rubin.