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Visitors sought to reach seniors in NE Queens

Whitestone native Eva Megerdichian (l.) sits in her dining room with volunteers Stan Fish and Denise Taylor. Senior Visiting Program Director Chris Schneider (r.) helps connect clients with caregivers throughout northeast Queens. Photo by Phil Corso
TimesLedger Newspapers

Eva Megerdichian has lived in her Whitestone home for 35 years, but said that time would have been cut short had it not been for her “second family.”

Since signing on to Northeast Queens Senior Services earlier this year, Megerdichian has enjoyed the company of neighborhood volunteers who come into her home and offer her the companionship she needs without having to move into assisted living.

“Unless you’re in my shoes, you don’t really realize how important it is. If I fall, now I have somebody to help me,” Megerdichian said. “It’s just so comforting to know you have that kind of help.”

But the program’s volunteer pool has dwindled, according to manager Chris Schneider. For the better part of the past decade, Schneider has been connecting seniors with volunteers throughout northeast Queens in neighborhoods from Whitestone to Little Neck and Fresh Meadows, and said he hopes to keep the program running for years to come.

“I scour the countryside for volunteers with good hearts,” Schneider said.

The program is funded by City Meals on Wheels and sponsored by the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.

Schneider said he currently has about 65 clients throughout northeast Queens but only some 60 volunteers, meaning some have to commit to multiple visits throughout their week. There are also similar programs throughout the city, he said.

In order to recruit new volunteers, Schneider has been hitting area banks, colleges, churches and other common hotspots with hopes of replenishing his base to help bring some warmth into the lives of borough seniors.

Denise Taylor, one of Megerdichian’s volunteers, has grown to become close with the Whitestone native since she started in July and said her weekly visits have become more along the lines of going out with an old friend rather than simply looking after someone.

“It’s very rewarding,” Taylor said. “Our time together is just as good for the clients as it is for me.”

Taylor’s visits with her three clients have included anything from grocery shopping to simple around-the-house company, which she said has become one of the best parts of her week since retiring in June.

Stan Fish, another volunteer who has worked with Megerdichian and started with the program in 2008, said he was the Whitestone native’s go-to guy for jokes and saw himself as an expert shopper whenever she needs something from the store.

“The way I see it, it’s me vs. the list,” Fish said. “It’s very rewarding. You learn to help people and you appreciate being a part of it.”

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can contact Schneider at 516-641-7541 to be paired up with a client in their area.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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