NE Queens group brings loving care to seniors

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

Roberta Heller, 74, said her favorite thing about Stan Fish is the jokes he tells, although the few he recited at her Fresh Meadows home one day last week were not suitable for print.

“Construction workers think they’re hysterical,” said Fish, 69, a volunteer with Northeast Queens Senior Services, who also visits three other people throughout this corner of the borough to run errands, do light chores and — most important of all — sit down and spend a little time with them.

“Stan is the best. He’s the MVP,” said Chris Schneider, who as program manager has been connecting caring volunteers with appreciative seniors in neighborhoods from Whitestone to Little Neck to Fresh Meadows for the past seven years. “Most of our clients have no family, or their family lives in other states. Their only contact throughout the day is with the Meals on Wheels driver, myself or someone like Stan.”

Northeast Queens Senior Services, funded by City Meals on Wheels and sponsored by the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, has hundreds of clients and is always looking for people who would enjoy bringing some warmth into their days.

“I’ve had hundreds of volunteers over the last seven years, and now there’s a hard-core group of about 65,” Schneider said as he sat at Heller’s kitchen table. “We’re looking for people to spend an hour or two each week at their convenience. A good volunteer has to have a good heart, is compassionate and friendly. A warm smile helps, too.”

Fish, who also volunteers at the Samuel Field Y in Little Neck and as a dispatcher with the Whitestone Community Volunteer Ambulance Corps, got involved with NQSS in 2008.

“I started when my wife passed away,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion, his hand holding Heller’s. “I was looking for things to do. I wanted to make something good of her passing away. Volunteering helps.”

He stops by Heller’s home once every three weeks to pick up a month’s supply of groceries at the Waldbaum’s down the street, where he gets the opportunity to tell a few colorful jokes, one of which focuses on the love lives of Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Heller, who gets around in a wheelchair and with a walker, had been home for 10 weeks after spending about eight months in and out of the hospital, and she beamed as she told how the program was there for her.

“The minute I got home, I got a call from Chris and Stanley,” she said.

She has been so touched by those who have helped her over the years, and she told Schneider she wished she could return the favor. “If I could get up and walk, I would join your organization,” she said.

Heller, Schneider said, would make a great volunteer.

“A good volunteer has the ability to make clients smile and laugh. If you can tell a joke that makes them feel warm and nice inside, that’s a real plus for us,” he said.

Those interested in becoming a volunteer can contact Chris Schneider at 516-641-7541.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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