Bridging the gap with service

In the northeast Queens area alone, there are thousands of homebound senior citizens who lack contact with the outside world.

They are often forgotten by the community and have little interaction with others.

That is why Chris Schneider, a St. John’s alum from 1968 decided to work with elderly and help the community. The former Social Studies teacher is now the manager of Senior Services.

Northeast Queens Senior Services assists 11 local communities including Whitestone, Fresh Meadows, Flushing and Bayside.

Through the program, volunteers visit the elderly at their homes or apartments and spend quality time with the individuals.

Funded by the Catholic Charities of Brooklyn, and organized under Citymeals-on Wheels, the Senior Service program has eight other locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

Six years ago, Schneider began the local program with no clients and no volunteers. However, he was persistent in looking for volunteers, especially at local churches, synagogues, American Legion halls, high schools and colleges.

As more individuals expressed a desire to come on board, Schneider saw the helpfulness of the local community.

“The more you talk to people and explain to them that there are people in need, people respond,” he said.

Over the past six years, Senior Services has had more than 100 volunteers and the response from the local community has been good.

“Volunteers are really the heart of the program. Without volunteers, we shut down,” Schneider said.

Currently, there are approximately 40 steady volunteers in the program consisting of St. John’s professors, high school and college students and retired individuals.

Volunteers not only visit, but provide practical care such as going food shopping and doing light chores for the senior citizens.

Northeast Queens Senior Services is flexible with the volunteer schedules. Whether he or she can only help out in the mornings, nights, or weekends, even a few hours a week makes a big difference.

The elderly especially look forward to a friendly visit in which just talking about the weather, baseball, or the good old days, can truly make their day.
Schneider also expressed how he feels about volunteering.

“I think [volunteering] gives you a great feeling of satisfaction to know that you are helping one of the most vulnerable members of society,” he said.

As a high school teacher, Schneider always advised his students to help out the three most vulnerable groups in society: animals, children and senior citizens.

“I think you can always judge a person’s character by how they treat these three groups,” he said.

Schneider also stressed the importance to volunteer in all aspects of life. He said he hopes that more St. John’s sport teams and organizations will come on board and volunteer in the local community.

The St. John’s women’s softball team, for example, volunteers for the Senior Services several hours during the fall semester.

At the end of the day, Schneider said he hopes that more individuals will take an interest in the senior citizens in their lives and help out with their daily needs.

“If more people did that, maybe this invisible generation wouldn’t be so invisible,” he said.