On a typical afternoon, men shoot pool, play dominos and watch the news at the STAR Senior Center at 187th Street. This center is a crucial part of the Washington Heights neighborhood. It provides help to many senior citizens in the area. They have a lunch program and meals-on-wheels for the homebound seniors. They also provide nutritional counseling, recreation, and field trips.
A group of 3 volunteers keep their promise to provide help to 1300 seniors and learn from those experiences. They sat on a round table to discuss their next task after serving lunch to over 160 visitors.
Belle Cestero has worked at the center since 1992 along with 40 volunteers. She said that she likes to help. “I like the idea about volunteering. It is a wonderful thing to help people in need. It is all for the center.”
Virginia Carbone is an 84 year-old volunteer. She has helped at the center for more than 30 years. And she said that volunteering and being social helps her cope with her own problems. “I’m here to enjoy myself with the people around me to forget my problems and pass time with the people that I am here with.”
Volunteers like Belle Cestero said that she has learned through her job that some of the seniors have problems, yet she finds ways to be helpful. “Throughout my time here, I’ve learned that people have a lot of problems and you do whatever you can to help them. For me, helping them is also good for your mind.”
Diego Gonzalez is a 40 year-old single parent of two. His wife passed away and he has worked at the center for more than a month in the kitchen. He serves food, delivers meals, fixes up the tables, and provides help with anything that’s needed.
Gonzalez said that volunteering is about doing physical work, but also about offering up friendship. “You have to treat them well and give them love and attention. You have to serve their food with love and I like doing my job with a lot of pleasure.”
He also said that he sympathizes with them because many are alone and need the help. “Many people come to this center because they don’t have family, or anyone to help them and one sympathizes with them. They need someone to give them a helping hand.”
Some volunteers also said that even though there are daily hardships they continue to provide their free services to people who need the help.
Virginia Carbone is one of those who continue to give. “You look at a person, you think, for instance like me. People look at me and say; Jeez that woman has no problems. She is so happy. But when I go home and close my door. I do have a lot of problems. I cry, but that’s it.”
The volunteers at the STAR center agree that helping out in the community and a person in need is necessary.
Belle Cestero said that they need help preparing and delivering food, setting up tables and merchandise for the Bazaar sales. “Our center needs help and whoever helps out is appreciated.”
She also said that they need financial help. “We need the money. We need a lot of money here. I wish people would realize that and volunteer in many different ways.
The STAR Senior Center accepts financial and material donations, but it is always looking for a few good people to donate their time and friendship.