September 11 Digital Archive

Volunteering is exciting


Volunteering is exciting



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Getting absorbed in pre-election excitement, I really got a feel for the rhythms and impulses of the

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Volunteering is exciting

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Lyudmila Paltielova

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Bukharian Times

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Liz Vladeck

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Getting absorbed in pre-election excitement, I really got a feel for the rhythms and impulses of the people around me. By including myself in their work, I was trying to discern the motives driving these volunteers. I learned that one thing that distinguishes America from other countries is that it helps people whether or not theyve spent their entire lives here.

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Getting absorbed in pre-election excitement, I really got a feel for the rhythms and impulses of the people around me. The content of what they were spending their energy on also energized me. Including myself in their work in order to genuinely get to know the situation, I was trying to discern the motives driving these people. Many of them worked in a volunteer capacity. This is not surprising. After all, one thing that distinguishes America from other countries is that it helps people whether or not theyve spent their entire lives here.

I first encountered this aspect of American culture in December 2001, when a very sick seven-year-old boy named Farkhod Nazarov, who was born with a heart defect, came here from the far reaches of Tadjikistan entirely at the expense of people who had never met him. He was met at the airport, settled in a special hotel for sick children called the Ronald McDonald House, and had a heart operation in a Bronx hospital. The organization Gift of Life, which had put all this together contributed a total of $5,000. The remaining sum in the amount of $35,000 to $50,000 dollars, including the cost of the operation, nurse services, and medical personnel, was covered by donors and volunteers. Doctors, nurses, and others worked for free. Additional costs included food and living quarters for the boy and his father in the special hospital for the duration of more than a month and a half. And, most importantly, volunteers worked to provide the boy with moral and psychological support in Russian, his native language, so that he wouldnt be socially uncomfortable because he doesnt speak English. The boy is now completely recovered and in the second grade, and thanks America for giving him a second chance at life. This is not a unique story. Such is the work done by this organization, which helps sick children from all corners of the earth: Korea, Russia, China, Albania, India, among other countries. And a significant role is played by volunteers, who help by buying groceries, translating for the children, assisting them with little life details while they are in this country with one of their parents, and acquainting them with the sights of the city.

Volunteering for the Republican clubs People of Pataki effort, I was again convinced of the altruistic desire to help other people. Here, young and old people, of different races and ethnicities, different professions and social statuses, all worked together. Some were making phone calls to remind people about the upcoming election, some worked on computers, some were out hanging posters on streets, and some sorted mail from voters. The office was in constant motion. People arrived, people left. Not a minute passed without the being interrupted by telephone calls, with callers asking for a representative of some organization or other, or providing an update on future tasks, and so on. Ill say openly that the volunteers reaction to the telephone calls varied: some happily took messages, some said that they werent interested, and some expressed their point of view on this matter in unfavorable terms. But those actually on the phones were much more optimistic. The volunteers took a loyal, competent, and upbeat approach. The attitudes of people to volunteering varied, and in several cases, were unique. For example, an energetic young woman, Lucy Guevaro, said, I help here as a volunteer. I call people to remind them of the election. I do this with great pleasure, knowing that Im doing something useful.

Diane, a middle-aged woman with a bright expression and artistic face, said, By calling people and reminding them about the election, Im supporting Governor Pataki. For many who havent decided who to cast their vote for, I provide concrete facts, so they can make an informed decision. In any case, I always push them in a positive direction regardless of who theyre going to vote for. Since 1952, Ive helped this party as a volunteer. I think its very important. If people just do whatever they want, then what they give is what they get. If a person doesnt work, doesnt participate in the process, then he shouldnt complain about what he has. Democracy means participation in the process. We shouldnt wait for someone to do it for us; wed be waiting forever. Many people dont want to have a solitary life, so let them take what they get and not complain about their lives. Me, I like to complain, and for that reason Im here.

But the most surprising answer came from a volunteer who wasnt registered with either party, and had lived here in America for 22 years. Im talking about our fellow countrywoman Elena Drosdov-Gregori, who lives in Astoria, Queens. She said, when I was studying in the Maurice Torres Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow, I didnt go vote on election day because I was sick. The next day I was called into the Deans office. I was convinced of the total lack of secrecy in the Soviet electoral system, and of these individuals. This spurred in me a particular relationship to voting that has remained with me to this day, even though Ive already lived here for quite some time. The entire time Ive been in this country, I havent seen a political statesman or public figure to measure up to John F. Kennedy. And when I saw the poster of the candidate running for New York State Assembly, Gail Hilson, my writers intuition told me that this woman has a big future. This is the first woman who, after many years, could become the president of the country, because she has all the qualities that John F. Kennedy had. The next day I went to her office; Ive already been volunteering for several weeks now.

It should be said that this unusual volunteer handled all manner of things, and several times decorated the office of the Republican club with yellow balloons (the color of hope for victory) and organized a dinner for many volunteers, where, under one roof, two clubs peacefully co-existed: Metropolitan Republican Club, and People of Pataki. Of course, here people didnt only work, but also chatted over a quick dinner, showing the excellent relationship among all volunteers, and their particular knowledge of the countries from which they all came. The leader of the 65th electoral district in Manhattan, Peter McCoy, organized the clubs work efficiently, thinking of the smallest of details. He was supported by the volunteers David Casavas, Jay Rickman, Secrick OConnor, who live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, among others. And even after the election, when the vote count still wasnt complete because many people voted using Absentee and Emergency Ballots, so many volunteers continued to help in these clubs, simply because the work was not yet finished.

Several outstanding volunteers received recognition from Gov. George Pataki himself, who sent them letters of appreciation. In his letter, Pataki says that victory in elections is only possible when thousands of volunteers, reaching out to other people, can ensure their readiness to vote. Indicating the progress made in the last 7.5 yearspassage of particular legislation, the creation of new jobs, the strengthening of the economy, improvements in education and the rise in public safetyhe concluded with the new and complicated problems residents of New York now face. Pataki underscored the importance of volunteers and voters choices in determining the future of the state. He thanked volunteers once again for their help and support, itself an indication of the important work they were doing to help him win, and to help continue to make New York great and strong.

At the height of the work leading up to the election, New York State Secretary Randy Daniels stopped by the Republican clubs People of Pataki office in Manhattan. In an amazing speech, he conveyed total enthusiasm, optimism, and incandescence. In as much as his talk was eloquent and beautiful, he generated great enthusiasm and admiration from the volunteers. Emphasizing the role of volunteers, he ended by calling special attention to the efforts of this particular group: their activeness and support for George Pataki as members of different parties with up to 500 people from Brooklyn registered as Democrats who supported the candidacy of our Governor. After his speech, he introduced himself to every individual volunteer, shaking each ones hand, looking attentively into their eyes, and taking an active interest in each person, asking them what they did, and where they were from. I had the opportunity to get to know him better, and show him an edition of our newspaper that included a picture of him standing with New York State Senate candidate Salvatore Grupico, when they were at an awards ceremony at the Grand Prospect Hall. He was interested in the pre-election campaign coverage in our community, so I also provided him with others copies of our publications.

Were already well-acquainted with the level of activity in the recent election. Lets look at one case study. In the electoral precinct where I wound up working, there were six voting machines. The lowest number of registered voters was in our district; 577 in all. The total number of votes cast was 227, so about 39.4 percent of registered votesr. Voting activity throughout the day occurred with growing intensity. The percentage of voters increased approximately 22.4 percent compared to the previous electoral campaign. And even though two machines stopped working in the course of the day, and some voters had to vote using emergency ballots, the optimism of the volunteers at the polling site didnt flag. Site coordinators Steven Cole and Mariana Blume commented on the coordination and efficiency of the site, as did election inspectors. In the course of a short period of time we needed two additional voting machines. And the work continued with even more energy.

After the election and the verification of the results, Mariana Blume and I went to the victory celebration for New York State Senator Marty Golden. The victory party took place at Bay Ridge Manner Restaurant. In spite of a drenching rain, the hall of the restaurant was completely filled with representatives from the Republican and Democratic parties who had supported Goldens candidacy. There were more than a thousand people there. And throughout all the congratulatory speeches, the first thing to be highlighted was the role of volunteers. Among the speakers were the chairman of the Democratic club, and member of the State Assembly Dov Hikind, City Councilmember Simcha Feld, chairman of the Republican club Hy Singer, leader of the Republican party for the 46th electoral district Oleg Gutnik, and many others. Marty Golden gave the most wonderful thank-you, extending his great respect and admiration to all those who had supported him, calling from the hall first one, then another person to the stage, to show them his gratitude. After the ceremony, he spoke to many others, whom he greeted as friends. I was introduced to Marty Golden who thanked me sincerely for coming, adding that he was well-acquainted with Oleg Gutnik from our community.

The role of volunteers in American life and politics is very important. The most significant factor in this is the mentality of Americans, who consistently help new immigrants arriving in this land of freedom. Here, free elections are a bedrock element of the country. And volunteering here is no small factor in improving living conditions for all. We need to learn this lesson and not miss the opportunity to provide help to those in need.

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“Volunteering is exciting,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed August 1, 2021,