THS Chapter in Upstate New York
Teens Helping Seniors recently launched a new chapter in Upstate New York. Here are some spotlights of the founding and leading members of the THS Upstate New York chapter.
Andrea Thomas is the current Head of Customer Service. In this role, she is responsible for the chapter’s ‘call center.’ “After each delivery, we call to check in with those we’ve served to ensure they are provided an opportunity to voice their comments, concerns, or questions. We work directly with the founding THS team in Maryland, often asking questions or simply providing updates in regards to our startup process,” she explained. Thomas originally learned about the organization from Maya Dhinesh, a Regional Coordinator, who had read about THS in a CNN article. She reached out to Thomas and Amira Salem, the acting Head of Communications, and “we came to the conclusion that in our admiration for the MD chapter’s initiative, it would be beneficial to our respective communities to open up services to those at risk,” she said. “It was [recognizing] the strife of seniors and other immuno-compromised persons that really inspired us to take action in a way we felt could make a lasting difference in this unprecedented crisis.” Thomas has been surprised by “the overall appreciation that seniors have for the services we are providing. It’s quite endearing to see the way our communities come together for the common good, remaining united in our social isolation,” she said. She has been surprised by the turnout from volunteers, stating “so many of our peers have been so incredibly willing to take on such an active role in our startup, whether it be in joining our delivery team or simply advocating our services to those they feel could benefit from it.” Overall, volunteering with THS has reminded Thomas about the importance of ‘the little things’ and the difference they can make in other’s lives. “As cliche as it may seem, these simple grocery deliveries are potentially saving lives. What better a time to serve one another than when in need?” Besides volunteering with THS, Thomas is also passionate about serving as a dance instructor in her community.
Itzel Garcia is the Head of Volunteer Recruiting and Grocery Deliveries. She keeps track of grocery deliveries and helps recruit new volunteers. Garcia learned about THS from Maya Dhinesh. “I was interested in volunteering in this organization because I believe we should do anything in our power to help others during this difficult time,” she explained. For Garcia, it has been rewarding to work with THS knowing she is helping others. She said she’s been “surprised about our growth in the organization and how many volunteers we have received” especially considering the chapter is so new. “My experience so far with THS has been spectacular. We are a team, trying to help others. We are always getting new volunteers and always trying to promote ourselves and it has been amazing to meet so many wonderful people wanting to help during this difficult time,” Garcia emphasized.
Maya Dhinesh is one of the Regional Coordinators for the Upstate NY chapter. In this role, she and her fellow Regional Coordinator set up a core team. She originally read about THS on CNN and realized how beneficial a free contactless grocery and medication delivery service could be in Upstate NY. “Seniors, especially in Upstate NY, are usually overlooked and it’s now harder for them to go about day-to-day activities or contact people to receive help,” she explained. After getting in touch with the MD chapter, she and her team began organizing volunteers by department and county working to serve Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, and Saratoga counties. “Starting a new chapter has been an amazing experience. I have learned a lot about how to work well together [on a team], how to promote THS, deliver groceries, and recruit volunteers,” Dhinesh said. “As of right now, we have over 50 volunteers.”
The most rewarding part of THS for Dhinesh is “receiving gratitude and appreciation after you have delivered groceries to someone. You can tell from the smile on their face that you just made their day.” The opportunity to volunteer with THS has made Dhinesh recognize that she is “positively impacting people’s lives and it’s gratifying to deliver groceries or medication to them. I enjoy serving my community, meeting new people, and assisting people during this pandemic — it takes a weight off of people who are struggling.” Besides her role with THS, Dhinesh enjoys surfing and diving.
Amira Salem is the acting Head of Social Media and Outreach. Salem runs the Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, as well as supports website development, reaches out to news organizations, maintains communications with new volunteers, among other responsibilities. Salem got involved with THS as volunteering has always “been a big part of [her] life and it’s something [she] really enjoyed doing.” She was especially inspired to help THS due to personal experiences, “my grandma passed away almost two years ago and she was immunocompromised,” Salem shared. “Thinking about what she would be going through if she were alive during this pandemic was a big motivator for me.” At first Salem was unsure of how building the chapter from the ground up would go. “It’s been so rewarding to see how far we’ve come in these first three weeks. In that short time period, we’ve gained over 50 volunteers and been in one of our local newspapers. We’ve been [contacted] by other local newspapers and organizations that we’re currently working on setting up interviews with and we’ve even been featured on a local meme page with a large following (over 34k!). It may sound silly but it actually helped us gain a lot of attention in our area,” she said. Salem has enjoyed seeing the progress of the chapter since the start. “Seeing us pass 100 followers on Instagram [to then] getting contacted by local newspapers is so crazy,” she explained. “Yesterday I was even contacted by a woman who works for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America in our area. She saw us in the local newspaper and has previously worked with the school that Maya, Itzel, and I (and a bunch of our volunteers) go to, and wanted to partner with us.”Overall, Salem emphasizes the importance of giving back to one’s community. “I just think that volunteering is such a rewarding thing and it’s so special that I get to watch this chapter grow.” Salem also enjoys competitive dancing in addition to volunteer work.