Engage Brooklyn volunteer Marilyn Duckoff, center.

Engage Brooklyn volunteer Marilyn Duckoff, center.

1.  Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m a Brooklyn native—although I’ve also lived in other boroughs and even Puerto Rico—and I have two terrific children in their 30s.  Professionally, I worked as a language pathologist for preschoolers through Long Island College Hospital, and with visually impaired children at Helen Keller Preschool and The Lighthouse Child Development Center 

2.  How did you first become interested in the JCC Engage volunteer program? 
After retiring in 2014, I was looking for a rewarding way to fill my time.  A friend of mine told me about Engage and referred me to Susan Kranberg, assistant director for the Engage Jewish Service Corps. She got me started with the Selfhelp Coffee House program for Holocaust survivors, and that experience sold me on Engage.  The Coffee House people are amazing, thankful, and love life.  And the other volunteers are a friendly, welcoming group. 

3.  What are some of your Engage activities?  Any you find particularly interesting?
I’m active with the Met Council on Jewish Poverty services, including food distribution for low-income elderly in both Brooklyn and Manhattan during the year and at Passover.  But the Selfhelp Coffee House is my favorite.  After we prepare and serve lunch, there’s music and we all dance together.  We sing "Hatikva" and "God Bless America."  They sing with all their heart and know all the words.  It gets you in a place you didn’t know you had.  

4.  Any non-Engage activities that people may not know about you?
 I go folk dancing once a week with The Brooklyn Heights Folk Dancers, and I also volunteer in Manhattan at the Museum of Natural History’s education program for school kids who visit the museum.

5.  What would you say to encourage potential volunteers?
The reward is worth 200 times more than the few weekly hours of time spent.  It makes you feel so good.  It makes you feel wonderful.  


Pinchas Berger and Hindy Kisch enjoy the volunteer recognition event.

Pinchas Berger and Hindy Kisch enjoy the volunteer recognition event.

The math is simple. When over 300 Engage participants involve themselves in community outreach, they can volunteer more than 5,000 combined hours in one year. The work of Engage volunteers was celebrated at the fourth annual Engage Volunteer Recognition event hosted at JCC Manhattan on June 5. Over 80 volunteers attended and were honored for their service. A special shout-out goes to Margie Stern, leader of the volunteer engagement and orientation team, and her amazing co-volunteers. From the beginning, when participants picked up strands of Mardi Gras beads corresponding to their number of years of active service in Engage, to the program of events, this was a very special occasion. 

The evening was kicked off by Rabbi Brian Fink, director of UJA-Federation of New York's Engage Jewish Service Corps at JCC Manhattan. He opened the program with an amazing video put together by members of the JCC Manhattan marketing department highlighting the work of Engage. The video was an inspiration to all who attended to continue and expand the work. Click here to watch it and please share it with friends and family who would be interested in Engage. The program continued with remarks by Rabbi Joy Levitt, JCC Manhattan's executive director, and Susan Kranberg, Engage community organizer.

The big surprise of the evening was the recognition of 23 volunteers who have each completed at least 100 hours of service through Engage. They were recognized individually by Susan, and each received a framed certificate from the the City of New York Mayoral Service Recognition Program, signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Special thanks to Ellen Hochstein, who herself volunteered for a record 1,365 hours.

What a wonderful way to celebrate another year of Engage success!