It took little more than a snap of his fingers for Rabbi Brian Fink to intrigue Mimi Lox (pictured, right). Through Engage, she was given the chance to use her experience and expertise as a New York City social worker to give back to the community as a volunteer with the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council). Mimi told me, “Using my skills meets all my criteria for maintaining purpose in my life.”
In New York City, over 500,000 Jewish people live in poor or near-poor households. Met Council fights poverty through comprehensive programs and services for the needy, with the mission to strengthen families and neighborhoods throughout the city. It serves immigrants, seniors living on fixed incomes, the unemployed and underemployed, and anyone else in need. The organization, founded on Jewish values, serves everyone with dignity and empathy. Among the services the organization provides are information and benefits access, food pantries, and affordable housing for low- and middle-income people.
Mimi was one of the first Engage volunteers to work with Met Council. She started out using her social work. experience to support individuals living at the 61st Street Residence operated by Met Council. Mimi volunteers there once a week, and the residents have come to know and trust her, and seek her advice and assistance. Mimi currently serves as the Engage Met Council Liaison, supporting the expansion and implementation of Engage volunteer opportunities.
Engage volunteers have manned Met Council booths at farmer’s markets across the city, handing out brochures and speaking with people about SNAP (food stamp) services and eligibility requirements. Sixteen Engage volunteers have been trained by Met Council staff regarding SNAP and have learned how to use a Met Council app to prescreen individuals for SNAP eligibility.
Engage Met Council volunteers also participate in Project Reach Out, calling people who have used SNAP to follow up and find out what additional support they may need. Robyn Gottlieb, an Engage volunteer who has served at several farmer’s markets, expressed the pleasure she gets from her participation. “When I was working, all I could do was write a check,” she said. “Now I can give of myself.” Robyn has motivated others to join the Engage community of volunteers as well. “I am inspiring my friends—when they have a day off, they come with me to volunteer.”
This article was originally published in the fall 2015 Engage Connect printed newsletter.