On Wednesday, March 26, a group of Somerset Hills YMCA volunteers banded together as part of the Y’s new ‘Togetherhood’ Volunteer Initiative to engage with the veterans in activities designed to improve their quality of life and provide social interaction. The veterans, who often experience isolation and feelings of being disconnected, live in Valley Brook Village, the new housing located on the VA grounds.
At the first event, which was themed “A World of Thanks”, 41 Y volunteers shared international home-cooked meals, decorated the VA community room, provided entertainment in the form of international dances and spent time socializing with over 30 veterans in attendance. At the end of the event, one of the veterans played songs on his harmonica in gratitude for all the volunteers had done for them.
"The Somerset Hills YMCA and their volunteers have provided the residents of Valley Brook Village with a real sense of belonging to the outside community," commented Carrie Radice, Property Manager at Valley Brook Village after the event.
As a non-profit organization with a mission of strengthening the community, social responsibility is a key focus of the Somerset Hills YMCA. Across the U.S. today, communities, including the Somerset Hills community, increasingly face social isolation and disconnectedness, yet the residents of these communities have the greatest potential to help their neighbors learn, grow and thrive. The Y is committed to support the community through the ‘Togetherhood’ initiative. The Y has established a Social Responsibility Service Committee to identify community needs and lead projects that help other members give back and support their neighbors.
"It is important to identify and address needs in our society by developing community-based solutions,” said Dan McCauley, volunteer Chair of the Y’s Social Responsibility Committee. “The Togetherhood program unites members of our community to participate in positive social change and make an impact on peoples’ lives. The Y facilitates this effort as a nucleus for social responsibility and by providing a framework that allows volunteers to act on ideas."
The Y’s Social Responsibility Committee is led by dedicated Y volunteers, including Dan McCauley, Committee Chair, Gail Granowitz, Richard Fiander, Lis Staehle, Bobbie Davit, Andi Williams, all of Basking Ridge, Amrita Minhas of Mendham, Kate Russo of Branchburg, and Sylvia Velez of Raritan. The committee researched multiple ideas for the Togetherhood initiative and decided on four community service projects for 2014, which include:
Caring for Our Veterans (March 26) – To provide social interaction for veterans who live in Valley Brook Village, new housing located on the VA grounds. Engage with the veterans in activities that improve their quality of life.
Hurricane Sandy Relief (April 19) - To provide assistance with home improvements to those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Two years after the devastating hurricane, many homes remain uninhabitable and the homeowners have very little in the way of resources.
Giving Garden (Date to be announced) – To provide opportunities for Y members to engage with other community members, including a master gardener, while gaining skills and knowledge on growing healthy food. Volunteers will participate in maintaining the Y’s Giving Garden, harvesting the produce and delivering produce to those in need within our community.
Senior Outreach (Date to be announced) – To provide assistance to seniors in our community who often face challenges ranging from transportation, communication, coordination of events, and isolation. A task force will gather information to identify ways to help address the needs of seniors.
For more information on how to get involved, please contact Sylvia Velez at 908 766 7898 x530 or visit www.somersthillsymca.org and click on the VOLUNTEER button.