Although the founders of the Blanche Goldberg Youth for the Elderly organization are all in college now, the West Windsor-based group of high school students continue to volunteer their time weekly to visit the residents at the Pavillion at Forrestal. The group was founded in 2001 by Andrew O’Brien, now a student at Lehigh University, and his sister, Lauren O’Brien, a student at Ithaca College, to keep their grandmother’s memory alive.##M:[more]##
“Our goal with this group is to brighten the residents’ days, and have them look forward to something that they can enjoy every weekend,” says Allison Simi. “It is hard for anyone to live away from family, in a place so different from home. So to compensate, we try to bring a little of home to them.”
“It is impressive that a group run solely by teenagers (except for transportation) has been in existence in our community for the past six years, with middle school students looking forward to joining in their high school years,” says Lorraine Davila, mother of Jason Davila, one of the original members who is now at University of Michigan.
Not only do these students volunteer their time during the school year, but some continue throughout the summer. Last summer they took photos with the residents and presented the framed images as gifts to them.
“The residents of the home look forward to the students’ visit as much as the students look forward to visiting the residents,” says Lorraine Davila. “The residents cry every week when they leave and make the students promise they will come back.”
Members of the group include West Windsor residents Marissa Davila and Dennis Cannon, both freshman at Princeton Day School, and Alex Spiegel, a freshman at High School North. High School South freshmen members include Darian Lanzetta, Erica Simi, Chris Matthews, Drew Sivertsen, Zack Donohue, and Ciara Schoenauer. High School South juniors include Allison Simi, Dinku Vadlamani, Abbey Bemis, and Beth Bemis.
“We talk to the residents one on one, and visit their rooms if they aren’t already waiting for us in the activity room when we get there,” says Simi. “We have become friends with the residents and that is what makes volunteering special and worthwhile.”