Born: Brooklyn, NY
Current residence: Manhattan
Volunteer: Helpline since 1994; It was then referred to as the "Hotline"
What was your situation like prior to volunteering at GMHC? I was working full-time as a teacher at Kings Borough Community College. I taught early childhood education. At the time, my son was working at GMHC and mentioned the “Hotline as a possibility to volunteer.
What were you seeking for as a volunteer? I was seeking a place where I can contribute and since I knew a lot about HIV/AIDS …I knew many children living with HIV and there was much rejection in those days and I wanted to make a difference.
How was the Hotline training for you? The training was thorough and I felt amazed by the participants who were extraordinary in their vocation and dedication to serve. The trainers were inspiring and there was so much information to absorb.
Can you share about a call that personally touched and moved you? Generally, it was when teens called from other areas outside of New York. It felt like a secretive call and I can sense they were frightened. Oftentimes, they had not come out to their parents. I also received several suicide calls that were jarring but with the support of the Hotline supervisor I was able to shift the callers’ experience.
What are some of the other services that you provided as a GMHC volunteer? I also participated in the A-Team, which was an individualized service to people in crisis. I would meet people face-to-face, assess their needs and respond to their questions. They sometimes came in with their partner who, for the most part, was serodiscordant and I would counsel both individuals. It was always fulfilling to see that a couple share their anxieties and concerns to each other and lovingly compromise and leave peacefully together.
Can you tell us what changes, if any, occurred in those days in comparison to today? The philosophy has changed over time and since we no longer provide advice; we are mostly providing information today. We now ask more demographic questions to satisfy funding requests. I am very committed to the cause and will continue to provide my best to support and make a difference for any caller.
What do you do in your spare time? I retired from the University and now take courses at NYU in literature. I am a proud member of Grandmothers Against the War since I have been in the peace movement for over 65 years. I attend various political protests in Washington, DC and sometimes in Albany taking a stand for our right for peace with various politicians. I enjoy consulting on children education issues. I have three grandchildren and try to share my advocacy spirit with them. I love to read while listening to jazz, especially to John Coltrane.