Chaverim of Queens celebrated its “bar mitzvah” this past Thursday at the Annual Queens Chaverim Appreciation Dinner. Now with over 100 active volunteers, Chaverim continues to be a vital source for non-medical emergency situations throughout literally all areas of Queens, as well as Great Neck.
The festivities, held in an elegant outdoor setting due to the lingering pandemic, gave an opportunity for members to interact, rejoice, and pay tribute for their dedication. At the start of the pandemic, a new division of Chaverim was launched for those in quarantine. “Our organization pivoted during COVID to help people stuck in their homes,” said Avi Cyperstein, co-founder of Chaverim of Queens, and a City Council candidate for district 29. “Forty additional members were recruited to assist in bringing food packages to those in need, especially for the elderly.”
“I am deeply impressed with this group of volunteers who are completely dedicated to help and assist their fellow Queens citizens,” offered Aaron Cyperstein, president of the group. “The perseverance that they show every day when they go out any time of the day is commendable. Nothing stops the members from doing what they do best, always with a smile.”
Chaverim of Queens, founded 13 years ago with just ten volunteers, was dedicated in memory of Jack Friedman, a”h, a local philanthropist whose legacy lives on with the patronage of his extended family, Chaim and Elisa Mermelstein, and Dr. Elie and Golda Fried. “As the devoted members soared to over 100, the number of calls doubled and tripled to between ten and 15 calls a day,” said Avi. “In turn, the technology within the organization also advanced from pagers to an app. We have come a very, very long way. With the help of Emanuel and Alex of East Coast Auto Group our app continues to function seamlessly.”
Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal said, “I would like to thank everyone for all your hard work, especially over this past year when many were caught flat-footed, unprepared to deal with the pandemic. You guys stepped up with full PPE to volunteer your services in a tremendous display of coordination. This community could not have done it without you.”
“Our members are often low-key, acting under the radar,” related Eliyahu Love, a dispatch coordinator for the group. “Without the fanfare of lights and sirens, or fancy cars, our members jump in to save someone’s day. Their work is generally not lifesaving and does not receive much recognition. A relaxed appreciation event, albeit not nearly what they deserve, is the least we can do to express our indebtedness for the commitment of the members.”
Eli Kreindler, a hands-on coordinator, took upon himself much of the preparations for the evening. This year, special efforts were undertaken to ensure a safe environment. “After a year of this treacherous pandemic, it was extremely incredible to reunite all the Chaverim members outside of their chance meetings during an active call,” said Kreindler.
Notables in attendance were Rabbi Israel Itzchakov, Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, and Rabbi Shlomo Nisanov, who have all been strong supporters of the work of the organization. To cover calls during the dinner, a dispatcher and members from other locations were brought in to assist.
Over the years, Chaverim of Queens has assisted thousands of families throughout the community, so there was no shortage of sponsors to cover the event, expressing thanks to the volunteers for their tireless dedication to serving the community. Patrons included the Friedwalk Center for Rehab and Nursing, East Coast Auto, Yaakov Portnoy from Get Peyd, Jonathan Brody, and Sam Kazarnofsky, both local askanim.
If you find yourself in need of Chaverim of Queens services, or if you would like to volunteer, call 718-441-0505. Donations can be made at www.chaverimofqueens.org/donate.
By Shabsie Saphirstein,
member, Chaverim of Queens