Three local high school students wanted to make life easier for seniors during the pandemic last year. In just eight months, they impacted the community more than they could’ve anticipated.
Back in May, Niskayuna High School student Maya Dhinesh and her friends launched a local chapter of Teens Helping Seniors, a national organization that encourages young volunteers to deliver groceries and medications to seniors and at-risk groups. And, while they’ve certainly done a lot for local seniors, they’ve made some new friends in the process.
“I think it’s really cool to get to know people that you wouldn’t have known otherwise without this pandemic,” said Dhinesh, once the regional coordinator of the operation. “It really breaks up the monotony of quarantine. Getting to know people out in the community and helping others. I think that’s really important to prioritize.”
Teens Helping Seniors NY started for Dhinesh as just an idea after she discovered the national organization from a story on CNN. She then brought that idea to two friends — Shaker High School student Rajani Nimma, now regional coordinator, and Niskayuna student Amira Salem, now head of social media and outreach — to run it by them. They were all in.
“I was excited because I remember before my grandma passed a couple years ago, she was in and out of the hospital,” Salem said. “And I was just thinking about what it would have been like for her to be in this situation. So I wanted to do as much as I could to help.”
Since May, roughly 30 seniors have taken advantage of the service, some of them much more than once. To have teens deliver their groceries, seniors send an email or call up Teens Helping Seniors, which then sets them up with a volunteer to deliver the food or medication. In the last year, the New York branch has gained more than 80 volunteers to help make deliveries and operate its social media accounts.
“I feel like there were a lot of seniors at the time that were in nursing homes, as I volunteered in a nursing home in the past, that I knew would love the service and would love to interact with young people during this time, since it would bring them so much happiness,” Dhinesh said. “I think that’s what inspired me to just reach out to the community and see if anyone needed help during this time, because I’m sure, along with grocery deliveries, they also wanted company and someone they could see regularly outside of their family.”
With school and extracurriculars taking up a lot of their time, the three students are looking for more volunteers and are hoping to expand their organization’s outreach. Dhinesh thinks there are many more seniors in the community who might need additional help. The members of Teens Helping Seniors NY are looking to reach them.
“It’s definitely something that has brought joy to all of us to be able to do,” Nimma said. “So it’s definitely something that I would recommend doing. Plus, it’s a good volunteering experience.”
As for how it feels to be able to help the community, Dhinesh has called the last eight months of community service a “gratifying” experience.
“It’s really cool to be able to help people and like get to know them better,” Dhinesh said. “There’s definitely a bond that forms” between the volunteer and the beneficiary, she said, and the students get to know the recipients better.
To get in contact with THS NY regarding services or getting involved, call (518) 320-7661 or visit its website at teenshelpingseniors.org/albany-newyork. Readers may also find the group on Instagram at @teensforseniorsny, Twitter at @ths_ny and on Facebook at @teenshelpingseniorsny.