In this month’s Lasallian Volunteers “Ministry of the Month,” The District of Eastern North America is featured. The ministry is Serviam Gardens and the Lasallian Volunteers are Jacquie Martin, 15-17 and Jaime Turrentine, 16-17. Both Jaime and Jacquie are graduates of Saint Mary’s College of California. Jacquie is the class of 2015 and Jaime is the class of 2016.
WHAT IS SERVIAM GARDENS? Serviam Gardens is a low income senior housing project in the Bronx. Serviam provides safe and affordable housing to about 300 residents who live in three buildings. Serviam Gardens is a green building featuring many environmentally friendly features. Serviam provides social services for its residents and has many community gathering spaces available to them. A 30-year old non-profit organization, Serviam Gardens is a part of Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation which manages over 100 buildings in the Northwest Bronx in an effort to provide affordable housing to low income families.
WHAT IS THE SERVICE THAT JAIME AND JACQUIE OFFER? Jacquie serves as the program coordinator. Her role consists of creating community among the residents of the building. She plans trips, events, and other activities for the residents each month. For example, she will organize yoga classes and movie nights once a week. She coordinates volunteers who want to do service hours at Serviam. “Twice a month I plan an intergenerational retreat with residents of Serviam and sophomores from Saint Raymond’s High School for Boys, a Lasallian high school in the Bronx,” said Jacquie. “I also help register our residents to vote and we provide transportation to our polling place on Election Day.”
Jaime serves an occupancy clerk. Her role is on the management side of things at Serviam. Jaime best explains her service in her own words when she says, “Every day is different, one day I could be interviewing potential tenants if we have vacancies in the buildings, I could be doing inspections in the tenants’ apartments, or keeping paperwork in order that contains information which insures that every person living at Serviam can remain a tenant there. I also help translate, we have a very large Hispanic population and many of them need assistance in Spanish.”
HOW DOES THIS MINISTRY AND THESE VOLUNTEERS BUILD COMMUNITY TOGETHER? One of the pillars of the Lasallian Volunteers program is community. For our volunteers, community is found at home with their fellow LVs and Brothers, but Jacquie and Jaime also experience a wonderful community at Serviam. Many of the residents live alone and do not have family near-by. Many times they just need someone to talk to and spend time with. They also do not get out a lot, so taking them on trips to give a change of scenery is important. Both women do their best to stop and spend a few minutes talking to residents as when they are walking by and if someone comes into the office to, they will talk to them or just listen for a while. Jacquie credits Lasallian Volunteers recruitment coordinator, Katie Christensen, LV 13-15 (who also served at Serviam Gardens) with inspiring her when she says, “Katie told me at the beginning of my first year that the residents are the reason you are doing service and they are the priority. If they are happy than you are doing your job, and I hope that I am living up to that.”
For Jaime, she sees herself creating community through language. She uses her ability to speak both English and Spanish to translate important documents for them. Jacquie and Jaime both report that the seniors constantly shower them with love. They give Jacquie and Jaime hugs and kisses on the cheek, call them their daughters, nieces and other sweet names, bring Jacquie and Jaime food to try that they’ve prepared, and give the LVs blessings for their day. “Their constant effort to show their appreciation pushes me every day to provide the same love and dedication to make their lives as full as possible,” says Jaime.
HOW DO THE BROTHERS SUPPORT THE VOLUNTEERS IN COMMUNITY? When asked how the Brothers in the Lasallian Community at Bedford Park have impacted or helped Jaime and Jacquie in their service at Serviam Gardens, they both agreed that their volunteer experience wouldn’t be as rich without the help and friendship of their Brothers Joe, Ed, Michael, and Bill. Their Brothers have had such tremendous experience working in schools and community organizations that they have great advice to give. The Brothers are extremely supportive of their volunteers. Jaime and Jacquie both remarked on taking delight in having community dinners with their Brothers. Jacquie commented that the Brother have been volunteers at Serviam for major events since 2009, so they are well known by the residents which enhances the community feel. Jaime said of the Brothers, “They are my family and one of my strongest support systems so to be around such a positive environment, and people that have dedicated their entire lives to this type of service is always a motivator and a great way to serve and live out the Lasallian mission at our site.”