BY BARRY WARNER
People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For Frandy and Elena Osias, it offered a chance to give something back to the community or to make a difference to the people around them. For others, it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build existing experience and knowledge.
Frandy and Elena Osias told the Rockland County Times they each started to volunteer through Dominican College during spring break, for Frandy in 2009 and Elena in 2012, which is when the now-married couple met. From there the couple volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Alabama and in 2013 in Maryland, assisting in rebuilding homes of low-income families or those who suffered from natural disasters. “We helped with framing and painting, and we met the homeowners who were going to get the home. Baltimore was more about poverty-stricken areas. There was a group of row homes that were foreclosed. Habitat went in, bought the property and rebuilt them for those in need. We helped frame and learned what a 2-by-4 was and how to use a nail-gun. After one of the homes was rebuilt, we came back to a special ceremony when a family moved in,” Frandy said.
Dominican College Director of Community Engagement Melissa Leigh Grau said, “Frandy and Elena Osias met on Alternative Spring Break while traveling with the college and working with Habitat for Humanity. From that moment, and even before, they have lived their life in service. Frandy was extremely involved on campus as an RA, in service opportunities, he was awarded with the Ana Rojas award, among many others recognitions. Elena has always stayed connected to the college, and has connected with the Community Engagement Department to develop new volunteer opportunities for current students when she worked with Volunteer NY, one of a few Non-profits she has worked for. We are proud of the Alumni love story as it continues to add new chapters.”
A decent home provides the strength, stability and independence that families need and Habitat for Humanity’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Habitat homeowners pay an affordable mortgage, receive financial education and help build homes alongside volunteers.
“Five years after graduation, we went on our own Midnight Run to give food and clothing to people in New York City experiencing homelessness. You get a group of volunteers together, make soup, sandwiches, snacks, drinks, and gather gently used warm weather clothing. You put it all together in a couple of vans with about 10 people and go into New York City. At designated spots, we gave out food and clothes to people who were homeless.”
Midnight Run is a volunteer organization dedicated to finding common ground between the housed and the homeless. It coordinates over 1,000 relief missions each year in which volunteers from schools and other civic groups distribute food, clothing, blankets and other personal care items for the homeless poor on the streets of New York City. The late-night and morning breakfast relief efforts create a forum for trust, sharing and understanding. The human exchange is the essence the Midnight Run mission, not a solution to homelessness.
Frandy indicated his personal story. “I grew up in a lower-middle class home and my mother was a single mother of two children,” he said. “Seeing her struggles with getting us food and clothing resonated with me, so when we did Midnight Runs, it was like me giving back. It helped to see smiles on everybody’s faces. It wasn’t much that I was giving, but everybody was very appreciative. So it was giving them their first smile and first meal for some. That’s what fueled me to keep doing that. I wanted to pay it forward and be a chain in that effort. I also went to People to People to participate in Project Joy! to bag the gifts. When I was young, I wrote letters to get gifts from those who donated, so being there and donating time really resonated with me and I wanted to make sure I did my part.”
People to People’s Project Joy! provides donors with the opportunity to ‘adopt-a-family’ for the holidays and purchase toys from children’s wish lists. Last year, almost 900 families had gift-filled holidays thanks to many individuals, groups and corporations that participated.
“We started with Meals on Wheels about five years ago,” Frandy said. “ We are called holiday drivers who take routes for the regular drivers who take off from work. It takes about an hour to do 10 stops to homebound seniors who are not able to go out in the harsh weather because of their physical limitations. We brought them their meals and they were very appreciative. There is a hot meal of rice, vegetable, beef and chicken and a cold meal of a sandwich, milk, apple juice or cranberry juice.”
The Meals on Wheels mission statement is to enhance the wellness of Rockland’s older adults and their families by providing services that support their safety, independence and health. The home-delivered meals are intended for older adults who are considered homebound due to illness or disability and who are food insecure due to limitations in their abilities to obtain and prepare food on a daily basis. In addition to providing nutritious, tasty meals, the Meals on Wheels program offers an opportunity for social interaction with volunteers and gives its clients and their families a sense of security that someone is checking on them regularly.
“For the past three years, we have participated at Soup Angels in Nyack, which is a restaurant-style soup kitchen. Volunteers prepare meals Mondays and Wednesdays and the kitchen is open to anyone who needs a meal. They have tables set up nicely with tablecloths, candles, silverware and servers. We bring the meals to the guests like they are in a restaurant. Every sit-down was something different and fresh. It makes them feel comfortable and gives them a nice place to have a hot meal. Our team that we were on went to help every six weeks. It was a great time. Any time we volunteer there gives us a good feeling.”
Soup Angels is a nonprofit organization, housed in the First Reformed church of Nyack, with a focused goal of helping the less fortunate in the Rockland community. It provides a safe, clean uplifting environment for guests in need of food and fellowship. The nonprofit provides assistance to anyone who walks through its doors, no questions, no paperwork and no fear of embarrassment. The soup kitchen relies on the generosity of individuals and businesses for support.
“This year, we are going to Dominican College as Ambassadors, which is the assigned site for the MLK Day of Service. The volunteers are making laundry care packages and care cards for low-income families. The staff at Volunteer New York! will be distributing them. We are happy that we can still offer to help with the schedules we have now.”
The core mission of Volunteer New York! is to inspire, mobilize and equip individuals to take positive action to address pressing challenges, support nonprofits and improve the quality of life in Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties.
“I volunteer because it makes me happy,” Elena concluded. “I feel joy with any project that I do, that I have had a little impact on someone’s life and I was able to make someone’s day. I was incredibly blessed in my life and everyone has the responsibility to give back and improve the lives of people in their community.”