Senior Queens residents couldn’t be happier with the assistance they have been receiving from the teenagers affiliated with a program called Natural Occurring Retirement Community Without Walls.
The program is the first national attempt to recreate the NORC model of providing services to seniors who need assistance in living in their homes.
Originally serving seniors in apartment buildings, NORC-WOW is focusing on providing services to single-family homes in Floral Park, New Hyde Park and Bellerose.
Ruth Manson, who has lived at the same location for over 30 years, said that although her yard is not very big, she still needed help with the upkeep.
Having learned about the NORC-WOW program through a flier in her mailbox, she contacted program coordinator Marge Fiedler who then put her in touch with 14-year-old Moses Masaaci.
“He's a godsend,” said Manson.of Masaaci. She said that due to the small size of her property, regular lawn contractors told her that it was not worth their time and have declined her repeated requests to maintain the lawn. “It still has to be mowed. I can't do it,” she said.
Masaaci, who currently attends the Irwin Altman Middle School in Floral Park, learned about the program from his school’s counselor, Alex Pinero.
“At first we had to do shoveling in the winter and then they told me about the spring program doing yardwork,” he said adding that his activities included mowing the lawn and pulling out any of the weeds in the garden. “It makes me feel good to help somebody with any little thing I could do.”
Offered to teens from age 14 through 17 Yvonne Gelbord, the program’s director, said that with a minimum of two hours, the teens, most of whom come from the BEACON program, can earn $7 per hour for yardwork and $10 per house for snow shoveling.
The students were each assigned 5 homes for moderate snow removal and it took approximately 15 to 20 minutes to do each house.
Social worker Darlene Dindial said the program, which is approximately 18 months old, had 65 seniors requesting the snow shoveling service but only 36 were actually served because of a shortage of teens in the program.
However, the number of participants is increasing. The program is a nice way to get teens and seniors together. “It’s bringing the community together again,” she said.
Dindial and Gelbord said that one of the goals is to get the word out about the program and that they wanted to create a community that gives seniors the power to maintain their independence.
Manson, standing with Masaaci in front of her home, said that she has gotten to know the young man very well since he started keeping her lawn in May. “I was thrilled, I just knew he was an excellent worker.”
NORC-WOW currently has services including health care, social services and community activities programs. Partners in the non-profit program include the Samuel Field YM and YWHA, SNAP and the North Shore/Long Island Jewish Health Care System. Seniors interested in more information may call 718-225-6750, extensions 238 or 257.