Frequently Asked Questions

SENIORS
What areas do you serve?
Visiting Neighbors serves seniors living in lower Manhattan south of 30th Street, from river to river. We also have a friendly visiting program that serves seniors in the Forest Hills/Rego Park community of Queens.

Is there a minimum age for seniors?
Our services are available to anyone 60+ who is mentally alert, well-oriented and who is self-directed.

How do seniors find out about you?
Visiting Neighbors receives referrals, and reaches out through community organizations and events. Our reputation as a knowledgeable community resource is well established, because we have been serving seniors since 1972.

How much do you charge?
There are no fees for our services. We are mandated to ask for a $5 donation for each shop-and-escort errand, but this is a voluntary contribution. While every dollar helps, no one is turned away because they cannot pay.

What services do you provide?
Our Manhattan program provides friendly visiting, help with errands and shopping, escorts to medical or other important appointments, health advocacy, telephone reassurance and information and referral to other services. If you have a question, we will do our best to get you an answer. Shop-and-escort assistance is not available in our Queens program, but we can refer you to other agencies that provide those services.

How long does it take to become a client?
Once you call and speak with a social worker, if you meet our criteria for service, we can usually schedule an intake interview within a month.

How often can someone visit me or help me?
In our friendly visiting program, a volunteer visits you for a few hours once a week. Some volunteers are able to visit more often. For our shop-and-escort program, in order to be able to help everyone who calls us, we ask clients needing escorts or assistance with errands to limit their requests to once a week. In case of emergency, we will consider requests for additional assistance.

How long can a volunteer stay with me? Will the volunteer wait for me at my doctor's office?
A visit by a volunteer usually lasts for an hour or two. That is up to the senior and the volunteer. Our volunteers will generally wait with you at your doctor's office and bring you home, but if a lengthy appointment is involved, we may send someone to bring you to the appointment, and someone else to bring you home.

Are the volunteers screened and trained?
Visiting Neighbors carefully screens all volunteers, interviews everyone individually, and provides intensive training and orientation to our services. Every volunteer knows that ongoing support is always available if they have a question.

What schools do the students come from?
Our intergenerational program works with more than 100 high schools and colleges throughout New York City.

Can I have the same volunteer every time?
In our friendly visiting program, the same person will visit you every week so you can develop a relationship you both will enjoy. If you need assistance with shopping or errands, or an escort to an appointment, we will send whomever is available at that time. While we will try to accommodate requests for a specific shop-and-escort volunteer that is sometimes not possible..

How do you get such wonderful volunteers?
Visiting Neighbors works hard to find dedicated volunteers who enjoy helping others. We do a lot of outreach to the community. They know they can count on our staff to answer their questions and provide support if they need it. Many of our volunteers have been with VN for years.

VOLUNTEERS

If I become a volunteer, what am I expected to do?
Volunteer visitors spend time with their seniors, enjoying shared activities that they decide together. Some seniors enjoy going outside for a walk, while others prefer staying home sharing conversation, watching TV or a movie, or playing cards. When we match a volunteer with a senior, we consider each person's preferences and interests. When we interview a volunteer, we discuss their interests, any special needs they may have, and what they are comfortable or not comfortable with. Our volunteers are here for companionship and emotional support, not to do chores in the senior's home. Volunteering should be a rewarding experience, not a tedious one.

How long a commitment do I have to make?
We do not ask for a specific commitment. Our volunteer coordinator will discuss your availability and involvement when he interviews you.

Is there a minimum age for volunteers?
Our volunteers range in age from 15 to 85. They come from all backgrounds and walks of life.

I work a 40-hour week. Can I still volunteer?
Many of our volunteers work at full-time jobs, and enjoy visiting a senior on their lunch hour, after work or on a weekend. All it takes is an hour or two a week to make a big difference in someone's life, as well as your own. The most important thing is the quality, not the quantity, of the time you spend together. We also have one-time and special project volunteer opportunities.

What should I do in an emergency?
When you become a volunteer, you will receive training about how to handle any difficulties that may arise. If you encounter an emergency, call 911. If the emergency occurs during normal business hours, call the VN office after you call 911.
If I can't visit someone on a regular basis, can I still volunteer? Do you have any one-time volunteer projects?
There are many ways you can volunteer to help our seniors. You can become an "on-call" volunteer visitor who fills in if a senior's regular volunteer visitor is on vacation or not available. You can be "on call" to help with an errand, or to escort a senior. If you have a special skill, such as graphics or writing, we can always use your help. We also need help with special projects, such as volunteer "elves" to deliver holiday gifts, or to help in the office, or with fundraising activities.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Where do you get your funding?
Visiting Neighbors gets some support from individual donors, including voluntary contributions from our clients, friends and families of clients and volunteers, from foundations and corporations. Some of our clients and donors have also left bequests for Visiting Neighbors. We also sponsor several fundraising activities each year to help cover the cost of our services. But we are always looking for new sources of support to help cover the cost of our services and would certainly welcome any suggestions.

Can you send someone to help my mother?
We ask that anyone who wants a volunteer visitor call us personally. Sometimes, a well-meaning relative, friend or neighbor thinks that a senior would like a visitor, but the senior does not actually want one, so we ask that the senior personally make the request. We want to begin a supportive relationship with a senior by empowering them, and by helping them to maintain control over their life.

I'm a social worker. Can I refer a client?
We receive referrals from many health and social service professionals. We always inform them that the senior must request our help. We will work with the referring professional to keep them informed of our involvement.