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Community Helping Hands Launches in Ossining

OSSINING, N.Y. – For three years, Ossining resident Bill Huppuch has volunteered countless hours of his time to assist Marie Leibold, a senior citizen who now lives in Briarcliff Manor.

“He’s changed my life,” Leibold said, adding that she knows exactly what she would do if Huppuch wasn’t there to assist her. “I’d be crying.”

Huppuch, who says he would never trade away any of the time the two have spent together, is a volunteer with Community Helping Hands. And until Tuesday night, Leibold was the group's only member. Community Helping Hands held its official launch at Ossining’s Landmark Diner Tuesday hoping to create hundreds of similar connections with senior citizens who want to stay in their homes, but need a little assistance doing it.

“It’s very satisfying to help someone in your community but it also benefits me too,” Huppuch said. “It makes me feel connected to my world and my community and I love it.”

In 2009, Maureen Redmond, former president of the Ossining Chamber of Commerce, and community members Laurie Sterlacci, Gloria Fried and Diane Silverman sat in on a luncheon trying to think of ways to help senior citizens in the community stay in their homes by providing assistance with friendly phone calls, visits, escorts to the doctor's office and social events. As she looked around the room at the more than 100 residents in attendance for Tuesday night’s launch, Sterlacci said she was overwhelmed.

“This is the fruition of so many years of hard work from so many people and I feel lucky to have been at that original meeting,” Sterlacci said. “This is really wonderful that we have so many who want to help out.”

Treasurer Sara Vescio said the turnout was "astronomical" and exceeded what she expected a few weeks ago.

“The turnout is absolutely beyond our expectations,” she said. “We’re getting so many people signing up becoming volunteers and members. Everybody is smiling and happy and it’s living up to everything we wanted.”

Volunteer Rita Nickle said she sees senior citizens every day who love living in Briarcliff Manor and Ossining but occasionally struggle to do it independently.

“Sometimes aging in place can mean being really isolated. Families can’t always be there to do everything for them and they don’t want to leave,” Nickle said. “I’m a senior myself so I know what a struggle it can be to ask for that help. But there are so many people in this community who can help. And it’s very heartwarming to know that the effort you are putting in is really doing good for other people.”

While Ossining and Briarcliff Manor offer several different services to assist senior citizens, Ossining Town Supervisor Susanne Donnelly said Tuesday she was thrilled that an organization is taking the lead.

“Even though we have all of these programs in the town, there is another step that needs to be taken and they’re taking it,” Donnelly said. “It’s very exciting that this is coming to fruition now because between 7,000 and 10,000 of us baby boomers are retiring every day. This is something that is going to be great for this community.”

Briarcliff Manor Mayor William Vescio said the work by members of Community Helping Hands is going to be a “tremendous asset” in both Briarcliff Manor and Ossining.  

“There is an expression that you judge a society by the way you treat its children and its elders. Children are taken care of with parenting and schools and sometimes elders are forgotten,” Vescio said. “Community Helping Hands is here to provide help. We all need help once in a while but sometimes don’t know how to ask.”

Those looking to learn more about Community Helping Hands are asked to either visit the organization’s website or call (914) 346-7773. 


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