Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Helping to connect people locally, nationally, and internationally
While obtaining her BA in social work from the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Jennifer was especially drawn to social work that had an international aspect. She also connected with former servicemen when she worked in a nursing home for veterans. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in 2007, Jennifer married and moved to New York with her husband, who is a firefighter in the Bronx and a veteran who served in Iraq in 2006. She took a job with the NY Red Cross that same year.
Calls to the NY Chapter that involve emergencies in the families of persons serving in the U.S. military are handled by the Chapter’s Service to Armed Forces program. Jennifer and her staff of 20 volunteers routes calls from families needing urgently to communicate with overseas service members, arrange emergency financial aid for families who need to cover travel costs to visit a wounded family member or attend a funeral, and provide community support at local VA hospitals and at West Point’s Keller Hospital and Warrior Transition unit. They also participate in deployment briefings and family days, and partner with the Disaster Mental Health staff to offer the Chapter’s new course, “Psychological First Aid: Coping with Deployment.”
Most of the cases handled by the Restoring Family Links program at the NY Chapter which Jennifer oversees—about 25 each month—involve helping people seeking documentation about relatives lost in the Holocaust. She and her staff of eight volunteers and one employee help the family complete a “page of testimony” about their relatives that is then filed at the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem.
After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, Jennifer coordinated the instruction of volunteers at the Brooklyn Armory on how to enter inquiries into the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Web site database in order to establish contact between Haitians living in New York and their relatives in Haiti.
Jennifer also manages a group of 12 NY Red Cross volunteers who are part of the Chapter’s Telephone Reassurance Program. These volunteers reach out to some 65 homebound seniors by phone once a week in an effort to relieve their isolation. She has one volunteer who has been phoning some of the same people for 16 years!
Jennifer loves working to connect and reconnect people whether it’s here in New York, nationally or internationally. “For me it’s being a listener that is so important, hearing a person’s story so that they can begin the healing process or get closure,” she says.
Jennifer Baker, Monroe, NY