You can help struggling children and families become successful and productive citizens at the 180-acre campus of The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry. Founded in 1851, the charity provides short-term residential programs and support for more than 1,000 children. The facility includes 12 residential cottages, a public school, a medical clinic, and a recreation center – and volunteers are at the heart of the group’s mentoring and community programs.
“It definitely has changed over the years,” says Director of Volunteers Amy DelliPaoli. “We’ve gone from more of a campus focus to really going into the community.”
The organization attracts roughly 500 volunteers each year to such programs as the Adopt-a-Cottage Program, in which a group of individuals, including members of corporate and religious groups, is assigned to a residential cottage and come in once a month to run activities for the residents. There are also one-on-one youth mentoring programs; a literacy program, in which volunteers can come in and read to cottage residents; and various volunteer committees overseeing special events and donations.
High school students help with school-based mentoring on Tuesday afternoons, retired teachers assist with the reading programs, and publishing execs volunteer as writing tutors.
Volunteer Lauren Blum, 55, of Hastings-on-Hudson, started out as a cottage librarian at the Dobbs Ferry campus 15 years ago. “I got to know the boys by bringing books that I thought they would like,” she recalls. In recent years, she has become involved in the Community Advisory Council and mentors a teen on campus, meeting him once a week and on occasional weekends.
Get Started: Visit www.childrensvillage.org/get-involved/volunteer for more information. Prerequisites, time commitments, and training vary, depending on the opportunity.
Similar Ops: Consider ANDRUS in Yonkers, Abbott House in Irvington, and Family Services of Westchester, which has offices throughout the county.
Lauren Blum, 55, Hastings-on-Hudson
Lauren Blum loves the one-on-one mentoring she does at The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry. “I get recharged, working with kids and teenagers so much,” says Blum, who recently became an empty-nester.
She currently works with a 17-year-old boy who lives on campus, describing their pairing as a “good match” that allows them to help each other.
“He’s such a people person, with an incredible, warm, engaging personality,” Blum says. “We have different goals that we work on. I wanted to be healthier and like to stay in shape, so we do hiking together now.”
The mentoring program offers support with academic and life issues. Blum recently assisted the teen with some schoolwork and helped him navigate public transportation, so he could give back in his own way, working as a volunteer at the nearby Cabrini Nursing Home and visiting with his cousin.
As a nurse practitioner by day, Blum evaluates abused children – but her desire to have an even greater impact on young lives drove her to work with the residents at The Children’s Village. “The deeper, more meaningful contact with these kids is rewarding for me,” she explains.