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Whatever the Weather

Rachel Bachrach

Does anyone remember it ever being so cold? While Northeasterners are used to snowy winters, subzero temperatures have made even those who are fearless about battling the elements into housebound hermits. Others have no choice — they brave the cold so you can stay warm.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

They’re usually there to boost your car or help with lockouts, but this week, Chaverim of Queens’s calls have been all about — well, there’s no way to categorize.

“It’s funny, this weather brings out needs that aren’t related to typical Chaverim matters, to roadside assistance,” says Avigdor Cyperstein, cofounder of the six-year-old organization. “I don’t want to say people are calling in desperation, but bottom line is they need something and they don’t want to go out. So they call and ask, ‘Is there a volunteer available to pick up my relative from the airport? To go shopping for me?’ I tell the guys as long as it’s legal and you’re available and happy to assist, go ahead. So the person gets a call back, ‘I’m onMain Street, what can I get for you?’”

Avigdor shares a few of the numerous text-messaged incident reports from other volunteers this week:

• Q71 went to a car breakdown. Was unable to fix mechanical issue. Drove family with newborn toOyster Bay.

• Old lady unable to lower her bed and get in due to power outage. Called Hatzolah — they contacted Chaverim dispatcher and units went out to assist.

• Call I took was a child locked in car. Got in in about 1 min, but child was diaphoretic and lethargic from 20-30 min in car prior. Being a Hatzolah member as well, called for Hatzolah-ALS backup. Child evaluated and seen by MD.

One request even had 28-year-old Cyperstein donning his own professional hat. “A woman called the other day, she wanted to know where she could get a home care aide for her relative. Happens to be, I work in home care!”

Of course, there’s been an increase in weather-related calls — dead car batteries and vehicles stuck on ice, for instance — and Avigdor prepped his team of more than 50 volunteers accordingly, emphasizing that now it’s more important than ever to always carry equipment and respond quickly. There’s bad weather coming. If you’re available, don’t wait to see if someone else will get it — jump on it, he wrote in an internal memo. “When people are stuck in this weather, they’re frantic — you can hear it in the call. The tone of voice is different when someone’s outside and freezing.”

Chaverim members also know there are psychological implications. “If it’s safe, then go out — the community looks for you,” Avigdor told his group. “Not to compare us to Hatzolah — they save lives — but Hatzolah is there no matter what, and as much as possible, Chaverim should be, too.”


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