LIVINGSTON, NJ — Livingston resident Jeanne Silberman, her father and her daughter have recently enlisted more than a dozen volunteers to assist hundreds of senior citizens and others in need obtain appointments for a COVID-19 vaccination, such as teachers and other frontline workers who are busy during the ideal times to secure a slot.
After Jeanne’s parents, Walter and Dorothy Joyce, “struggled with the computerized registration to get appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine” in January, Jeanne said she and her father quickly realized that many other seniors were likely having the same troubles and felt immediately determined to find a way to help.
“Most seniors mistakenly believed they had registered with the state and would be called with an appointment,” said Jeanne, whose family has lived in Livingston for nearly 60 years and was able to launch a comprehensive plan to give back to the community.
Wanting to help as many people as possible, the three-generational team of Jeanne, Walter and Jeanne’s teenage daughter Natalie—a junior at Livingston High School—contacted Liliana Branquinho, Program Supervisor for Senior and Adult Enrichment and Special Events for the Township of Livingston, for help placing ads through the township urging seniors to reach out and volunteers to join in their efforts.
Walter was also able to reach out to seniors in the organizations where he is an active member, such as the Old Guard, AARP and VFW, while Natalie utilized her technological skills to input the seniors’ information into an Excel spreadsheet and to create an instructional video to help residents secure time slots on their own. (The full video can be seen at the end of this article.)
As the number of seniors calling for assistance quickly grew, so did the number of volunteers willing to contribute. In addition to the Silberman family, the group of volunteers currently consists of Livingston residents Greer Gelman, Stefanie Lichstein, Geri Giller, Karen Scott, Jamie Zales, Felice Kay, Jamie Tave, Dave Tave, Shari Bookbinder, Liz Conklin, Stacy Wayne and Barbara Warter.
“Although this started as a family affair—father, daughter, granddaughter—without our volunteers, we would not have been able to do it,” said Silberman. “We cannot say enough about each of these dedicated Livingston residents who have selflessly given up their time to help others. They are busy Livingston parents who make the time to give back because that is what our community does. Each of them has made such a difference, and we are so grateful to have their support. They represent the best of Livingston.”
Jeanne explained that the group provides “concierge-level appointments” by following up with the seniors before and after vaccines and printing and delivering registration material to their homes, as most do not have printers.
If necessary, the group also helps to arrange transportation through the township for those who need help getting to their appointments. She noted that her seventh grade son, Jack, even shoveled out one senior’s driveway in February to ensure that the township’s senior van was able to pick her up on the day of her appointment.
“We have helped well over 200 seniors make actual appointments, countless others by just walking them through the process and sending them texts when appointments become available, and most recently have helped Livingston Public Schools by making over 200 appointments for teachers and staff before the county made them readily available,” she said.
Jeanne also noted that those who have utilized the group’s services have expressed sincere gratitude over the last three months.
“The seniors write us handwritten thank you notes,” she said. “They call on the phone and cry of happiness. They’ve nicknamed us ‘Walter’s Angels’ at the adult living community of Cedar Street Commons. I have even received flowers and homemade cookies.”
Thanks to Natalie’s video, Jeanne said the family’s efforts have recently spread well beyond those who have used their direct assistance to secure appointments. As an aspiring broadcast journalist, Natalie also gained experience by producing the video, which provides step-by-step instructions for navigating the county’s registration pages, complete with useful visuals and tips.
The video has since been distributed to all Livingston Public Schools faculty members, posted on the township website and shared on the Essex County Facebook page and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo’s Twitter.
In addition to her own involvement in Cycle for Survival, Jeanne stated that her father is heavily active in the senior community and has been named Livingston UNICO Citizen of the Year, and Natalie is currently a member of the new United Way club at Livingston High School. Her daughter also participates in a number of other community service projects, such as recently distributing hundreds of holiday cards for local senior citizens, conducting a food drive and making face masks for charity.
For help obtaining an appointment, call 973-535-7225 ext. 8 or visit www.essexcovid.org and follow the instructions provided in Natalie’s video below.
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