Jeannette Graves

Daily Point of Light # 1347 Apr 2, 1999

Jeannette Graves has been a resident of Co-op City since 1976 and during that time she has provided the community residents with invaluable and dedicated service. She has organized and directed volunteer initiatives which have enriched the lives of the most vulnerable segment of the population—the elderly and young children. Through her programs, she has connected people of different generations, racial and ethnic groups.

For more than 25 years, Graves was employed as an account executive with Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New York. Now retired, she realizes the knowledge and expertise that other retired Blue Cross/Blue Shield representatives could offer to the senior community. She singularly organized and developed a program that reached out to senior citizen centers, identifying retired professionals to provide insurance information to members of these agencies. This program is now known as the Ambassadors Club of Blue Cross/Blue Shield and is a direct outgrowth of Graves' quest to utilize the untapped resources of the senior community.

Graves also recognized that there are hundreds of newly retired seniors who can contribute greatly to the social service community and bridge the gap in service delivery. Thus, she sought to develop volunteer opportunities for young seniors through service to frail, chronically ill elderly persons, many of whom have no family or informal support systems, are homebound and unable to meet their most basic daily needs.

In 1995, Graves assumed the role of project coordinator for the Co-Op City Interfaith Caregivers Project under the auspices of the National Faith-In-Action Movement of Volunteer Initiatives. This project is invaluable to the citizens it serves, due to the nature of Co-op City itself. The largest tenant owned housing development in the country, Co-op City is a low to moderate income community in the northeast Bronx consisting of 35 high rise buildings. Approximately 55,000 residents are in the community and the sheer physical nature of the area forces the most vulnerable and disabled elderly residents into premature isolation. They often have virtually no contact with neighbors or the outside world, except for occasional visits to the doctor's office. The Interfaith Volunteer Project was established to address the special needs of these elderly Co-op City residents.

Through the Interfaith project, Graves has reached out to help the elderly community in Co-op city with a shared vision of neighbor-helping-neighbor. She coordinates volunteer efforts between the mostly Jewish at-risk elderly and the African-American or Hispanic new residents, uniting these groups in service. Outside of her service with the Interfaith Caregivers Project, Graves developed a volunteer program that provides school based literacy volunteers to elementary schools as part of the Everybody Wins program. The volunteers read to children in kindergarten through 4th grade. In addition, she has served on the board of directors for The Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club of Co-op City and mobilized the community to engage in volunteer service on a large scale.