A local volunteer is using her decades of experiences as an educator to help children and families in need.
Recently retired veteran educator Elizabeth Tronconi of Morris Park started volunteering her time in September at Jacobi Medical Center’s Family Advocacy Center, which handles intake for children and families who are suffering from abusive situations.
Tronconi said that when she retired in July 2018 from the NYC Department of Education, where she was a teacher for 38 years including 26 years at P.S. 83, she wanted to volunteer at the hospital because she had a fondness for the care her family received there and because it is in walking distance.
She was paired with Jacobi’s Family Advocacy Center, where she is assigned to the waiting room where children and families in physically or sexually abusive predicaments come in to meet with doctors and social workers.
Tronconi said that she is often tasked with putting the youngsters and their parents at ease in what is usually an emotionally trying time in their lives.
Oftentimes the children may be upset as they and their parents are interviewed and physically examined. She provides comfort and a dose of kindness to children, playing games to put them at ease.
“I have absolutely no responsibility but fun – I’m in charge of fun,” said Tronconi, adding that she has to be very delicate, and if the conversation steers into anything that is therapeutic, she tells the child, teenager or adult in the waiting room to save the information for the doctor.
“People are here for a variety of situations, but it is usually a very angst-filled situation,” said Tronconi.
When parents are waiting for their children, she often offers to get them a drink of water or a snack or shows them where the bathroom is located, as well as having light-hearted conversations, she said.
“The kids are nervous and the parents are often nervous or sometimes angry or even hostile when they come to the center,” said Tronconi. “Just talking, in general, kind of releases the tension.”
Dr. Olga Jimenez, who is chairperson of the Family Advocacy Center, said that greeting families as they attend appointments at the center is challenging because they are under a lot of stress.
“They have experienced some kind of traumatic event that has affected the whole family and extended family,” Jimenez said of the people the center serves. “The abuser is usually a close friend of the family or a family member.”
Tronconi said she is getting a great sense of fulfillment from her volunteer work, and is going to encourage her friends to volunteer somewhere where they can be of service. She feels she is giving back to her local community.
She said she loves her Morris Park community because everything from shops to the Morris Park Library to Jacobi Medical Center are all within walking distance, and the community has strong community advocates in the Morris Park Community Association.
Jacobi Medical Center has 276 volunteers, according to the hospital.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Jacobi, call their volunteer department at (718) 918-4881.