RSVP Voices: Eleanor’s story

Eleanor Rainford has been an RSVP ACES volunteer for twenty-five years. Each week, the 85-year-old former teacher makes her way to Manhattan’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital to help low-income, elderly, and disabled New Yorkers access the benefits they need. “I’ve always been interested in helping someone through a tough spot,” she says.

Stepping in When it Matters Most

Asked if the need for ACES has changed over the years, she says:  “Helping clients so they don’t feel alone and helpless is more important today than ever before. Just helping someone fill out a form at the right time can make all the difference. Many people don’t know about programs that can help them, and they're embarrassed to ask.”

Of volunteering in the neighborhood where she’s lived for decades, Eleanor says, “There is great diversity in Washington Heights, and need for our services.  I can help those I meet with, and others who are referred through word of mouth.”

'You Never Stop Learning'

“As a volunteer, you develop friendly relationships and learn from the people you help,” says Eleanor. “You think, ‘Could I deal with what these people are dealing with?’” 

What makes volunteering a great experience?  “For me it’s seeing people as individuals. Many people are just overcome, but one person short on food is not the same as another person short on food.  Like in a good book, every character is unique. You never know who’s going to walk through that door, or be on that call.  And it’s great when clients see, ‘Yes, I can deal with this!’ 

My oldest grandson saw the NY Times article about my work with ACES. He was very impressed! My family says, ‘She’s never home.'’'

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