Connecting the Dots for New Yorkers in Need

Twice a week, Mei Li C. heads to the Queens Public Library to help community residents access the public benefits and services they need.

As a volunteer with the RSVP Advocacy, Counseling and Entitlement Services (ACES) Project, Mei Li provides services at the library through the Chinese Community Center of Flushing—an ACES partner site.

Following a successful career in the fashion industry, Mei Li was searching for meaningful volunteer opportunities. An ACES flyer spurred her interest, and she soon embarked on the rigorous 14-session ACES training to become a volunteer public benefits counselor. “I live in Flushing and visit the library almost every day,” she says. “I was glad for the chance to help people there.  And ACES gave me the opportunity to learn all about public benefits—that’s good for me too!”

Since starting in July, Mei Li has helped more than 50 people a month through the benefits application process. “Many people in the community don’t understand English, or have any idea about how to apply for benefits that they are eligible for. They may receive a letter or form in the mail that they can’t read, and panic.”

In addition to English, Mei Li speaks Chinese (Mandarin & Taiwanese). “I answer whatever questions people have, or just read English-language letters and forms for them.  They do appreciate that!”

For The Chinese Community Center of Flushing, partnering with ACES has enhanced their ability to serve adults, children, and families in the community. 

For Mei Li, volunteering is one way—along with photography and visual art—that she continues to share her skills, creativity, and desire to give back.  

Seated at a table recently in the foyer of the Queens Library, Mei Li met with a steady stream of people: “It’s always very busy, and I’m glad about that!  People feel so relieved when I can help them solve a problem. That’s my happiest moment.”

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