Chabad-Lubavitch of the Upper East Side recently established a program to assist homebound Holocaust survivors in their neighborhood by pairing them with volunteers. The organization dubbed the initiative iVolunteer.

Rabbi Tzvi Tauby, co-director with wife Sheva Tauby of iVolunteer, explained that as Holocaust survivors get older, they increasingly face the prospect of needing home-bound care. On the Upper East Side, for example, there's a "critical need" for companionship, he said.

The program's name defines its unique mission: bringing caring neighborhood volunteers to the homes of frail Holocaust survivors. During their weekly visits, volunteers may read to survivors, escort them to doctors' appointments and assist with shopping and light household tasks. The goal is to create a sense of community by providing both survivors and volunteers with social events and special programs, including monthly Friday-night dinners for the volunteers and luncheons for the survivors.

Volunteers come from all walks of life. Many of them are professionals who want to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors. Others are local high-school and college students who are excited by the chance to reach across the generations and establish a unique friendship with homebound seniors. All volunteers are screened and trained before starting their home visits.

In particular, they are taught how to identify a client's other social service needs so that iVolunteer can bring in a caseworker to help meet the senior's needs when necessary.

Volunteers communicate regularly with the program staff, who ensure that every senior, and every volunteer, is benefiting from the relationship. Sheva Tauby also makes an initial visit to each senior's home in order to assess his or her needs and concerns.

"When I visit with a survivor, I feel so privileged to be able to get to know such unbelievable people and hope to assist them in any way I can," she said. "When I speak with volunteers, they often say that they got a lot more than they gave."

One volunteer, Sarah Anderson described her feelings in detail: "It is so inspiring to spend time with Holocaust survivors. They have a wealth of wisdom and knowledge to share, and have such a unique view of life's challenges.