They will move your furniture, install an air conditioner, deliver groceries or even an oxygen tank. They will tackle almost any task that doesn’t require a license. They are Helping Muscles, a five-member crew of fit and friendly seniors at Edgemont High School who get the job done for those who can’t.
Alex Lee, one of the group’s founders, came up with Helping Muscles (HM) in March of 2020, when his parents, both physicians, told him about the needs of elderly, sick patients they treated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wondered what I could do to help,” said Lee. “My friends and I are all athletes who lift weights, so I had the idea that we could put our muscles to use by doing free manual labor for older adults.”
It turned out that providing helpful services was easier than finding the seniors in the community who needed them.
“Because we were offering free help, we expected work to just come our way. But we soon realized we would have to make connections and come up with a better marketing strategy,” said Lee. So, the team launched a professional quality website and Instagram page, and the homegrown philanthropy effort was under way.
Since not all elderly adults are familiar with social media, Helping Muscles also needed to spread the word through traditional channels. They posted flyers, “everywhere we thought seniors would go,” said Lee, “including religious establishments like churches and synagogues, as well as salons and diners.”
Lee’s parents, Hyun Joon and Bernard, connected Alex to key stakeholders in the geriatric community familiar with clients who could use a hand. They included the director of marketing and outreach at The Kensington assisted living and memory care residence; a senior vice president of care operations at LeanOnWe; the director of corporate development at Premier Home Health Care Services, key associates with Aging Life Care; the Alzheimer’s Association; and other aging-in-place organizations throughout Westchester.
“Helping Muscles fits right in with us,” said Marie Johnson, director of SPRYE, a nonprofit that helps older adults age in place in their homes comfortably and safely. “The volunteer concept is the spirit and backbone of our organization. Our people provide transportation, friendly visits and small chore service to our members. Without them, many people wouldn’t get to their medical appointments.”
Helping Muscles has serviced around 15 clients so far, said Lee, including Nancy Platt, a SPRYE member, who needed help removing weeds and thorny branches from her yard. She said the students were, “a wonderful help this summer,” and recommends them to others.
HM cannot fulfill every request, Aaron Freedland, administrative director with Helping Muscles, said.
“Assisting clients would pose a challenge in situations where a professional is required, such as electrical work or moving exceptionally large objects. Repairs or other jobs that need power tools may also be out of our comfort zone. However, in those instances we do our best to connect our client with a specialist who can address their requirements.”
Helping Muscles’ participants are headed for college next year with plans to major in finance, business, communications, accounting and biology.
Freedland said the biggest misconception about helping the elderly is that they are unable to help in the process. “We have found the opposite to be true. Working with them has been collaborative and rewarding.”
Lee noted that assisting older residents is “so much more than a chore.”
“After helping and hearing the opinions and stories of many seniors, I have gained valuable perspectives on life,” he said.
Added Johnson, “I can’t say enough about those young men, and I really hope they continue to provide this very valuable service.”