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Creating the Good in Central Harlem

Carnetta Clark, president of AARP’s Upper Manhattan–Central Harlem Chapter, Number 5393, remembers the chapter’s first meeting—only four years ago—on Nov. 26, 2005: “We met in the Fredrick Samuels Apartments on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, and about 75 people showed up. Since then, we’ve doubled in size and have become one of AARP New York State’s most active chapters,” she reported. Clearly, the group motivates and gives meaning to its members. After just a few years of existence, the chapter has grown to almost 150 members.

Chapter member George Williams explains how this group has attracted members: “We offer an opportunity to make a difference right where we live,” he said. Ever since AARP’s first chapter was incorporated in 1960, giving back has been a key reason for AARP members to join chapters in their neighborhoods and communities.

One exciting program launched by the Harlem group and cosponsored by Older Adults Technology teaches people computer skills, such as sending photos over e-mail to grandkids, searching the Internet, shopping, and paying bills on the Internet. The classes use donated computers, and the training is free for chapter members. Since the course was offered in April 2007, there have been more than 100 graduates.

As Clark related, members of the Harlem chapter embody AARP’s spirit of service. “For example,” said Williams, “our members donate clothes to shelters, host annual Mother’s Day and Father’s Day luncheons, offer free food to the community on Family Day, and donate hundreds of toys to children through ‘Toys for Tots.’”

“For the AARP Day of Service in 2007,” Williams recalled, “our chapter provided food for 150 neighborhood police officers and entertained the residents of a local nursing home.”

Chapter #5393 also supports AARP’s work at the state and national levels. One member, Carolyn Kane, remarked, “Our chapter members are also a constant presence at AARP–New York events, and we help get AARP’s message across in legislative hearings, at street fairs, and during local parades. We educated our community about AARP’s Divided We Fail and collected about 2,000 signed pledges by people supporting AARP’s goal of helping people get health and long-term financial security.”
AARP-New York state director, Lois Aronstein, praises the many chapter members who woke up very early one morning to stand outside the studio of the CBS “Early Show”: “Carnetta got interviewed on live TV and delivered our message perfectly,” Aronstein said.

So in the 50-year tradition of AARP chapters giving back to their communities, AARP’s Upper Manhattan-Central Harlem Chapter #5393 truly lives AARP’s motto: “To serve, not to be served.”