Submitted by Aliyah De Jesus ’21, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School
This past summer, I was lucky to have had the opportunity to work as an intern for the Abraham House in Utica. Abraham House is a non-profit comfort home serving the Herkimer, Oneida, and Madison counties of NY by providing a safe, loving home for terminally ill guests and their families for as little as a few days to as long as three months. With the core values of compassion, dignity, and respect present in everything Abraham House does, it strives to deliver the end-of-life care and support its guests need 24/7. Because humanity is at the heart of its mission, Abraham House does not charge for services or receive insurance reimbursement, relying solely on volunteers, donations, community grants, and fundraising.
Relying heavily on the local community in its work, Abraham House turns to individuals, families, and local businesses to find volunteers, collect donations, and raise funds. However, Abraham House must first overcome the formidable barrier posed by a general lack of knowledge concerning end-of-life care. It is through partnerships with local establishments that Abraham House is able to maximize its presence and reach community individuals, families, and businesses. This in turn works to educate the public on end-of-life care and increase awareness that Abraham House exists as a viable option for the terminally ill. With a much larger audience, Abraham House can then appeal to the hearts of individuals, families, and local businesses to attract the volunteers, collect the donations, and raise the funds it needs.
My project focused mainly on building partnerships with local businesses, restaurants, churches, attractions, grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores within the Madison, Herkimer, and Oneida counties. Serving as a point of contact, I reached out to local establishments to speak with them about housing Abraham House donation boxes. In addition, I contacted businesses and attractions throughout NY (NYC, Utica, Lake Placid, Rome, Lake George, Saratoga Springs, etc.) for raffle and auction items for the golf tournament and gala fundraisers. I also solicited fundraiser sponsorships from local businesses, emphasizing those in Utica and Rome (the communities of Abraham House’s two facilities). Additionally, I reached out to local churches to discuss features within their bulletins. Furthermore, I worked volunteer days where community members and businesses helped to prepare the new facility in Rome, NY for its opening. Finally, I spent a day on-site at the local Chantary’s Hometown Market greeting and asking customers to donate items or money. These mutually beneficial partnerships allow the partner to give back to an important cause while Abraham House is able to tap into their partners’ customers to widen its own pool of potential volunteers, donors, and fundraiser attendees. Aside from working with local partners, I also utilized digital and social media platforms to boost community awareness. For example, I created and maintained a Facebook page for The Bird’s Nest Vintage Boutique (Abraham House’s thrift store), created postings on Facebook Marketplace for store items, and helped manage the Abraham House Facebook page. Moreover, I also contributed writing to the seasonal newsletter.
As a molecular biology and women’s studies double major on a pre-med track, this project has been a valuable opportunity for me to gain exposure into the administrative side of healthcare I had not previously been exposed to. This perfectly complements the experiences I had shadowing physicians, helping me gain a more holistic view of healthcare and reinforcing my decision to pursue a career in medicine. Additionally, Abraham House’s fully female three-member office team fed my passion for female empowerment and interest in women’s studies as well as inspired me daily. Though I was initially drawn to this project for its focus on helping others, its promise to help me develop my communication and interpersonal skills, and its assurance to challenge my ability to be both self-directed and collaborative, it has far surpassed my expectations. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to not only develop my intellectual and professional interests, but to also leave behind a positive and meaningful contribution to the larger community.