March 2019 – Russell Elliott

Several years ago, as Philadelphia resident Russell Elliott was nearing retirement from his career as a medical social worker, he decided to enroll in Spanish lessons at a local language school. As it turned out, one of Russell’s classmates was Susan Post, Esperanza’s executive director. Russell hadn’t heard of Esperanza before, and he was intrigued to learn about it and the North Philadelphia community from speaking with Susan.

Russell had also started to think about potential opportunities to volunteer. He decided to visit Esperanza’s website one day, and noticed the site’s page on volunteering. Says Russell: “When I read about volunteering at Esperanza, I told myself, ‘I don’t know whether this is a coincidence, but I wonder whether I’m being led in a certain direction?'” In 2014, Russell began to volunteer regularly at Esperanza, coming in two days each week, and since then he’s served in many different ways, always willing to help wherever he’s needed—whether it’s data entry, filing records, volunteering with Esperanza’s “Young at Heart” Seniors program, processing mailings, or interviewing patients for the annual patient satisfaction survey. Says Russell: “The patients were very, very patient with my terrible Spanish, but we managed to stumble through together!” Russell notes that volunteering at Esperanza has encouraged him to become more involved in serving with local outreach ministries at his church.

Every Tuesday morning, when the Young at Heart group gathers at our Hunting Park site, Russell plays a key role in coordinating each meeting. Not long ago, Esperanza’s chaplain, Rev. Andres Fajardo asked Russell if he could interview a member of the group who was dying of cancer, so that she could pass down her life story to her family. For several weeks, she and Russell met regularly in Esperanza’s prayer room, and Russell transcribed each day’s meeting. Eventually, the interviews turned into about 40 pages of material! It was a real blessing for him to have had the opportunity to help share her story. “Volunteering at Esperanza is a gift to me. I come here twice a week, and I get swept up in the energy…there’s a lot of positive energy around here,” says Russell. “Anything that I can do to help brings me great satisfaction, because it’s a real privilege to serve at Esperanza!”