Volunteer Group's 37-Year Run Comes to an End

"Starfish" has been helping senior citizens in River Dell for almost 40 years, but recently had to disband due to a lack of volunteers

For close to four decades, a group of volunteers spanning the many River Dell houses of worship came together donating their time by driving senior citizens to their doctor appointments. On what would have been the groups 37th anniversary, word spread among the volunteers that Starfish would disband at the beginning of February due to a decline in volunteers.

Starfish, which combines the Jewish star and Christian fish, was organized by a steering committee of residents that are now in their 70's to offer residents a way to help their older neighbors get around town.  

"We are definitely going to stop operation," steering committee member Ginny Baird said. "We really don't want to but we can't continue. I think the time as come, we've run our course. We've been doing this for 37 years and it's difficult to find volunteers."

In the past senior citizens would call a central Starfish number stating when they would need a ride. From there a volunteer dispatcher would go through a volunteer list and see who would be available to help out on a specific day. 

"When you volunteer to drive you give Starfish your name and general availability," 10-year volunteer Mary Kay Buckley said. "If you could help that day great. There is no structured commitment which might make it harder for the dispatcher person but it made it more attractive to the volunteer."

Along with the lack of volunteers, the remaining steering committee numbers have also dwindled due to age, illness or members moving out of town to be closer to their own children.

"The seniors are so appreciative," Buckley said. "During bad weather you would go into their driveway and help them into the car or back into the house."

According to Buckley, without Starfish in place senior residents in Oradell and River Edge may have to rely on each borough's senior bus more.

The Oradell bus only runs on Mondays (shopping) and Thursdays (doctor's appointments) and requires 48-hours notice by calling 201-265-4192 to be added to the list. 

River Edge, which only has one senior bus following poor maintenance to the additional bus, runs throughout the week as needed by calling 201-599-6287.

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Eileen Felske February 08, 2013 at 01:33 PM
This is a shame - such a service is a great help to the seniors. Has there been any overtures to surrounding areas to see if there are people willing to help? Maybe the entire project could expand. For example, I live in Bergenfield but would be willing to help out. Eileen from Bergenfield
Brian February 08, 2013 at 02:16 PM
In this day in age (with the proliferation of social media) I would think that it would be easier than ever to find volunteers. Before giving up hope completely, I would suggest that Starfish reach out to Marketing firms in the area that may be interested in taking on pro-bono work - with the intent of getting the word out on this fine program.


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