Versatile Volunteer Teaches Computer skills and More

NEWBURGH – RECAP volunteer Myrthas Mascary was busy Monday morning at the agency’s Newburgh Services office: vacuuming floors, setting out coffee, packing boxes in preparation for the office’s relocation down the street, and helping early morning visitors with the resource room’s computers.

Mascary is a regular volunteer at RECAP’s Newburgh Services office. The office serves as a central resource for the City’s low-income residents. Services include nutrition and advocacy, translations, social services navigation assistance, emergency food, and employment readiness resources. The office shares space with RECAP’s Orange County Reentry program, which support the needs of individuals and their families during the transition from incarceration back into the community.

In 2015 the office’s services were expanded after the New York Department of State announced RECAP as the designated community action agency to serve the City of Newburgh. The designation connected RECAP with federal Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds to provide targeted programs and services promoting economic independence for low-income individuals and families within the City of Newburgh.

Mascary, a Newburgh resident, is outgoing and personable, and the work she does with RECAP is her first volunteer experience with an organization. Besides vacuuming and teaching visitors to use the computers, she cleans, sets up food, makes copies for staff. “People don’t know what to expect when they come here. They know what is wrong, but sometimes don’t see how to get where they need to be,” said Mascary. “People come in with all kinds of different moods, attitudes, and cultural backgrounds. Everyone has their story. Many have low self-confidence and we always have to be careful with what we say and never assume what someone is experiencing or feeling.”

She was familiar with RECAP’s office in Middletown and when she moved to Newburgh, she recognized the agency and offered to help. Every day she sees the struggles of the people the office serves. Newburgh is a diverse community and so are its problems. The office regularly sees residents facing language barriers, navigating their release from incarceration, pubic transportation issues, and bed bug infestations that can be expensive for both tenants and landlords.

“Staff go out of their way to help people get what they need,” said Mascary. “When they’re busy with paperwork, I help visitors on the computers, show them how to use the internet to search for jobs. Each day is interesting. Some people are on parole or probation and it’s good to see them working to better themselves. I help them stay positive which can be hard when you have a rap sheet or are homeless.”

Mascary observes the most common needs of visitors are food and advocacy services. The office operates an emergency food pantry and advocacy helps residents navigate situations that many of us take for granted such as how to calculate DMV fees or asking for feedback on a resume and cover letter. Mascary helps out wherever she’s needed and fills in when staff are unavailable. On volunteering, she encourages people to take the plunge, “Do it! It’s fun and rewarding. Like any job there are good days and bad days. The staff you see every day can be employment references or write letters of recommendation.”

The Newburgh Services staff are preparing to relocate the office from its current location on the 3r floor of 280 Broadway to a street level storefront at 201 Broadway. Mascary will move with them. This week she’s filling boxes with binders, office supplies, and donated suits and other work clothes available for job seekers.  Margarita Cazares, the office’s Bilingual Case Advocate, works closely with Mascary. “She calls to see if we need any help. One day last week she was here for 7 hours helping us pack,” she said. “Positivity is one of her strengths. She’s helpful with the computers and doesn’t get flustered. When there is high traffic with clients using the computer rooms, she is eager to help.  She’s always assisting  people with printing documents. For those of us who are familiar with technology printing isn’t a big deal, but when visitors struggle with that Myrthas is there to help.”

Mascary, a graduate of Port Jervis High School, grew up without television. As one of 10 children she has lots of experience caring for family members and enjoys cooking and cleaning. Skincare and beauty products are an area that fascinates her, and the health and beauty aisle of stores is a never-ending source of information and new ideas.

Within six years of graduating high school, Mascary lost her mother, father and grandmother.

“I think I’ll see them again,” she said.  “It’s all in how you look at things like resurrection, coming back, second chances. People want God to bend to them, when they should be doing the bending themselves. We all make mistakes, but we need to learn from them. What you’re known for today, you’re known for tomorrow, and we can all change that cycle.”

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