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Help! They Need Somebody!

February 14, 2008 By:
Frank Rosci, JE Feature
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Shelley Altschuler Chatterjee has a family history at the agency.
Caring for the needs of others is a way of life for Shelley Altschuler Chatterjee, a longtime social worker for Travelers Aid Society Philadelphia and equally longtime volunteer for the well-known organization, whose motto is "a helping hand along the way."

Chatterjee began working for Travelers Aid Philadelphia in 1978; she's now on staff as a social worker at its Family Residence, 111 N. 49th St., which provides housing and social services for up to 300 people.

"This has been my first and only job; sometimes, I wonder if I have the longest volunteer history of all Travelers Aid volunteers," she muses.

Her commitment to helping others stems, she says, from her mother and an aunt, both of whom were social workers.

"They inspired me to help others," Chatterjee acknowledges, following faithfully their example, in the Jewish tradition, to do good for others.

Her aunt, now 88, she explains, "worked at Travelers Aid during the 1940s, assisting service personnel and others at 30th Street. She was on duty at the old Broad Street train station when Pearl Harbor was attacked."

Chatterjee was raised in Philadelphia's Wynnefield section. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Near Eastern studies in 1975. Before that, she had spent her sophomore year at Tel Aviv University, and later earned her MSW from Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work in 1978.

On Any Given Day ...
In addition to Philadelphia, there are Travelers Aid-operated assistance centers in train stations in Washington, D.C.; San Diego; Los Angeles; and Toronto, Canada. There are 51 Travelers Aid agencies in the United States, Canada and Australia.

On any given day at the 30th Street Station Passenger Assistance Booth, up to 250 people, including foreign visitors, ask for help that ranges from simple directions to assistance with emergency situations, such as having cash and other valuables stolen, according to Monique French-Brown, director of emergency services and program development at Travelers Aid Philadelphia.

According to French-Brown, since the service returned to Philadelphia this past December after an absence of 15 years -- it's a free-standing, blue-and-white booth at the main entrance to 30th Street Station -- more than 7,000 travelers have stopped by to ask questions or seek assistance.

But the service is in desperate need of volunteers, she adds -- a need that's reiterated by Ted Weerts, the company's executive director.

"We are re-establishing our pool of volunteers," he notes, "so this is the time for people to become involved."

For more information, call 215-471-9475, Ext. 110.

 

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