Stranded or need help with something? Call Chaverim. What kinds of help do they provide? Well, just about anything. Most of the calls are for flat tires, with or without a spare and sometimes without a key for the wheel lock, or for a boost. However, there are calls for lots of other things. Some examples:
- A broken key—they fabricated a handle on the spot to make it usable.
- A car backed up onto a hydrant and was stuck—they were able to jack it up and lift it off.
- People locked out of their cars, occasionally even with a child in it—they were able to open it up without breaking the window.
- Out of gas—they’ll bring gas.
- Car keys dropped in a drain pit—they helped retrieve them.
- People locked out of their apartments—they help them get back in.
- A young child who has wandered away from home—they organized a large search party and the child was found.
- Missing adults who are disabled—they publicize it, aiding in the search. Recently, someone went missing after getting onto a train in Rockland County. Chaverim located him in Bergen County.
- Stolen cars and other items—they publicize it, alerting people to keep their eyes out for it and letting the community know if there had been a rash of thefts.
- A stuffed shower drain and couldn’t get through to a plumber—they helped unstuff it.
- Dead squirrel in the yard and couldn’t get through to an exterminator—successfully removed.
- Water gushing from the ceiling—they helped shut off the water.
They do lots of other things as well. During the recent flooding Chaverim fielded several hundred calls, as the 911 system was down. They helped stranded motorists and people trapped in their homes. They also helped a pregnant woman whose car was afloat get to a warm shelter. Two members carried an elderly woman who was stranded in her basement through knee deep water to an upper floor. After the storm, members pumped out flooded basements and brought in fans to help dry them out. They sent rafts to evacuate a yeshiva in Englewood whose students were trapped by the floodwaters. A lot of people were helped that night.
They’ll go the extra mile to try to resolve an issue. For example, they can often plug the tire so it doesn’t have to be changed to the donut or, if there’s no spare, to avoid being towed. I saw a lovely note recently from a woman who was very grateful for being helped: “My husband accidentally locked the keys in the car with the kids. I panicked and we almost broke the window! Chaverim told me they would be there in two minutes and to wait. They were there so fast! Thank you Chaverim. You guys are awesome.”
I think that it’s not just a matter of being helped. It’s the feeling that you’re not alone, that there are people around who care. I have been amazed at the members of Chaverim’s willingness to be of service. When I asked a dispatcher why they would interrupt people at home with their families, or late at night, to send members out when the caller could contact AAA, he responded, “We are a group of over 60 members that are happy to help whenever we can. Save the AAA for when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere. It’s never a bother to help a friend. That’s why we’re called Chaverim.” Absolutely beautiful! I believe if all of Klal Yisroel felt that way towards each other, Moshiach would come immediately.
Chaverim had previously been in existence for 10-12 years. It was founded by Yehuda Feig, David Roberts and Leib Kohn, students at Yeshiva Gedolah on Palisades Ave., as Chaverim of Teaneck. While also a wonderful organization, their work was more limited in scope, with 50-70 calls a year. About 10 months ago, a relaunch and reorganization were engineered by coordinators Yanky Cohen, Sol Itzkowitz and Yitz Stern, and the name was changed to Chaverim of Bergen County, with a larger coverage area, an enlarged membership, new uniforms and equipment, enhanced training for members, all with minimal communal fundraising to enable all of the above. Today, there are over 60 members. In the 10 months since the relaunch, they’ve received over 1,000 calls. Current locations serviced include Teaneck, Englewood, Englewood Cliffs, Tenafly, Ridgefield Park, Bergenfield, Paramus, Hackensack, Ridgewood, Fair Lawn, Fort Lee and the rest of Bergen County. However, you can contact them wherever you are. Even if you’re not in a place where Bergen County Chaverim can reach you, they’ll either put you in touch with the nearest Chaverim, or put your information out to Interstate Chaverim, which broadcasts messages to all the different Chaverim groups, to see if there’s anyone available to help. Even if you’re not in anyone’s coverage area, sometimes a member just happens to be around and will respond.
Chaverim of Bergen County needs continued support from our community to enable them to continue their good work. If anyone would like information about joining the organization, you can apply directly through their website. They could also use financial support to help purchase the equipment needed to allow their members to serve us.