Better You in 2010: Volunteering

January 7, 2010 7:13:59 AM PST
In addition to improving your life this year, you might also give thought to improving the lives of others. There are plenty of organizations in our area that can use volunteers, particularly now that the economy is so tough. But as one New Yorker found, sometimes the right situation isn't available, and you have to make it happen on your own.

"About a year ago, it was right after a snowstorm, I was walking to the grocery store and I saw a man on the street getting CPR from a bystander, and a bunch of us sort of gathered around and none of us could believe this Good Samaritan who was actually performing CPR. It was a very moving experience," said Laura van Straaten.

After that incident a little more than a year ago, Laura made it her New Year's resolution to learn CPR, but she didn't stop there.

"What's most important is that people can figure out what's the closest CPR training to them," explained Laura.

She drafted a plan to make it easier for other New Yorkers to learn the life saving techniques.

Now, just several months later, her efforts are culminating with the lauch of "FDNY CPR to Go".

The FDNY already offers free classes, but it's been up to individuals to find a big enough room and 15 people to come along. So, Laura helped streamline the process.

She got New York Sports Club to offer space in 28 of its gyms.

She told the city's volunteer unit about her plan, which in turn helped get the fire department to sign on. She's a true example of a citizen working to do good in her free time.

"We have New Yorkers who want to give, it's about finding a way to help them give," explained Diahann Billings-Burford, the NYC Chief Service Officer.

"It's been very gratifying to see how government can be so responsive to a good idea from a regular old citizen like me," said Laura.

Laura isn't being compensated for her efforts, but knowing that other lives may be saved as a result of this free program is a new year's resolution of the best kind. "You could save a family member, a loved one, someone on the street."

"It's an amazing time of year to make commitments like I made last year, and I hope that others will do something similar," said Laura.

For more information on how you can take a free CPR class, please visit: and

The classes take less than an hour and you do not have to be a member of NY Sports Club to participate.