My name is Brenda Brim and I am a member of Reserve. My assignment is with the Office of Vital Records operated by the New York City Office of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). I serve as a greeter at their office in Downtown Manhattan where individuals can request copies of birth and death certificates in person [for birth and death events that occurred in New York City from 1910 and later].
I greet people who visit the office and provide them information about the process to obtain the records and direct them to the office’s staff and other resources.
Many people come from various places to obtain the certificates that they need. Primarily, I interact with individuals from older generations, those who were born in the 1920′s and 1930s.
I recall one woman who came in to obtain a copy of her birth certificate because she needed a passport to return to Italy to celebrate her 89th birthday. The woman was born in Ellis Island just six hours after her mother arrived there.
Another young woman came from Congo and needed birth certificates for her five children who were born in New York City. She told me of the political and social strife in Africa and was so happy and proud her children were born here.
Helping people obtain copies of their birth certificates also enables me to help people with their history, finding parent’s and their places of birth. Also, by providing help to family members who seek copies of death certificates of loved ones can provide some closure. It can be an very emotional assignment at times, but I find it to be very rewarding.
Brenda Brim was an administrative support professional with nonprofit experience. Most recently she was with the NYC Department for the Aging, Foster Grandparents Program as a payroll clerk. Before that she was a supervisor for the St. Nicholas Home for Adults and handled the typing of medical documents and coordinated, monitored and provided health care services. She volunteers in her community helping stray animals find homes. To commemorate Older Americans Month, ReServe invited ReServists to write original essays about their current or past assignment. This is one of twelve essays. – ED