For the past 42 years, Harriet Bloomberg Blank has served as director of the OHEL Geriatric Services, ensuring optimum welfare for seniors and providing them and their families with peace of mind. She does it by connecting the entire community, from kids to teens to adults to elders.
“We look at healthy family relationships and maintaining the ability to communicate with each other, even when things are difficult,” said Blank, a licensed clinical social worker. “Isolation is as much a killer as disease, but everyone has something to share. We have tons of stories about isolated seniors who showed they were still able to learn and give, and that helps them and helps the children.”
The child of a hospital administrator, Blank remembers growing up working in hospice and healthcare, saying it was how her parents taught their kids responsibility while keeping an eye on them. After attending school for social work, she did acute care, nursing home work, and program development. She had four children, then went to work at OHEL, handling trauma in older adults.
“I’m here to help people in their losses, even as we look at their strengths,” said Blank. “I will be here for you, even if I can’t always fix everything.”
“Harriet Blank is the living embodiment of all the values, principles and ethics within clinical social work practice,” said Simcha Feuerman, a licensed clinical social worker in psychotherapy, and senior director of outpatient services at OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services. “She is compassionate, astute, and guided by an encyclopedic knowledge of gerontology. This is a well-deserved honor!”
This Woman of Distinction employs many different strategies to help connect the seniors in her care. She remembers visiting an extremely depressed woman who was otherwise cognitively intact. They showed her how to use Facebook to connect to her grandkids and family.
“She was no longer isolated because she embraced technology, even though she’s 89 years old,” Blank recalled.
Although Blank is devoted to helping her Jewish community, she is quick to note that OHEL serves every race, religion, and creed, and her staff speaks Chinese, Spanish, Creole, Russian, and more.
“I always got along with all people, whether Jewish, Italian, or Irish. Growing up in Staten Island, I learned how to clean scungilli with the best of them, even though I can’t eat it,” said Blank. “It’s about mutual respect, and giving back.”
“Harriet is extremely dedicated to her work, her clients, and her co-workers,” said Howard Lorch, chief financial officer at OHEL. “She is a fun person to be around, and makes the workplace a pleasant environment to be in.”
Five Towns, Long Island.
COMPANY: OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services.
CLAIM TO FAME: Working in the Jewish community.
FAVORITE BROOKLYN PLACE: Walking around Park Slope, and the Boardwalk between Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach.
WOMAN I ADMIRE: My mother, who really was always friendly and open; everybody loved my mother. She was honest and fair, and she cared about the people around her more than anything. And she loved to cook. After my father died, she was like my best friend.
MOTTO: Just take one step in front of the next and keep on going. Do the best; at the end of the day, that’s all you can do. There’s a Hebrew saying that when you die and end up in heaven, god is not going to say “Were you like Moses?” He’s going to say “Were you the best Harriet you could be?” I’m not Moses. But I will be the best that I can be. And that’s something.
©2018 Community News Group
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