Star of Queens: Gemma Cullen

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Gemma Cullen

Volunteer at Sunnyside Community Services

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Gemma Cullen does secretarial work in the Social Services department at Sunnyside Community Services, a social service agency providing assistance to those in need through programs for senior citizens, home care or afterschool programs, among others.

PERSONAL: Cullen was born and raised in Sunnyside. After retiring from her secretary position at Pfizer after 35 years, she began looking for ways to volunteer in her community.

“I’ve been very lucky,” she said. “I want to give back.”

When she’s not volunteering, she likes to read and go for walks.

FAVORITE MEMORY: In addition to her clerical work at Sunnyside Community Services, Cullen also volunteers to drive patients to and from medical appointments. One of the patients she drove was a woman receiving radiation for breast cancer. Cullen, who would remain during the treatments to keep her company, recalls this as her favorite memory for the bond that was formed between the two of them.

“We were strangers in the beginning,” she said, “but eventually developed quite a friendship.”

INSPIRATION: Cullen said she finds the entire process of volunteering very rewarding and that’s ultimately what drives her to continue her service.

“I think I get more out of it than I give, to tell you the truth,” she said.

She also cited the quality of the programs at Sunnyside Community Services as being a reason for her continued service at the agency.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Because Sunnyside Community Services is funded by the city, Cullen says recent budget cuts have continued to pose a challenge as far as being able to provide more services at the highest quality.

She hopes there will soon be a way to ensure that the agency has a larger representation in future budgets.