COMMUNITY SERVICE: Harriet Krasnoff is the head of the Outreach Program at the Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC), a program in which animals are brought to hospitals, nursing homes and hospices to let residents there interact with them. Before she started doing this with APEC, Krasnoff was in charge of the same program at the Bronx Zoo for 35 years.
BACKGROUND: Krasnoff was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1927, and came to America in 1948 as a Holocaust survivor. During her childhood, she spent most of her time in the Frankfurt Zoo, where she learned how to handle animals. It was there that her love for animals originated.
“I’ve wanted to help people ever since I was a child,” she said. “Then my husband found an ad in the newspaper saying that volunteers were needed at the Bronx Zoo, and that’s how Outreach got started.
After one of Krasnoff’s friends suggested they bring animals from the zoo to hospitals and hospices, she began bringing mammals, reptiles and birds to facilities all around New York.
“It’s a wonderful feeling seeing these people who seem like they couldn’t care less about anything perk up and get involved,” Krasnoff said. “When I see the looks on people’s faces, it makes me feel like I’ve really accomplished something. And that makes my life worthwhile.”
FAVORITE MEMORY: “One of my favorite memories is from Calvary Hospital,” Krasnoff said. “A man who simply did not want to be brought down to the main room to be part of things came down and decided he would take a look. He wound up getting so involved, he called his nurse later on and said, ‘You know what? For the last hour, I forgot I was sick. I forgot for the last hour that I was dying.’ Now that’s a statement that I’ll never forget.”
BIGGEST CHALLENEGE: “My biggest challenge is always having to find somebody else to work with. I can only do the Outreach Program once a week now, and there aren’t many volunteers since most people have their own jobs and can’t go out. I do the very best to make people happy every day now with my partner, John Burkitt. He’s as big a part of this program as I am.”
INSPIRATION: “My inspiration is to make people happy for as long as I can. As long as I can hope to stay well enough, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. At my age, there’s always a limit for one reason or another, after having done this for 40 years. I just look forward to being with people and creating smiles.”