The Man in the CHOICE Van — Going the Extra Mile for His VNSNY Colleagues

When the alarm goes off at 4:00 a.m. for VNSNY CHOICE Community Event Officer Igor Kebadze, it’s the beginning of a long but very fulfilling—and never boring—day. Like so many VNSNY staff members, Igor has seen his duties change considerably in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, not only is Igor adapting and going the “extra mile,” but he’s doing it in the VNSNY CHOICE Community Outreach van!

“We always make the CHOICE van available for the organization’s needs,” explains Diane DeFerrari, VNSNY CHOICE Community Outreach Manager. “It was clear the van would be a big help during the pandemic, and Igor volunteered right away to drive it.”

As New York businesses began to shutter in mid-March and VNSNY’s employees transitioned to home offices, Igor’s first job was bringing laptops, phones and printers to employees working remotely, as well as transporting mail from VNSNY’s Manhattan and Brooklyn offices to be scanned. When PPE and other essential medical supplies, sourced by Sal Bastardi, Vice President, Corporate Administrative Support, and his amazing team, began arriving daily at VNSNY’s Manhattan headquarters, Igor stepped in to deliver the supplies to VNSNY’s regional offices.

For the past two months Igor has eagerly carried out his assignment, delivering masks, shields, gloves, gowns, booties, thermometers, blood pressure cuffs and more, to regional Medical Supply rooms throughout VNSNY’s service area—ensuring that VNSNY employees have the supplies they need to safely provide care at the epicenter of this unprecedented public health crisis. Following routes charted by Diane, he clocks an average of 165 miles per day across all five boroughs as well as Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

When a hardware store in Farmingdale donated 2,000 masks, Igor was there to pick them up and get them to VNSNY clinicians. The same was true when an Extended Stay hotel in Brooklyn offered boxes of gloves. “The PPE donors also love getting their photo taken with Igor and the van!” notes Diane. On another occasion, Igor called on Michael Ambrosini, Director, Corporate Community Relations and Volunteer Services, to pick up and deliver two $500 gift cards from the VNSNY Volunteer Council Benefit Fund that went to help a family in crisis.

At the end of the day, when Igor finally returns the CHOICE van to the garage and drives to his home in Bensonhurst (where finding a parking space can take as long as his commute), does he kick up his feet and chill out in front of the TV? No, his next stop is his 85-year-old mother’s home, a short walk away, to drop off groceries and wave at her through the window. Igor hasn’t been able to taste her delicious cooking or give her a hug since COVID-19 appeared on the scene, but the two find comfort in video-chatting most days.

When he’s not in delivery mode, Igor, who came to America from the nation of Georgia 28 years ago, also enjoys spending time with his wife and their 18-year-old daughter. “Igor always goes above and beyond to help those around him,“ says Diane. “He doesn’t let things get out of hand. He handles everything with calmness and makes sure everybody has what they need, so they can work effectively and still take care of the people that we service.”

The driving force behind his resiliency? “To serve my country,” says Igor. “We’re all family. When it’s needed—it’s going to get done.”