Jane Mrosko is the caring and creative manager of volunteers and volunteer programs with Travelers Aid at John F. Kennedy International Airport. She is dedicated to the mission of helping others and enhancing the volunteer experience. Jane is passionate about welcoming, assisting, and advocating for travelers, helping them navigate and feel supported on their journey.
1 Tell us about your background. How did you become involved with Travelers Aid; what is its mission, and who and what areas does it serve?
Jane Mrosko: I earned my MSW (Master of Social Work) from the University of Minnesota, originally pursuing social work in the medical field. I was allowed to work with an amazing team of healthcare providers, leading the way for immigrants and refugees to receive and navigate the healthcare system.
I’m originally from the West Coast and then the Midwest. I joined the Travelers Aid International team at JFK Airport in October 2001. Travelers Aid is a non-profit organization with programs all around the country, including Puerto Rico, Australia, and Canada. We serve the traveling public and people in local communities through our mission of aiding people in transit who are in distress through our direct services and services provided by our member organizations.
2 How does Travelers Aid benefit the airport and surrounding community, and what type of outreach or networking programs does it have, either at the airport or outside airport perimeters?
Jane Mrosko: Volunteers bring incredible energy and joy to their roles, and they return home, sharing stories of people they have helped and about their time in the airport.
Travelers Aid staff and volunteers have helped passengers connect with family, navigate from terminal to terminal, calm their nerves, listen, support, welcome, and offer knowledge and information. We provide referrals to shelters, information about hotel options, direct passengers to embassies or consulates, offer tourism tips, and much more. We thoroughly assess situations to offer helpful solutions.
3 How did the pandemic affect the ability of Travelers Aid volunteers to function during the height of the crisis?
Jane Mrosko: Most of our volunteer corps paused their service during the pandemic variants. Travelers Aid staff continued to connect regularly with emails, phone calls, and monthly newsletters that captured updates from around the airport.
Travelers Aid volunteers at JFK and EWR provided continued service from the onset, practicing social distancing and following all CDC guidelines. The Port Authority did a tremendous job of creating a safe and clean environment, allowing our program to continue serving the traveling public.
4 Who makes up the membership of Travelers Aid, and what does it entail to become a volunteer with the organization?
Jane Mrosko: Memberships include social services and airport programs. Travelers Aid has programs at JFK, Newark (EWR). Several other large U.S. airports that are directly operated by Travelers Aid International, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Agencies and organizations such as Heartland Alliance in Chicago or Upward Transitions in Oklahoma City are members that provide services within the community, including meal assistance, housing support, refugee and immigrant support services, and travel to medical appointments.
Our diverse volunteer group encompasses aviation lovers, retirees, and those who want to serve or give back. Students 16 years and over wishing to earn community service hours can expect to gain soft-skill experiences and develop confidence as they assist airport guests and passengers. In addition to uniform and minimum weekly hour requirements, we look for volunteers who desire outstanding customer service.
Working in this capacity with people who give their time to help others is a privilege. The airport is a unique setting for such service and an important place to make a difference. People are going on vacation, traveling for work, visiting a sick family member, fleeing an unsafe situation, or starting a new chapter – whatever the reason, we are witnesses to people’s lives.
5 Tell us about an interesting story that ended well with the assistance of Travelers Aid.
Jane Mrosko: There are many….a working mom from Ghana who came to the United States to be a nanny but discovered she didn’t really have a job upon arrival. There was a young girl from Pakistan with a rare disease who arrived here for medical treatment and a woman that was reported missing by her family on social media who had skipped her medication.
Recently, a 70-year-old man returning to his home in Ghana became stranded when he couldn’t complete his health declaration form. A Boston agency assisting refugees and immigrants had notified Travelers Aid seeking our support at the airport. Travelers Aid navigated rebooking, getting a new Covid test for him, and provided food and overall emotional support while he waited for his new flight several days later. Without our intervention and guidance, the man would have needed to go to a shelter until an alternative plan could be arranged.