Dobrodomik: how volunteers are helping pensioners, veterans, and blockade survivors

Dobrodomik (Kind House) is a charity foundation for the elderly. It was founded by a married couple, Alexandra Sinyak and Yevgeny Gershevich, in Saint Petersburg in 2017 to help pensioners by providing them with free lunches and deliveries of groceries and medicine.

How it all started

Saint Petersburg, November 2017. A little café called Czech House on Vasilyevsky Island. An elderly man walked in to have lunch. Alexandra and Yevgeny, the café owners, did not want to charge the visitor and announced that lunch was free for all pensioners, blockade survivors, and veterans. Word about Czech House spread across Saint Petersburg, and elderly people began to visit. The owners could not find it in themselves to turn them down. They needed to figure out what to do next.

73 pensioners

lunched at Czech House every day. That number is now much higher.

Alexandra and Yevgeny at the opening of Dobrodomik in Saint Petersburg. Photo: Dobrodomik

Alexandra and Yevgeny rented a larger space. Entrepreneurs and concerned citizens started hearing about the project.

“Our outlook on life has changed over a year of free lunches for the elderly. We experienced a lot of hardship; we didn’t have the funds to pay our employees or our rent, or to buy groceries. Yes, we ended up in debt, but we couldn’t possibly have done anything else – we couldn’t have closed the doors on these senior citizens,” say the project founders.

Other people then picked up the torch. In October 2019, Emin Agalarov opened Dobrodomik in Moscow. Masterminding the project in Novosibirsk were the Savelyevs, Alexander and Oksana. They came to Saint Petersburg, met the founders of the project, and, together with them, launched a café in their own city. They brought in their friends, for example Pavel Lavrenchuk, who actively engaged in generating support for the elderly. Pavel is a SberBank head of division in Novosibirsk and says that it was Sber’s social orientation that helped him become a volunteer.

The Chelyabinsk Dobrodomik opened its doors in 2020. Due to the pandemic, it was not possible to invite senior citizens in for lunch, so the founders launched DobroDostavka (Kind Delivery), through which volunteers deliver free food packages to the elderly.

Support by Dobrodomik

Free café lunches

The cafés in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Chelyabinsk, and Novosibirsk are open on weekdays. All pensioners can visit as long as they have their pensioner ID card. The free lunches are comprised of simple dishes: e.g., rassolnik (a traditional Russian soup), macaroni and cutlets, dressed herring (“herring under a fur coat,” a layered salad), and kompot (a beverage made from cooked fruit).

87,311 lunches

provided to the elderly free of charge by Dobrodomik in 2020 alone

The production cost of a lunch like this is RUB 75. Photo: Dobrodomik

The menu is planned the day before, because it is usually unclear what ingredients will be available. The café team is constantly on the lookout for partners willing to help with supplies.

Photo: Dobrodomik

Elderly people often lack company; they feel lonely and like they are not needed, so they are happy not only to be fed, but also to have the opportunity to socialize.

DobroDostavka for groceries

Every Saturday, volunteers deliver food packages, including to pensioners who are unable to visit the café due to health-related issues. Preparation for DobroDostavka is done ahead of time: grocery trips to stock up on vegetables, fish, meat, cereals, and other products are on Fridays.

The organizers write that “for the #Dobrodomik team, Friday is spent on the road, it’s a day to meet partners who have been supporting us for years and volunteers who never refuse us their help. On Fridays we sometimes travel from the north of the city to the south and back several times because we forgot to load up on gingerbread for our grandmothers.”

Dobrodomik is currently in negotiations with SberMarket, a delivery service for groceries. Concerned citizens will soon be able to order groceries for their city’s elderly.

Sber’s Siberian branch also supports Dobrodomik. One of the areas of assistance is Dobrodostavka, where SberBank employees take on an active volunteering role and deliver groceries.

2,000 tons of groceries

given to senior citizens on February 21, 2021

Social assistance

Many pensioners find themselves in difficult circumstances: losing their apartment, living in terrible conditions, or seriously ill. Lawyers and psychologists help with consultations and documents. Other volunteers deliver medicine and clothing, do renovations or repair work, and transfer money.

Dobrodomik helped Irina Sergeevna, who was born during the war. She fell prey to scammers, lost her apartment, and found herself sleeping on a playground. Now she lives in an assisted living facility with the appropriate medical care, paid for by concerned citizens.

2020 in figures

16,731 food packages
gifted to pensioners
427 elderly people
provided with clothing
37 events
organized under the Generation Connection program

ЗOn top of DobroDostavka, an office for solving senior citizens’ issues was also set up during the pandemic. Dobrodomik began collaborating with children’s homes, families raising children with disabilities, and “silver” volunteers.

Dobrodomik also launched a federal hotline in 2020 to support the older generation – 8 800 222-90-86.

How to help

Volunteers are needed everywhere: at the cafés from noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays, to organize events, and to build new Dobrodomiks. Dobrodomik also has offices in Samara, Ufa, Gatchina, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Pskov, Lipetsk, and Krasnodar. You can contact them and offer your help.

You can buy ingredients for the cafés or groceries to deliver to the elderly. There is always a need for buckwheat, rice, chicken, cookies, and macaroni, but don’t forget the receipt. The project creators appreciate help in any form, including money transfers of all sizes and reposts and shares on social media. The important thing is not to remain indifferent and to help as many people as possible learn about Dobrodomik and support the elderly.

RUB 375

the production cost of five lunches

Contact details for Dobrodomik