Welcome to our first volunteer newsletter! It's dedicated to you - our wonderful volunteers. Twice a year we'll bring you news, program updates, and stories about the many ways volunteers make a difference. You help us serve the most vulnerable among us and should feel proud to be part of JF&CS, the leading provider of comprehensive human services.
Without the hands and hearts of our 1,600 volunteers, we wouldn't be able to serve over 30,000 people each year throughout Greater Boston. You are critical to our success. Whether you volunteer once a week, once a month, or once a year, each of you shares your valuable time, energy, and compassion. We appreciate your generosity.
Seymour J. Friedland, PhD
Chief Executive Officer
Leo Gerechter and Louis Zand have been friends for nine years and for most of that time they’ve been talking – and arguing – about life. Both men are interested in politics, Israel, and in what it means to be Jewish. Louis laughs, “We talk about everything, but we don’t always agree.”
This special friendship started when Louis decided to volunteer for the JF&CS Friendly Visitor program and was matched with Leo. Louis said, “I don’t view this as volunteer work. I view JF&CS as an unexpected way of making a very dear friend.”
Born in 1921 in Berlin, Leo Gerechter came to the US in 1939, narrowly missing the cutoff to leave Nazi Germany. His father had passed away shortly after Leo's bar mitzvah and he moved here to live with his uncles who had settled near Pittsburg. Leo attended the University of Pittsburgh and in 1941 he enlisted in the US army.
After the war he returned to Germany and learned that his mother, grandmother, and three sisters had perished in the Holocaust. With his family gone, he moved to New York City to start over. There he met his wife of 51 years, Golda, and worked in the garment district as a salesman. He and “Goldie” had three children and he now has six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
When Golda passed away 11 years ago he moved to Massachusetts to be with his children. Even though he was now near family, Leo was alone all day. He said, “I was a stranger in town and I didn’t know my way around.” Someone suggested he call JF&CS and he was connected with the Friendly Visitor program. Leo said, “I highly recommend Friendly Visitor to anyone. It has helped me a lot. I always feel very grateful to JF&CS.”
His first visitor was a “lovely, bohemian lady” with whom he visited for about a year. He then moved to Centre Street in Newton and was matched with volunteer Louis Zand and his wife Lynn. Louis is a retired dot com executive who saw a small ad in the newspaper, asking for volunteers to visit the elderly.
They spend time together every Friday, walking at the reservoir, eating kosher dinners, and spending time at Louis and Lynn’s home in Brookline. Leo suffers from macular degeneration and is legally blind. He especially appreciates the many books that Louis reads aloud to him. Louis also takes Leo to his doctor’s appointments. Leo said, “Louie is always there for me. He’s like a close relative.”
Leo is an unflagging optimist with a great sense of humor and a hearty laugh. His philosophy is, “You’re here and you might as well make the best of it.” Louis said, “Even after all he’s been through Leo has a joy about life. He stands out as a role model -- someone who is extraordinary without being world famous. He’s a true mensch -- a thoroughly decent man who can balance the laughter and the heartache of life.”
The Friendly Visitor Program matches caring volunteers with elders to provide companionship and a connection to the Jewish community. For more information, contact our volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-647-JFCS (5327).
The 2009 recipient of the Simone Lottor Exceptional Service Award is Judy Spivak. Judy has been helping women and their infants thrive for 19 years as a Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms®
Judy is the kind of caring, empathetic person that every new mom should have by her side as she encounters one of life’s most exciting and stressful changes – the transition to parenthood. Judy said, “Visiting Moms is a wonderful program. There should be a Visiting Mom for anyone who needs it.”
Debbie Whitehill, LICSW, director of Visiting Moms, said, “Judy has been a reliable and generous volunteer who has participated in the Visiting Moms program for almost its entirety.”
Judy, a dental hygienist who lives in Framingham with her husband Herbert, is active in her community, a 40-year member of Hadassah, and a long-time volunteer at her synagogue.
Many years ago she decided that she wanted to concentrate her volunteer work on women and children. She said, “I like working and being with people in a one-on-one relationship. That gives me the most satisfaction and where I am doing the most good. That’s why my efforts have been with the Visiting Moms.”
Judy brings not only years of volunteer experience to Visiting Moms but her own experience mothering two grown daughters and three grandchildren.
Judy was inspired to become a Visiting Mom by a newspaper ad calling for volunteers. The ad resonated with Judy because she had once been a young mother without the support of family or friends. She recalled, “When Herb and I were married we left New York and I never lived close to my family again.”
Judy’s mother died shortly after her marriage and the couple’s first child was born while they were living in Lee, MA. She recalled, “Family came to visit once or twice and we had a nice next door neighbor, but I was basically alone. I was a new mother, 23 years old, and I didn’t know what end was up.”
When Judy saw the Visiting Moms volunteer listing she said, “The ad described me and I thought ‘This is what I could have used.’ I wanted to help other women in my situation.”
From the very first mom with whom she worked, Judy can easily recall the details of each woman’s situation. She was especially moved by the case of a young woman who had moved to the US from Canada. Her mother had died recently and she had no close friends or family in her new home. Judy said, “I knew exactly how she felt.”
Judy gets great satisfaction from seeing the women with whom she works grow and move “into a better place.” One new mom wrote to say that Judy’s visits were “her lifeline.” But Judy adds wisely, “Some situations you can’t fix. As a Visiting Mom you need to know you can’t make it all better. But what you can do is help the mother become more confident or aware of what her situation is.”
JF&CS is grateful for the empathy and wisdom Judy has devoted to caring for new moms.
Volunteering with JF&CS
Volunteers are a vital part of JF&CS. For more information on how you can help, contact our volunteer coordinator at email@example.com
or 781- 647-JFCS (5327).
The JF&CS Sunday Swim and Arts program offers young people with disabilities a unique way to enjoy a safe, structured activity on a day when many of them might otherwise be home.
Volunteers are matched with a child and spend the afternoon one-on-one with them as they enjoy music, art activities, and swim time. The program, which is part of JF&CS Services for People with Disabilities, runs on 30 Sundays throughout the year and volunteers can come as many times as they like.
The children, who are physically compromised and mostly non-verbal, look forward to Sundays. Their faces light up when they come in the door. They love interacting with new people and respond happily to volunteers. “When I mention Sunday Swim to one client she starts clapping and jumping up and down,” said Family Support Specialist Sara Freedman.
Linda and Mark Goldman and their daughter, Jessica, age 28, are enthusiastic participants. Linda said, “Now Jess has something on weekends that is hers. It gets her out of the house and it’s stimulating.”
Linda explained that for Mark and her to have three hours together on a Sunday afternoon is a gift. Recently the couple went on a hike in the woods close to their home where they had never been because they could not go with Jessica. She said, “It’s good for our relationship to have this time together, and the program is wonderful for Jessica.”
Sara said, “It’s a very rewarding Sunday. You leave with a really good feeling.”
Activities take place at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton and at the Old Colony YMCA in Stoughton. Contact our volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781- 647-JFCS (5327).
If you are a mom and have a few hours a week to spare, you can offer a mother support, encouragement, and reassurance. Established in 1989, the Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program of the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support® is looking for volunteers to make a home visit of one-two hours weekly to a mother during her baby's first year. All Rubin Visiting Moms volunteers are trained by staff and attend a supervision group every other week. This volunteer opportunity provides excellent training, supervision, and a supportive and caring atmosphere.
Rubin Visiting Moms are needed to visit mothers in Arlington, Burlington, Cambridge, Everett, Lexington, Lynn, Lynnfield, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Reading, Revere, Saugus, Somerville, Stoneham, Wakefield, Winchester, and Woburn. Volunteers need to provide their own transportation.
For more information or to volunteer, please contact our volunteer coordinator at email@example.com or 781-647-JFCS (5327).