Posted by Rimma Zelfand
Last year, I had the privilege to visit with all of our Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® supervision groups, from Canton in the South Area to Danvers on the North Shore. I have always admired the dedication and altruism of people who give of themselves – their souls and their emotions – to others in the community. I have also always been interested in the idea of women connecting to one another and changing each other's lives. I thought it would be a good idea to meet with these wonderful women and acknowledge them for their selfless work.
No matter the location, it was heartwarming to hear that each group was 100 percent convinced that they were "the best group," the "most dedicated group," and had the best, most talented volunteers and the best supervisor. Each and every participant felt that she was doing very important work and that this was the best thing to happen to her in her professional life. The volunteers felt that they were making a tremendous impact on an underserved community and without exception, each volunteer was grateful for the opportunity to do something good for others. Each participant seemed to feel nourished by each other and by their supervisor. I was thrilled to see how happy these volunteers were with the program and how each group had become a cohesive small community on its own, in which unbreakable bonds of friendship and camaraderie had been formed.
I asked them to share their stories with me. I heard about different cultures and customs of the new moms. The moms' ages also varied greatly. I even learned that not all of the moms were moms – some were stay-at-home dads who needed the same type of support in their lives as the new moms in the program. Despite the differences between the volunteer Visiting Moms and the new moms they visited, I learned that there was a universal understanding about being a new parent – something that transcends cultural, ethnic, geographic, and economic boundaries.
No matter what their backgrounds, these new moms (and dads) were experiencing a crucial time in their lives, filled with pride, happiness, insecurity, fear, and many other emotions, all typical for new parents. Without exception, they were grateful to have a caring and empathetic person just show up, be present, listen to them, and support them. Some of the new moms didn't even speak English, but the commonalities of motherhood and bonding between these women exceeded all their differences. There was a palpable, unspoken, common understanding between them all.
As I left each group, I was not only extremely grateful for the experience of meeting with such amazing women, but I was also in awe of these volunteers, who year after year give their time, their commitment, their wisdom, their strength, and most of all, their hearts. They truly make profound differences in the lives of others.
Rimma Zelfand is the CEO of Jewish Family & Children's Service. Her first involvement with JF&CS began with her joining the JF&CS Board of Directors and the Strategic Planning Committee in 2003. In 2004 Rimma joined JF&CS as Director of Senior Services. She came to her role with 15 years of a very successful track record in leading and managing home care, home health, disease management, and elder care programs. Under Rimma's leadership Senior Services grew and gained recognition. Her accomplishments included: launching the first NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) project in Massachusetts, creating the Parkinson's Family Support Program, and establishing the Geriatric Institute. From 2008 – 2011, Rimma served as the Senior Vice President for Programs.