By Robyn Geller
I recently attended a meeting where one of the speakers was a hospice social worker. She mentioned something I found interesting about her place of employment. She explained that they start every meeting by reminding people to ask “why” as in “why did you get into this field of work?” or “why do you do what you do?”
What a simple, yet brilliant way to put yourself in the right frame of mind on a daily basis. Working at JCS, we hear answers to the “why” question quite frequently. Volunteers are especially eager to offer up their reasons for doing what they do: “I’m helping others,” or “I’m doing a mitzvah,” or “It’s my way of giving back,” etc.
Among the many ways to give back via JCS is through the Mitzvah Mobility volunteer program. Volunteers escort and drive older adults to medical appointments and help community members who have limited transportation options stay healthy and remain independent. The need for drivers is extensive and the hours are flexible, so it tends to be a win-win for clients and volunteers.
Carol Sandler, a JCS volunteer herself, recently interviewed some of our Mitzvah Mobility volunteers asking them to share their ‘why.’ In telling their stories below, she has changed their names to preserve their privacy.
- Three years ago, on her way to vote, Vivian suffered a stroke. During the next few months she went through rehabilitation, recovered her peripheral vision and got back her confidence. For visits to doctors she reluctantly accepted rides from friends. Afterwards, Vivian was so thankful to feel “normal” again, that she wanted to help others by escorting them to medical appointments just like people had done for her. So she contacted JCS and now is one of our regular Mitzvah Mobility drivers. She says “I’m happy to do this work. I have everything I need, thank G-d, and the clients don’t.”
- After Paul retired from Social Security last summer and sought a productive way to spend his time, his daughter saw an article in the Jewish Times about JCS volunteers. Since Paul likes to drive, he chose Mitzvah Mobility. Now he escorts clients several times each week, and says he derives a lot of satisfaction from it. Paul says the clients are interesting. Many are elderly and live alone; they want to talk to someone, and often strike up conversations as soon as they get into the car. One reason Paul chose JCS is that he wanted to help Jewish people. “I feel I’m doing a mitzvah; that in a nutshell is why I volunteer.”
- As a JCS Mitzvah Mobility volunteer, Shirley drives clients once or twice a week from Weinberg Village, where she resides, to appointments that are sometimes as close as to the JCS Owings Mills office a few blocks away, other times to Pikesville and further. She says: “I love doing this work. I meet such interesting people, especially those from the former Soviet Union, who constitute about a third of the residents of Weinberg Village.” She explains that many residents converse well enough in English to share stories about life in their native country, and they express appreciation of her help. She adds: “I like to do whatever I can; I can’t give a lot of money but I have time, I want to give back.” “Driving people to medical appointments gets me out in the community,” she says, “and gives me something purposeful.”
- After he retired in 2002, Jerry decided he’d like to volunteer. His mother had often expressed admiration for volunteers; this left an impression, and he wanted to honor her memory. Jerry currently drives clients to medical appointments. He enjoys helping people because, he explains, “you know you’re doing good.” Clients often say to him: “Without volunteers I don’t know what I’d do.” Jerry likes the flexibility of his work; he designates certain days for Mitzvah Mobility, and spends other time assisting or socializing with friends and family.
JCS fills more than 130 requests each month for Mitzvah Mobility drivers, so there’s always a need for more volunteers. Many of our drivers say being involved with this program allows you to get more than you give.
For more information about volunteering for the JCS Mitzvah Mobility program, call 410-466-9200 or visit the JCS online at www.jcsbaltimore.org/volunteer.
By Robyn Geller, JCS Public Relations Coordinator and Carol Sandler, JCS Volunteer