JFS celebrates its volunteers 
JFS volunteers, from left, David Chortek, Geetha Rajendran and Jo Coleman, load up fellow volunteers’ cars with Kosher Home Delivered Meals to distribute to homebound clients.

By Deb Silverthorn

Jewish Family Service will virtually honor its 840 volunteers of the last year during its annual Volunteer Appreciation event from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27.

“Our volunteers, even during times when being together [is] difficult, are a critical extension of our staff by providing support in serving our clients,” said JFS Chief Executive Officer Cathy Barker.  “With volunteers who can do data entry, deliver meals, assist clients in our pantry or pick up donated food around town, the agency can redirect funds we would have had to spend hiring additional staff and instead it goes to serving our clients. We are extremely grateful to each and every one of them for their ongoing dedication to our mission and the community we serve.”

Leading the volunteers are JFS Director of Volunteer Engagement Kristen Jackson, Kosher Home Delivered Meals and Volunteer Coordinator Lyz Latson and Volunteer Coordinator Michelle Squillace. Together, the women oversee all of the volunteers and programs, which provided 13,983 hours of service in 2021.

“JFS and our clients are blessed because, at a time when national volunteer engagement has declined, the members of our community have continued to show up and dedicate their hearts and their time to our agency and those struggling in our community,” said Jackson. “So many have stepped up to help, creating projects they can do from home, working outside at our drive-thru food distribution and in many other ways.”

One remote project that has kept volunteers serving, even while at home, is compiling craft kits for the children of Food Pantry clients to keep them busy while parents wait their turn, while other volunteers create recipe cards. With a great supply of sweet potatoes now available in the Food Pantry, clients are taking home recipes of sweet potato pie, breads and more.

“Our volunteers have really been so creative about how they can still connect to the people they serve and it’s wonderful to add opportunities that anyone can take part in,” said Jackson.

Volunteer opportunities include both in-person and remote activities that support the agency’s Career and Financial Services team, the Food Pantry and Kosher Home Delivered Meals, Older Adult Services, the PLAN Clubhouse and the Resale Shop. Many of the programs have, despite the pandemic, expanded including its Older Adult Services Friendly Visitor program, which increased from five to 22 volunteers in the last year.

“I love interacting with people and the chance to do mitzvot,” said Dr. Ety Friedman, who with Ed Sands is being recognized with the 2022 Outstanding Volunteers honors. Friedman’s service to JFS began 30 years ago when she first provided dental services for newly arriving Russian immigrant children. Today, she participates in the Friendly Visitor program, delivers meals to homebound community members and translates craft kit instructions into Spanish. 

Sands has helped stock the Food Pantry for many years and, during the pandemic, took on the difficult task of driving the Pantry’s pallet jack to help move and organize items. He also welcomes, trains and supports new volunteers.   

“I appreciate the opportunity to volunteer,” said Sands, who also trains volunteers in the Food Pantry. “I find it to be most rewarding to be part of our national effort, during troubled times, to come together and help one another.”

Recipient of the Future of JFS Award, Yael Kuchinsky has worked in the Food Pantry, for the Diaper Shower and for other collection events, and is also passing out holiday gifts through the Embrace-a-Family program as a member of JFS Young Leadership Board.  

“My time spent volunteering with JFS has brought a lot of meaning to my life,” said Kuchinsky. “I have had the pleasure to work in many areas and believe that JFS makes a great impact in our community.”

During the Feb. 27 event, additional honors will go to Rebecca Buell (JFS Leadership Award), Janis Rosenfeld-Barbash (Newcomer of the Year), Judy Bazarsky, Deborah Dubsky, Barbra Furman, Noah Fisch, Jill Kirschner, Lisa Rothstein, Siegfried Schmalz, Jerry Szor and Tonya Young (JFS’ Hearts and Hands honorees) and missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Community Partner of the Year).

“Our volunteers are dependable, and they show up, which allows us to serve our community,” said JFS Board Chair Julie Liberman. She has volunteered in many areas of the agency since her first efforts nearly 15 years ago with the agency’s Special Needs Initiative, and her heartbeat, the JFS Diaper Shower collection she co-founded, which has brought in more than 1,185,000 diapers and wipes.  

“We’ve got volunteers of all ages whose efforts touch those in need but who themselves are also touched by the feeling of helping others,” said Liberman. “You can’t help but feel good when you are doing good.”

To RSVP for the Volunteer Appreciation event, visit jfsdallas.org/va2022. To pay tribute to a volunteer, go to tinyurl.com/JFS-Volunteer-Tribute. To register to volunteer through JFS, visit jfsdallas.org/volunteer.

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