JFS shows gratitude to devoted volunteers
2019 Outstanding Volunteer Geetha Rajendran is flanked by JFS Community Engagement staff members, Kristen Jackson and Jamie Denison. Among her many activities, she creates centerpieces for JFS’ Centerpieces for Tzedakah program.

By Deb Silverthorn

Jewish Family Service will present a massive Thank You party for its 1,604 volunteers who, in 2018, provided 28,454 hours of service through individual and group efforts. Kudos and appreciation will be given from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at Temple Shalom. Kosher refreshments will be served and the festivities are open to the public.
“Our volunteers are a critical extension of our staff by providing support in serving our clients, either directly or indirectly, enabling us to do more for the community,” said JFS CEO Cathy Barker. “With volunteers who can do data entry, deliver meals, shop with 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.”

Receiving JFS honors are

Leadership Award — Diane Laner
Outstanding Volunteer — Geetha Rajendran
Spirit of JFS Award — Lydia Varela
Spotlight Award — Jeff Sebert
Pro Bono Award — Dr. Jim Reisman
Resource Development Award — Sherry Goldberg
Future of JFS Award — Laura Weinstein
Kids with Heart Award — Jonah Schwarz-Mullins and Hunter Wartell
Klein Intern of the Year — Varsha Danda
Rookie of the Year — Robert Levy
Special Recognition — Janet Bubis, Jim Doyle, Dawn Kauffman and Jeri Lyn Sebert
Community Partners of the Year — Apartment Association of Greater Dallas and Young Men’s Service League/Dal-Rich Chapter
Seniors in Service — Mike Becker, Lucille Klein and Martin White
Team Award — Transitional Housing.
“I had come to JFS as a child but getting involved in the food pantry was the first time it was my project. JFS does an incredible job of making its clients feel appreciated and I respect that,” said Jonah Schwarz-Mullins, a senior at Yavneh Academy and one of two Kids with Heart Award recipients. In addition to stocking and other responsibilities, Schwarz-Mullins spearheaded a fundraiser for JFS’ Food Pantry truck, helping to raise more than $100,000. “The food truck is able to pick up donations from restaurant and retail vendors, including fresh produce which couldn’t be managed previously.”
Diane Laner, recipient of the Leadership Award, as well as a member of the Transitional Housing volunteers earning the Team Award, started working with JFS by delivering Passover and High Holiday meals and packages to homebound residents. She now serves on the JFS board of directors. Laner’s ears perked up during a discussion about fulfilling and decorating apartments of the organization’s Transitional Housing program.
The team of 16 included those who were handy with tools, design, ideas, access and most of all, said Laner, with care. Most didn’t know each other when they began, but together they built safety.
“We have furnishings and appliances, bedding, art and toys where there are children. We’ve created spaces that are home — without the feeling of temporary shelter,” she said. “From couches to tissue boxes, as a team we used social media, our personal contacts, whomever we could connect to, and each unit is lovely. The residents really feel safe and proud to live there.”
Awards will be given to those with milestone years of service. Honorees for five years are: Stanley Assa, Barbara Churchman, Cantor Don Croll, Ellen Feibel, Lindsay Feldman, Susan Kanter, Eve Kaplan, Lucille Klein, Lisa Kravitz, Mickey Kurzman, Lauren Margolies, Jana Milstein, Eda Narasov, Mahra Pailet, Myra Prescott, Rupa Rajopal — of blessed memory, Bradley Rossel, Stacey Siegel, Rossi Solomon, Judy Sommer, Melissa Steiner, Michael Stulmaker, Ed Weitz and Carol Wigder; for 10 years: Judy and Howard Bazarsky, Linda Blasnik, Sheryl Fields-Bogen, Eric Goldberg, Tobe Goldberg, Barbara Gollman, David Greenberg, Janet Kaner, Sue Mintz, Jody Pearson and Laurie Platt; for 15 years: Geane Glaser, Cara Mendelsohn, Karen Sosland and Caren Tate; and for 20 years, William Ogelsby.
The President’s Volunteer Service Award for Young Adult Silver (175-249 hours) will be given to Greg Begun, Abby Brand, Varsha Danda, Sara Hirani, Morgan Hurst, Esha Kothapalli, Maddie McBride, Marilyn McWhorter, Saipranav Ramesh, Aneesh Roy and Jaidyn Thomas. The Adult Silver (250-499 hours) will be awarded to Gilian Baron, Jim Doyle, Michael Kaufman, Lisa Kleinman, Julie Liberman, Geetha Rajendran, Barbara Schwarz, Roger Sellers and Ted Tobolowsky. The Adult Gold Awards (over 500 hours) will go to Anne Leiman and Bradley Rossel.
“Whether our volunteers are serving clients in the food pantry, being advocates for our [child] clients, delivering meals to homebound members of our community or fulfilling any other need, they are giving our clients the dignity, respect and hope they need to get through life’s tough times to become self-sufficient,” said JFS Community Engagement Manager Kristen Jackson. “Our agency would not be nearly as effective without their support. They are truly the heart of JFS.”
The volunteer awards event was planned by Kim Chapman, Julie Gothard, Weezie Margolis and Laura Weinstein. The difficult task of narrowing the many volunteers to those specifically honored was determined by a nominating committee including Janis Gail, Michael Kaufman, Weezie Margolis, Harriet Sebert, Betty Spomer and Lydia Varela.
“So many people came through to help. It’s amazing how if you try to make a difference, people will help you with the dream,” said Schwarz-Mullins. “Because of my experience with JFS, I hope to always find ways to make a difference in my community.”
Last year alone, more than 1,600 other community members felt the same way. “Our village is a great one — our villagers make it so.”
To RSVP (no charge), email kjackson@jfsdallas.org or call 972-437-9950. For general information, donations, or to learn about volunteering opportunities, visit JFSDallas.org.

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