By Deb Silverthorn
Jewish Family Service of Dallas will celebrate the time served and the generous hearts at its Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Event beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28, via Zoom.
Despite the constrictions of the pandemic that has for many months kept clients, volunteers and JFS employees at home, the agency’s programs have continued to provide a hand to those in need. Folks are eager to help, and the agency had 200 new volunteer applications in 2020. The staff and nearly 800 volunteers have found ways to allow much-needed support to continue.
“In a year where everything has changed so significantly, we feel grateful that what hasn’t is our ability to rely on our volunteers, and we feel the community’s support more than ever,” said JFS CEO Cathy Barker. “We look forward to celebrating the volunteers who helped make more possible for our clients.”
Among the honors of the afternoon will be a tribute paid to Sue Sayah, JFS’ volunteer coordinator from 1977 to 1997, who is credited with building the program that has served tens of thousands.
“The best way to meet people is to volunteer. My doing that led me to the job at JFS, and I was the luckiest person in the world to have it. Whatever the need, the phone would ring with just the right person able to help,” said Sayah, the wife of Sam and matriarch of their family of three children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, 55 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. “I made many friends, and unified, we really made a difference.”
Barker described Sayah as a trailblazer in growing JFS’ volunteer services. “Her years of building relationships, while engaging talented and dedicated volunteers, enabled us to grow our services and achieve great results on many levels due to her passion, drive and leadership,” Barker said. “Our professional staff, lay leaders and volunteers — past and present — are privileged to share this special occasion and to thank Sue for how she instilled the value of service to others.”
Sayah’s legacy continues to reach many in need. Volunteers have helped with the Food Pantry’s weekly distribution to more than 750 families and more than 1,000 at Thanksgiving. They have also created activity kits for children waiting in those lines, and they helped with delivery of nearly 12,500 meals to 60 clients of the Kosher Home-Delivered Meals program. Volunteers have created client program education tools, produced a Food Pantry program training video, knitted blankets, collected diapers (80,000 diapers are distributed each month) and more.
In addition to Sayah’s tribute, JFS honors David Chortek, Jo Coleman, Kathi Dege, Barbara Guskin, Dawn Kaufman, Morgan Lemler, Beth Mond, Lisa Moore, William Oglesby, Erica Prager, Geetha Rajendran, Allison Schwarz, Spencer Silansky, Diana Stein, Lee Vasa, Shiv Venkatasetty, Nelson Veil, David Weiss and Sherie Wigder as its COVID Heroes.
“We started to help when the kids’ summer activities were canceled and I’ve been back every week but one,” said Wigder, volunteering since July, when she was furloughed from her marketing position at Global Semiconductor Alliance. When their schedules allowed, her children Sammy and Sydney joined in. “I love how JFS helps our community and the clients who come each week. We see the same faces and relationships develop even though we don’t even know one another,” Wigder added.
Additional JFS honors to be awarded: Leadership Award to Seth Margolies and Community Partner of the Year to Morrow Hill.
“Driving to work one morning, I saw cars wrapped around the building and I was curious. When I found out they belonged to families receiving food from JFS, I knew we needed to help,” said Morrow Hill President Chris Morrow. “I was stunned to learn they were waiting for hours, so we jumped into action with 16 of our employees able to help cut the waiting time. Our eyes on the process brought us closer to our neighbor JFS and the people it serves.”
Neighbors helping neighbors — Jewish Family Service makes the connection.
To RSVP to the JFS Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Event, to make a donation or to submit a tribute to any of the honorees, visit jfsdallas.org/volapp2021.