By Deb Silverthorn
“Hello” and “how are you” are among the first words we learn. And, how to find those in need of a “hello” and more is what is behind Please Visit Me 613 (PVM613), created by Monica Ribald.
“I started Please Visit Me 613, because I know of so many people who are homebound because of illness or age or for many circumstances that don’t allow them the ability to get up and out,” Ribald said. “It could be someone who’s a patient, or it could be to spend time with a caregiving family member or friend. They need attention, too.”
Ribald says those she visits have limitations of illness, disability, or for whatever reason no transport, and they are without engagement. Living for company on the weekends, or for when “it’s convenient,” makes for long and lonely days. People wait – and wait – and wait, alone.
“My mother became very hard of hearing in her later years and people stopped visiting with her because it was difficult,” Ribald said. She recalled her friend, Gail Stolovitsky, who always made time to stop in. The visits brightened her mother’s day and kept her cheerful. That someone else besides Ribald and her husband cared was huge. It is in memory of her mother, Helena Stein Tenenbaum, that Please Visit Me 613 was founded.
“It isn’t really difficult, you just have to be creative sometimes in how you communicate with someone. We all need communication,” Ribald said. “There’s nothing worse than being alone. Nothing.”
A New Yorker through and through, Ribald moved to Dallas in 1977 with her husband Max. Ribald’s personality is even brighter than her artwork, which includes the illustrations for Helen Waldman’s book “Polly’s Pipers” and many privately commissioned drawings and paintings.
The mother of Chad (Risa), Yanki (Marrisa), and Itzy (Ilana) and the grandmother of Adam, Anna, Ari, Ariella, Charlotte Grace, Claire, Dasi, Efrat, Eitan and Esther, Ribald is the “Jewish Bubbie” defined: not just to her own grandchildren, but to every student — of any age — who has ever crossed her path, and that includes the thousand-plus children who came through her art classes at Akiba and Yavneh academies.
“I taught my students to draw, to paint, and I taught them about art, artists and about art history. But, I taught them — I hope — more about people and caring,” Ribald said. “You can’t be a good teacher and just teach your subject. You have to teach kids that others matter. Those are the most important lessons I think I ever gave.”
“Do unto others” might not be among the top 10 commandments, but built within our 613 commandments, it rings true many times. Bringing conversation and laughter, or just being with someone, for whatever length of time, does good for the person visiting, and the visitor.
“Monica underscores the connectiveness we have as Jews, the sense of responsibility we all have,” said Rabbi Howard Wolk, the community chaplain at Jewish Family Service. Ribald has been friends with Wolk since the two were in their early teens. “We all left Egypt together and we need to remember that, on many levels,” Wolk said.
Ribald and Wolk agree PVM613 is a project that could connect through the wide spectrum of services JFS offers to its clients and volunteers. “I’m certain that as word gets out, people will appreciate a source to go to whether a person wants to visit, or be visited,” Wolk said. “I hope we will work together.”
Ribald is excited to share PVM613 with the community and hopes others will sign up to go out. She already has a core making their way to homes, hospitals, assisted living and rehabilitation facilities, many of whom have had personal experiences leading them to want to participate.
Sarah Diamond sets out to brighten someone’s day in the memory of her grandmother, Lily. “My grandmother lived with us in her last years and it was so important, to her and to us, that someone be there to hear her stories, to learn her history, to know about her life,” Diamond said. “It gives meaning to their lives, and believe me, we can learn a lot from them.”
There are no parameters or rules to the visitation. It is whatever works and for however long, and however often a schedule allows.
“I was raised to care. It’s just that simple and it’s really easy, and there are so many people here who have no one, no family close. Or they do, but their families are busy, so essentially, they’re alone. A visit can be 15 minutes or it can be hours,” Ribald said.
“It doesn’t really matter how long someone goes in, or what you bring with you except for a smile,” she added. “You have to bring a smile because a smile, a warm caring spirit, is a gift that is opened, over and over.”
To register either as a Please Visit Me 613 visitor, or on behalf of someone who would appreciate a visitor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.