RUTH LITTMANN STAFF WRITER
Left: Rose Greenberg
started the program 18
Below: Reka Goldstein
coordinates a branch of
Service With Love at
true for the
Pittman and Lynn
onia Pittman routinely places
phone calls to people she knows
only by first name.
The people who answer her
calls are homebound and alone
— the sick, the isolated, the el-
derly, who generally greet her
daily hellos with happy appreci-
Not so, one day.
Some time back, Ms. Pit tman
heard shrieks from a
woman on the other end of
the line. Recognizing it as
a call for help, Ms.
Pittman hung up and di-
aled Emergency 9-1-1.
When crews arrived on
the scene, they found the
woman weak and slipping
into unconsciousness. It's
likely that Ms. Pittman's
quick response saved a
"The police called me af-
terward to say 'thank
you,"' she says.
Ms. Pittman is among 500 peo-
ple who participate in Service
With Love, a volunteer-driven
program of friendly phone calls
aimed at keeping tabs on — and
in touch with — the homebound.
Many, though not all of the 1,000
recipients, are elderly, sick and
have no family, or their relatives
live out of town.
"The program evolved out of
the need to give the homebound
a reassuring call," said Julie
Levinson, program co-chair.
Service With Love was borne
18 years ago through the Sinai
Hospital Guild. It was created
and spearheaded by communi-
ty activist Rose Greenberg, a win-
ner of the recently bestowed
Eight Over 80 award for com-
Before manning their phones,
volunteers receive training
through Sinai Hospital. Most vol-
unteers are senior citizens who
work out of their homes and place
short-distance, five-minute calls
at the same time each day. To
protect anonymity, callers do not
exchange last names with call-
They generally start conver-
sations with stock questions: How
are you feeling today? What are
your plans? Do you have trans-
portation to your doctor's ap-
pointment this afternoon? How's
that achy wrist you mentioned
If someone needs help or med-
ical advice, volunteers do not rec-
ommend doctors, but instead give
them physician referral numbers
and other hotlines. In emergen-
cies, they do as Ms. Pittman did:
Call 9-1-1. But most of the time,
small-talk comprises their con-
versations, therapeutic as they
are light and chatty.
"Our world today is so non-
communicative," said Pearlena
Bodzin, program cochair with Ms.
Levinson. 'We forget that the hu-
man voice is so important."
Lynn Faxstein thought the
idea was silly at first. Soon after
she started volunteering eight
years ago, however, Ms. Faxstein
changed her mind.
"I started calling and realized
how appreciative people really
are. It comes through over the
phone," said the resident of Jew-
ish Federation Apartments. "It
makes you feel really good."
In fact, volunteers like Ms.
Faxstein, Esther Frances Fried-
man and Florence Wilhelm say
Service With Love connections
literally go both ways. Home-
bound individuals get a listening
ear and help, if needed. Callers
feel needed — and, in fact, they
'They wait for your call and if
you forget, they let you know it,"
Ms. Friedman said. "The nosier
you are, the better they like it."
Ms. Wilhelm is a volunteer
who is homebound herself.
Through involvement with Ser-
vice With Love, she says she has
formed many close friendships,
which can make it especially hard
when a call-ee passes away.
"One woman was from Geor-
gia," Ms. Wilhelm said. "She
loved to go to her prayer services
in the mornings. One day I called
and got no answer. It was very
Reka Goldstein began coordi-
nating a branch of Service With
Love at Temple Israel after a
chilling experience delivering food
to the homebound with the Meals
On Wheels program.
"We came to one lady's house,
knocked on the door and no one
came to answer," she said. "So we
pushed the door open and found
that the poor thing had col-
Friendly phone calls often help
people before harm strikes. Even
so, many potential recipients de-
cline the service. Volunteers say
homebound Jews, more than
other ethnic groups, are leery of
Despite outreach efforts in the
synagogues, "we're having a hard
time getting volunteers and we're
having a hard time getting
clients," Ms. Levinson said.
Some think the issue is pride.
"You would be surprised," Ms.
Goldstein said. "In the Jewish
community, there is a great deal
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