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November 22, 2002 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-22

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The Joy Of Volunteering


eannie Weiner loves spending Wednesday afternoons
with her new friend, 84-year-old Janet Lynn, who
lives alone near Union Lake, outside the core of
Detroit Jewry. Together, they do simple things, like
having lunch, running errands, visiting the doctor or dis-
cussing current events.
Weiner, a volunteer with Southfield-based Jewish Family
Service (JFS), finds these weekly visits "the best part of my
"I laugh, I cry and I learn," says Weiner, a JFS board mem-
ber. "Janet is bright, interesting and special."
When Weiner heard we were doing a
Thanksgiving-issue cover story on volunteer-
ing, she was thrilled. "Certainly for me," the
Farmington Hills resident says, "volunteering
has been life-altering and only positive."
Weiner and her husband, Dr. Gershon
Weiner, have three children and five grand-
children, so their time is tight. But the B'nai
Kith Women Midwest Region's 1981
ROBERT A. Volunteer of the Year Award winner has
always made time to volunteer.
Over the years, Weiner
has been active on many
communal boards. But she was inspired to
do more to improve the lives of others
while enjoying the High Holidays at
Congregation Shparey Zedek in Southfield.
Choosing to "go back to the basics," she
applied to become a "Friendly Visitor"
through JFS. Six weeks ago, Weiner was
matched with Lynn, herself active in the
community until her vision declined.
"She continues to have an active mind,"
Weiner says. "My 'assignment' was to
spend time visiting her."
That "assignment" soon became something more. For
Weiner, life was changing and, in some ways, starting all over.

Power Of Talk

The passage of time would open Weiner's eyes to what she
unabashedly calls "the most marvelous new volunteer experi-
Weiner — former president of the Jewish Community
Council of Metropolitan Detroit, a founding member of the
Detroit-based American Arab and Jewish Friends and active
with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit — struck
gold when they first spoke and Lynn said she liked to talk
politics. Weiner is a self-professed news junkie.
With a common interest, Weiner says, "we were off and
When they first met, Weiner says, "we could hardly sepa-
rate because we had so much to talk about."
That conversational embrace would play itself out time and
again, one reason Weiner keeps a journal of their times
"She has taught me much in a very short time," Weiner
Weiner describes Lynn, a 50-year resident of West
Bloomfield, as someone "vigorous in her causes, fervent in
her Judaism and fiercely proud of her four children." Urban
sprawl, environmental abuse and social injustice are among
what Lynn disdains.
"We are definitely kindred spirits," Weiner says.
"I have been her wheels and eyes and she has stimulated

my heart and brain."
"Janet's family history, her philosophy of life, the com-
ments on the books we have both read and her sense of
humor preceded by a certain twinkle in the eye," Weiner
adds, "each is a constant source of fascinating and joyful con-

An Endless Need

By all accounts, Weiner gets back as much as she puts in as a
"Women need to have a mother, a sister or a friend to talk
to," Lynn once told Weiner.
"She has lost her mother and her sister. And I'm delighted
to be her friend," says Weiner.
"A recent trip to her West Bloomfield synagogue, Temple
Kol Ami, to participate in a group with whom she was once
very active proved a great experience for me," Weiner adds.
"She saw old friends and I made new ones. We both enjoyed
the lunch and a stimulating program."
Though uplifted, Weiner isn't too caught up to realize that
"there are many lanets' in our community"
All that's needed is the will and urge to reach out.
JFS is one of many volunteer opportu-
nities within the Detroit Jewish communi-
ty. Just within JFS, choices abound.
Relates Weiner: "There are people like
Janet who would benefit from a 'Friendly
Visitor.' There are New Americans who
need help studying for the citizenship test.
There are children who need a 'buddy' or
a mentor. There are so many situations
that it is not difficult to find one that fits
any schedule. Volunteering can be cus-
She adds that "opportunities also are
available through Jewish Family Service,
the Jewish Community Center, JVS, Jewish Home and
Aging Services or Jewish Apartments and Services, to name
just a few. Give one of them a call and give yourself a lift."
Whether it's through one of those worthy agencies — or a
synagogue, a nursing home, a hospital, -a senior complex, Yad
Ezra, Hadassah, JARC or any Federation constituent agency
that lists volunteer openings in the IN's Community
Calendar — the joy of outreach will likely overshadow the
time commitment. Typically, volunteers work in the field or
provide office support, according to their skill and interest.
"Volunteers are integral to enhancing the services of many
Jewish communal agencies and very much appreciated by the
agencies and their clients," says Linda Blumberg, director of
the local Commission On Jewish Eldercare Services, who got
us to add volunteer listings to our calendar last year.
Take it from Weiner, the communal activist and doting
grandmother: "My volunteer opportunity with Janet Lynn
has expanded my life and filled my heart. I hope that I will
be able to devote even more time in the future to other per-
sonal connections."
Lynn, who "resisted this for a long time," gives a glowing
tribute to her "Friendly Visitor."
Says the native New Yorker: "Jeannie Weiner and I seem to
operate, at least intellectually, on the same wavelength. She's
just a refreshing note to my rather dull existence these days
— very thoughtful and quick. We've got a lot to talk about
and think about.
"The friendship we have is the best thing to happen to

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