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June 27, 2013 - Image 19

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-06-27

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the future of awesome

JSL Volunteers Shine Bright

Five older adults awarded for serving and inspiring the


Evelyn Lipitz
Evelyn Lipitz speaks softly. Although the
Bronx native didn't know anyone except
her daughter when she first moved to
Michigan's Jewish Senior Life campus
in West Bloomfield, she quickly made
friends when she began volunteering in
the community.
This year, Lipitz was named Jewish
Family Service's Volunteer of the Year.
Her good works were previously rec-
ognized by the Golden Oldies Award
program, an effort by the Detroit Rotary
Club and the YMCA of Detroit to honor
men and women older than 80 who
make a positive difference through com-
munity service.
"I like being useful and helping others:'
says Lipitz, a former insurance under-
In 2006, Lipitz, currently age 91, start-
ed answering the telephone and sched-
uling rides at Jewish Family Service's
Transportation Department. A master
at multitasking, Lipitz's administrative
skills quickly found a place in several JFS
"We are fortunate to be one of the
many organizations that Evelyn spends
her time with during the week:' says
Melanie Gorman, Meer program coordi-
nator. "Evelyn is an inspiration to us all.
One person can make a big difference:'

Fran Penskar
"I'd wear this medal around, but it's too
heavy:' jokes Fran Penskar, 85, holding
out her 2013 Golden Oldies medal.
Penskar is affectionately called "Mrs.
Meer; as the Detroit native has lived in
the Jewish Senior Life residence for 11
years and coordinates several charitable
works there.
Twice a year, Penskar coordinates a


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Special to the Jewish News

evoted volunteers always say
"they give more than they get"
— that's their hallmark of great-
ness, says Marcia Mittelman.
As administrator of Jewish Senior Life's
Meer Apartments in West Bloomfield,
Mittelman is surrounded by several
impressive older adults, including vol-
unteers Evelyn Lipitz, Fran Penskar,
and Bob and Helen Siegel, who all were
recently recognized for their service.
Additionally, Nina Dracinscaia, a JSL
Life resident from the Taubman Campus
in Oak Park, also was honored for her
selfless community service. Here are
their brief stories, to inspire us all.


JSL residents, right to left, Fran Penskar, Evelyn
Lipitz, and Bob and Helen Siegel

food drive for Yad Ezra, the Berkley-
based kosher food bank. Wilkins
Elementary School in Detroit is the
recipient of Penskar's yearly school
supplies drive. The devoted volunteer
also leads other social action projects
throughout the year to keep residents
engaged in the community.
Penskar has the unique ability to draw
out the best in people, says Gorman. Plus,
she welcomes new residents and involves
them in activities that best suit them.
"Fran feels that every resident has
something to offer;' Gorman says.
Penskar demurs, saying she has a
good crowd to work with. "It's easy:'
Penskar says. "People here are very gen-
erous and eager to help:'

Bob and Helen Siegel
Bob and Helen Siegel, both 88, met as
starry-eyed undergrads at the University
of Michigan. After 70 years together,
they have banter down pat.
Of his wife's volunteerism at Jewish
Senior Life, Bob jokes, "The only person
she says 'no' to is me:'
Helen rolls her eyes and smiles. Bob
has no room to talk. The couple was
recently honored as the Edward I. &
Freda Fleischman Residence/Louis C. &
Edith B. Blumberg Plaza Volunteers of
the Year because they both donate their
time and expertise in a number of ways.
Helen, a native of Wilkes Barre, Pa.,
got her first master's degree in counsel-
ing. Now, she volunteers at Fleischman
as a friendly visitor, and residents say her
conversational manner makes her easy
to talk to. She also accompanies residents
who want added moral support at their
medical or other appointments.
People find Helen a "reassuring"
presence, says Mary Blowers, program
coordinator, Fleischman Residence/
Blumberg Plaza. On Friday mornings,
Helen also assists JSL residents during
the popular flower-arranging class and
helps with the Yad Ezra kosher food
bank program.

Honorees Nina Dracinscaia,
seated, and Fran Penskar

Bob keeps busy as a volunteer in
JSL's art classes. Bob is a retired interior
designer, and his gentle manner draws
out shy violets.
"Sometimes, all people need is a bit
of encouragement to create — and Bob
gives that encouragement very, very
well; Blowers says.

Nina Dracinscaia
Nina Dracinscaia, 87, has a nurturing
soul, say her friends. She takes care of
people, she takes care of plants and, on
occasion, she combines the two by pass-
ing along homeopathic wisdom about
garden-variety herbal remedies.
Dracinscaia, who also received a
Golden Oldies award, moved to Jewish
Senior Life's Anna & Meyer Prentis
Apartments in 2002 after emigrating
from Ukraine with her husband, Mihal.
Dracinscaia quickly established herself
as a leader among her peers and takes it
upon herself to greet new American resi-
dents with baked goods, meals, flowers
and emotional support as they adjust to
their new home and country.
"Nina makes a deeply positive impact
on the people she meets:' says Lyndsey
Sleek, Prentis Resident service coordina-
tor. "She dedicates herself to people in
From March to November, you're like-
ly to find Dracinscaia outdoors, weed-
ing the flower gardens around Prentis
or in the community garden at Temple
Emanu-El in Oak Park, where she has
volunteered for 11 years.
She has an ability to find those who
"need a little random act of kindness"
and bring them fresh flowers, Sleek says.
"Nina has a positive outlook on life
and always is looking for a way to give
back to our community:' Sleek says.
"Her kindness, compassion and gen-
erosity make her a valued asset in the
Russian community:"

Allison Batdorff is assistant publicist at Your

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June 27 • 2013


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