Kid volunteers and their mothers after they sing Hanukkah songs to residents of Reseda's Jewish Home.
This post is part of KPCC's "Season's Givings" series, chronicling volunteer experiences and opportunities during the holiday season. View a full listing of charitable organizations seeking help this season and let us know your holiday volunteer story!
Thirty elderly men and women face the cafeteria entrance, waiting. Some are in hospice care or rehab therapy; others have Alzheimer’s. Their average age is about 90.
After 15 minutes, kids show up – some as young as four. They’re with their moms, and they’re carrying trays of cookies imported from Israel and blue balloons that say “Happy Hanukkah.”
They've all come as part of The Jewish Home's volunteer program, to participate in a Hanukkah sing-along.
They all break into song, and many of the residents clap along, smiling as the kids move around the room handing out “gelt” - chocolate coins.
Ana Simon brought her two children to the Jewish Home's Hannukah celebration so they could learn about the importance of volunteering.
“You know? Everyone grows old and sometimes we get forgotten," she says. "And being alone isn’t a happy place to be. So we just wanted to bring a little Hanukkah light into their lives.”
Jane Poppers is sitting towards the back of the room with a Hanukkah balloon in hand. Her son is next to her, and he’s brought their dog Ted. Poppers lives at the Jewish Home.
“It’s very wonderful because everybody is very lovable," she says, laughing. "It’s just wonderful to be involved with all these children and ladies."
Stacy Orbach heads up volunteer services at the Jewish Home. She connects residents or patients like Poppers with volunteers. Orbach says many who offer up their free time are retirees; others have relatives at the Jewish Home.
“I have volunteers that come in with therapy dogs; we have volunteers that come in and sing, volunteers that play violin, piano, blackjack, poker, lead discussion groups, arts and crafts, one-to-one companionship…”
A lot of the residents don’t have relatives; they’ve outlived a spouse, their siblings, and sometimes even their children. But Stacy Orbach says the people at the Jewish Home are never hurting for outside help. She gets calls asking about volunteer opportunities every day not just for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Passover and Purim - but year-round.
To find out how you can get involved, you can find volunteering opportunites at their Web site.