The Heart of a Volunteer

A colourful celebration at the JEM Workshop

A colourful celebration at the JEM Workshop

By Rhonda Friedman

Like many of you, I began my profession as a volunteer at Federation CJA because a friend asked me to get involved. For me, the time was right. I’d done a lot of other volunteer work and I was ready to move on.

But there are many considerations that go into volunteering. The commitment is always a challenge for people. They don’t want to say that every Wednesday at 12 they have to do something. So therefore they would usually not commit to volunteer for something because they didn’t want to disappoint people and not follow through.

I think the Tikun Olam Volunteers (TOV) by Women’s Philanthropy is a great program. A lot of people want to do hands-on volunteering and that means many different things to different people. Some people, like myself, like to do something every week. There are other people who like to volunteer once a month or once every two weeks. TOV really gives many women many choices and they’re listening when we say we don’t want to just give our dollars; we want to do something.

The way they’ve created their program, it really lends itself to meet the needs of people’s different schedules – if you want to be a full-time volunteer; if you want to be a once-a-month volunteer… it’s very accommodating. You get an email; if you want to do it you respond to the email. If you don’t want to do it, you delete it. It’s easy, you don’t have to start with phone calls; you don’t have to sit on a committee. You can go once, you can go five times. It just makes it simple and in our day and the way we live, we need something to be easy.

It’s been great – people are involved. Volunteers get way more than what they give, especially when it’s this type of work. And some people don’t want to have person-to-person work; they want to do deliveries, delivering a Good Food Box or Shabbat in a Box, make flower arrangements, or serve hot meals at Le Café. Wherever your interest lies, TOV is offering so many choices. It is a great menu of volunteer opportunities. When you see you’re making a difference in someone’s life, we realize we’re very lucky to have the lives we have. It’s all about giving back for me.

Visiting the JEM Workshop

Visiting the JEM Workshop

My group, we’re working at the JEM Workshop, we’re there every week doing all kinds of different programs. It’s incredible. We’re there and some of us are actually working on the floor, doing the jobs with the workers so it’s a lot of social interaction. They have to describe their job, explain how to do it step-by-step and this helps the workers reinforce the work that they are doing. We do a lot of role-modeling. Due to budget restrictions, staffing has changed and, as volunteers, if we see something just isn’t right, we’re able to report it to the directors or to the social workers: “You know, so-and-so didn’t look so good today or we saw that he didn’t have a lunch today”. The other thing we do is lunchtime supervision. Helping the workers make coffee, operate the microwaves, opening up a sandwich, getting to the canteen. Then we run a half-hour program; an art activity, Jewish holiday celebration, karaoke, games, etc…

The more people who learn about what’s going on, the more they feel it, the more they’ll want to be a part of it. So many people just don’t realize the scope of how many different programs and services in our community are funded, supported and organized by Federation CJA.

You don’t have to be anybody special to volunteer and that’s what’s really important. You don’t have to be part of a “group” to volunteer. I think that is the beauty of TOV; you can go with a friend or go on your own. People need to know that it’s welcoming; they want you and need you!

The great thing about TOV and Federation is that once you get somebody there, and then once they see the amazing things that are going on and what’s being supported in our community, then it’s really usually easy to get them to come back and then hopefully they bring a friend and that’s how it grows.

So please… consider this your open invitation to come volunteer at any time and to be part of something so great, I promise you will not regret making the choice to get involved at whatever level works for you.

For more information on TOV, visit the website, or please call 514.345.2645, ext. 3091 or email

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