By Tova Norman
For the past 10 years Sharon Spiegelman has been making matches. As the director of One Good Deed, Spiegelman has worn many hats — fundraising, marketing, organizing — but her favorite part of her job is matching volunteers with older adults to help them continue to live independently.
“We have some matches that have gone on for more than six years,” she said.
Now One Good Deed has become part of its own match with Jewish Family & Career Services. As of March 1, OGD is a program within JF&CS’ Aviv Older Adult Services, a department that includes geriatric care management, information and referrals, counseling, caregiver services, transportation, Holocaust survivor services, and other kinds of assistance.
This partnership enables JF&CS to expand its services and One Good Deed to take advantage of the infrastructure at JF&CS.
“JF&CS has been focusing on collaborations with other organizations in the community, and One Good Deed is the perfect kind of partner,” said Rick Aranson, the chief executive officer of JF&CS. “We offer complementary services, and working collaboratively will result in greater impact in our community and opportunity for our clients.”
Marty Halpern, who founded One Good Deed in 2006, agreed.
“We are thrilled to become a part of JF&CS. We view it as a great partnership, and it’s a wonderful growth vehicle for One Good Deed,” he said.
When Deborah Zisholtz, the director of Aviv Older Adult Services, who previously worked at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, began her position at JF&CS, she realized the need for a “friendly visitor” program in the array of services Aviv offers.
“I’ve always known One Good Deed, since the very beginning,” she said, and she thought it would be the perfect partnership for JF&CS.
“It fits nicely in terms of coordination of services for older adults and their family caregivers,” Zisholtz said. “It’s one more layer of support that (clients) can get.”
“One Good Deed’s friendly visitor program just fit perfectly within what they were doing,” she said. “I really thought that this was a good move for us to have sustainability and longevity.”
She added: “We’re pretty much transitioned over. We just had a big welcome to JF&CS recognition for National Volunteer Appreciation Week. All of our volunteers came to JF&CS, and Rick and Deborah and some of the geriatric care managers spoke about other services that might be helpful to their recipient or their recipient’s family.”
From the beginning of OGD, Spiegelman realized the importance of this type of friendly visitor service.
“We learned older adults desperately wanted company, and while volunteers were providing companionship, there were many other ways the volunteer could help in and outside their home,” said Spiegelman, now the program manager for OGD.
Over the past decade, OGD has recruited, screened and trained more than 300 community volunteers, who have provided 30,000-plus hours of assistance.
The “friendly visitor” often helps in the way a family member would, Zisholtz explained, but without the history that comes with a parent-child or spouse relationship.
“There is no bias. There are no issues,” she said. “It’s a totally different relationship that takes a lot of stress off the caregiver.”
Since the merger with JF&CS, OGD has received more requests for service, so volunteers are always needed.
“We’ve always had more requests than we’ve had volunteers,” said Vivienne Kurland, One Good Deed’s program coordinator, who has worked as the volunteer coordinator for OGD since 2013. “We have more requests to make matches because JF&CS serves a much larger recipient population.”
“It’s not about money,” Halpern said of the organization he founded. “It’s about giving your time and your effort. It’s just a beautiful thing helping someone.”
Volunteers are asked to commit to spending two hours twice a month to a care recipient for at least a year.
“We want it to become a strong bond, so we are very careful about the matches,” Kurland said.
Jane Wullbrandt Center had just returned from the funeral of her match of more than six years on the day that she spoke to the AJT.
“It affected me a lot more than I thought it would,” she said.
But Center, who volunteers with her husband, Charles, at monthly NORC luncheons as part of her work with OGD, said she has many great memories of spending time with her recipient.
“You really get to know your match,” she said. “And they’re really good at matching people.”
Center often helped her match with projects or took her to lunch. She brought her to her home for visits and even attended a family wedding with her.
“You kind of get to be a little part of their family,” said Center, who actually had two matches she visited regularly. “Both of my matches have daughters who live in town who are their main caretakers, and I’ve had such a great relationship with both of their daughters.”
No matter what the volunteer does with the recipient, OGD is about forming a relationship.
“It just really enriches your life to be friends with them,” Center said. “It kind of keeps you grounded and makes you think about what is really important and what’s not.”