Atlanta Bikur Cholim has been bringing a Jewish connection to those in desperate need of a helping hand for nearly 20 years. Friends Michele Asa and Rachel Stein founded Bikur Cholim after recognizing a need through a very personal experience.
“We started Bikur Cholim when our dear friend, Danny Miller, of blessed memory, was struck by yet another bout of cancer that ultimately took his life at the age of 39,” Stein said. Miller was an active supporter “and was thrilled and honored that we created the organization in his merit. He spoke at our first opening event.”
When it started, Stein stresses that both she and Asa were “just wives and mothers who wanted to try and fill a need in the community.”
Now, Asa is a nurse-practitioner and Stein is a chaplain and life coach.
Since that time, Bikur Cholim has expanded to meet the needs of countless Jews in the Atlanta area. Their most common aid is through the on-call committee.
“Situations arise, such as someone who is having surgery [or] has taken sick, and then we find out what they need or want,” Stein said. “We stay involved as long as they seem to need us. For some it’s a few days, some a few weeks, and in rare occasions, a few months.”
The needs they fill can take many shapes depending on each individual, but most often include providing kosher meals and assisting with rides to and from appointments and hospital visitations.
Another part of the mission is through the visitation committee, which sends volunteers to hospitals and nursing homes to visit Jewish patients and residents, providing a smiling face and some words of encouragement.
Stein explained that she hopes to get school groups involved and noted that Torah Day School visits Berman Commons regularly, but Bikur Cholim would like to work with other day schools to get more children involved.
There is also a phone committee through which volunteers make calls to members of the community that need to hear a friendly voice, establish a relationship or cheer them up.
Among Bikur Cholim’s future plans are establishing kosher pantries in each hospital as well as supplying “Shabbos kits,” with electric candles, grape juice and Havdalah supplies, to aid those who unexpectedly end up in a hospital bed over Shabbat.
While it’s currently under the Young Israel of Toco Hills umbrella, with tax-deductible donations thanks to the synagogue, Stein and Asa say they hope Bikur Cholim can become an independent nonprofit in the future.
Stein says that volunteers are always needed to service more of Jewish Atlanta as well as provide even better follow-up care.
To volunteer or to request aid for yourself or a loved one, visit www.atlantabikurcholim.com.