According to a recent report by the Corporation for National and Community Service, (CNCS), the Twin Cities ranked number one among the largest 51 metropolitan areas in the US for the number of residents who volunteer.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Jewish Family Service of St. Paul (JFS) Volunteer Engagement Specialist Margie Solomon. “Volunteering provides many of us with a purpose in life, and that purpose can help sustain a healthier lifestyle that includes increased physical, mental and social activity. Many of our mature volunteers would like to give back and re-discover or deepen their sense of purpose.”
Joe Marin discovered volunteering at JFS in 2016 after his beloved golden Labrador Retriever died. Joe had a car he used only for her because she shed profusely as most labs do. After she passed away, he decided to donate the car to JFS.
Joe became aware of JFS during 20 years of volunteer work with sister agency Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis. While he was at JFS completing paperwork to donate the car, he talked to Margie and Shannon Nixon, Life Enrichment Action Program (LEAP) Coordinator. Together they found a volunteer opportunity that Joe agreed was perfect for him–serving as a friendly visitor to seniors dealing with depression and loneliness.
Joe became a friendly visitor for “Pete.” After suffering a stroke, losing his wife, and losing his neighbor and best friend, Pete felt himself change from his usually upbeat, extroverted self to a sad, lonely man. His doctor suggested he contact JFS to help him with his depression. At JFS, Pete met Shannon who got him started in LEAP where he met Joe.
Joe’s role is to get Pete out and do things to help alleviate his depression. They typically get together each week. Pete loves going out to eat, to the track, playing blackjack, and telling stories about the city in the 1930’s. “I get far more out of this than Pete does,” said Joe. “His stories are so interesting and vivid, I can close my eyes and see what he’s describing.”
“For me,” said Joe, “volunteering is a mitzvah, a good deed. I feel good about helping others, being a positive influence on someone. I have no doubt that if you do good for people, it will come back 10 fold. I’ve met people who give so much, and they glow, they actually appear to glow. I want that.”