JRAid: Connecting Volunteers to Customizable OpportunitiesBy Andy Sharpe |
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An elderly man’s jubilation at much-needed companionship from a volunteer. The sense of satisfaction from a low-income family who just had a filling meal cooked for them from the kindness of a stranger.
These are only some of the services that the Delaware Valley chapter of the Jewish Relief Agency provides as part of JRAid. The program that matches eager volunteers with the poor and the aged to assist with companionship, household chores, transportation, and monetary donations.
JRAid is a recent endeavor in the Delaware Valley, starting in 2011, says Melissa Samen, its Program Director. The service covers the Philadelphia area, with most of its 200 volunteers from Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Bucks Counties. There are a few volunteers from New Jersey, and perhaps some from further. Samen explains that generous participants can come from anywhere, since some of the volunteer work can be done entirely remotely over the phone.
JRAid supporters donate time and money doing many different things for thankful recipients. “They make friendly phone calls and visits, provide transportation, rake leaves, cook meals, help with paperwork, garden, make cards for birthdays and holidays, change light bulbs, fund projects, and more,” says a proud Samen. Some volunteers take part once, while others participate once a month, and the most dedicated givers return every week to brighten someone’s day.
In order to enjoy the agency’s services, participants cannot make more than 130% of the federal poverty level, says Samen, unless they’re senior citizens. Elderly Greater Philadelphians can receive companionship no matter what their income is. Gertrude Welsh is one such elderly recipient, and has been enjoying services since last year. One of Welsh’s fondest memories is of when a volunteer bought her a dozen beloved bialys, which are a Jewish variation of bagels, from Brooklyn. “I was ecstatic,” reminisces Welsh, who was so overwhelmed by her kind gesture that she began to cry tears of joy. She grew up in Brooklyn, so the bagels probably evoked sentiments of her childhood.
The Jewish Relief Agency sprouted in Philadelphia in 2000, but expanded to other U.S. metropolitan areas this year. The agency now has chapters in the Chicago, Miami, and North Jersey areas. Given that those affiliates are still nascent, they only handle food donations and not the multitude of other services that JRAid specializes in. Samen hints that JRAid may soon germinate to other parts of the country. “JRAid is ever growing and evolving,” she says. “It would be wonderful for other regions to have a program like JRAid.”
JRAid is still seeking volunteers throughout the Delaware Valley through their easy to use, web-based technology.
Samen is adamant about the benefits that come with donating time and money to help those less fortunate. “Everyone can have a dramatic impact in someone’s life,” she emphasizes. “It is often the little things that make the largest impact.”
Indeed JRAid volunteers are welcome to volunteer frequently or seldom, and can rest assured that their efforts will be appreciated. Whether a volunteer wants to trek up to Brooklyn to buy a grateful woman some bialys or just spend an hour on the phone with someone homebound, they will be making a difference on their terms.blog comments powered by Disqus