Volunteers freely give two of the most valuable commodities they possess – themselves and their time.

The great, late, Sir Winston Churchill said it best – You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give. ~

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Helene Weinberger – our EXTRAordinary woman of the week – is an example of one who gives and then gives some more. Read her story and be inspired to get out and pay it forward by going out into your community and give your time to those who can benefit from your brilliance.

Here’s Helene’s story as told by Sherry Gavanditti

Helene Weinberger is 85 years old and one of the most amazing women I have ever met.  She is retired from the insurance industry and after tending to her dying husband for many years, became a volunteer and an advocate for senior citizens.  She spends at least 20 hours per week simply giving of her time and her beautiful spirit in volunteering to help other seniors here at Menorah Park Campus for Senior Living where I work.  She also spends a lot of time in my department helping with political advocacy.  She has traveled to Columbus to advocate to statehouse officials, held letter writing campaigns, rounded up volunteers and gathered signatures for many good causes as well.  She is a strong, wise, and an amazing woman, with so much impressive experience it’s hard to know where to begin.  She has always been able to break the glass ceiling and set trends for women, when most women were still in aprons, she was serving her country in the Navy, and then forging new trails in the insurance industry.  I’ve attached a few clips and articles about her that have appeared in the past.  I sincerely hope you find it in your heart to showcase this beautiful person who touches so many lives in so many ways. To top it off, she also creates some of the most beautiful jewelry I have ever seen!  She donates most of it to help fund seniors programs and other projects here on campus.  I’ve attached a few pictures of her creations, and I have attached a few photos of her in action doing advocacy work.  I truly thank you for the opportunity to bring to light this angel of a woman.

In Helene’s own words

HOW DID I BECOME AN ADVOCATE

I was interested in world affairs, as well as national issues, from the time I was 19 years old.  While going to drama school in New York, I went to the New School for Social Research at night (now the New School) to study International Politics, Philosophy and Psychology. This University is now accredited – then it was n ot – but had great professors.

Even in the Army (Air Corps) during the Second World War I paid attention to world affairs (lots of Gandhi) studying when stationed in Karachi, (then India.)  When first married, I joined American Veterans Committee, a more “progressive” veterans group than American Legion – unfortunately it did not survive.  Also worked on Henry Wallace Campaign BEFORE it was allegedly taken over by real “left wing” political entity.  Later I worked on Roosevelt Day Dinner, that year – honoring Walter Reuther.  Because I was later in business I could not take sides, but was interested in the League of Women voters – until my work was too overwhelming.

When my husband became a resident of Menorah Park I was almost immediately aware of the extraordinary care and concern evinced by the staff – to make this nursing home – not a place of “waiting to die” – but a place with good care and cheerfulness, of art and music – of programs and world interest!  I particularly saw that the administrators, led by Steve Raichilson, were all attuned to the welfare of the residents – I could hardly believe it!

Helene and Froyam Helene and her husband Froyam

It was then that I started volunteering as a means of showing my profound appreciation for what was being offered to my husband and me!

Later I was given the opportunity to volunteer in the Public Relations Department at Menorah, and of course this was my chance to learn about the various causes of interest to nursing homes, as well as other non-profit agencies.  It was a gift to be able to learn a little more than what was on TV or the newspaper – and since I had spent my working years (30 in all) doing analyses of contracts and communicating with potential commercial clients about the value of one versus another – this was simply an amazing chance for a very senior citizen to be of use!  I have been, and am still, really thrilled when there is a specific need for individual advocacy letters or phone calls!

WHAT DO I DO AS AN ADVOCATE

Actually all that I do in this capacity (since I have other volunteer jobs at Menorah) is to write letters, make phone calls, inform my friends – whose interests are akin to my own – about what I think might interest them as well.  Word of mouth, giving small donations at times, writing letters, and sometimes letters to the editor of local newspapers – each has a place!  What is most valid in my mind – is to do it – even if you think you might be “wasting your time”.  Sometimes the smallest communication to someone might have an impact far beyond one’s expectations And of course there are other, so-called, futile efforts – but they’re all a part of life!  And, in my mind, one has the responsibility to do whatever one can – we’re not all “giants” in terms of leadership – we’re just cogs in the wheel!

WHY DO I THINK VOLUNTEERS ARE EFFECTIVE ADVOCATES

Number one, they have already demonstrated their interest in the organization, which one is espousing.  Number two; it has been my experience that volunteers take the time to learn more about what’s going on in the area!  They seem to be more fulfilled – and even healthier!  I wish I had the capacity to write a vignette about each of the people I’ve worked with!  Their stories are fascinating, and they do the work!  As opposed to these active and involved people, I see others who sit on their couches at home and go out to be entertained by someone else!  If that is adequate for them to feel a part of the world in which they live – I can’t change that!  But I truly can show them by example how much fun it is to share in the larger world!   And most of the volunteers I know have broader horizons!

Here are some pictures of Helene’s beautiful custom jewelry.

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necklace earrings

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If you would like to make a purchase and contribute to her cause contact Sherry Gavanditti at  216-839-6687

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Thought Stimulator: Volunteers are not paid — not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless. ~ Unknown