Volunteer Voices

My volunteering began when I was a young child in New Orleans, Louisiana. At five years of age I would get up early on Sunday morning and go with Daddy to the grocery to pick up bags of food and then to drive to various houses and leave the bags on the doorstep. No identification on the bags. It was something my parents Esther and Harry Koniarski just did. They would hear of families in need and knew what they had to do. The year was 1934/35 and times were bad.

As an adult I read for the Lighthouse for the Blind, reading the newspaper for The Blind and Print Handicapped on a morning radio show. I also read for the Louisiana State Library for the Blind. With the Council of Jewish Women we manned a senior center at a local (now defunct) department store, just as a gathering place for seniors to pass some afternoons with friends and music.

In grammar and high school I belonged to Daughters of Judea and then Hadassah and Council of Jewish Women and participated in many volunteer projects, leading youth groups, speaking at high schools to encourage the teens to start their own volunteering. I started knitting when I was expecting my first child in 1950. I knitted a sweater, and made the sleeves too long because I lost the instructions! I did not pick up knitting again until I got to Baltimore and heard about the project for Jewish Volunteer Connection’s Mitzvah Day. With the help of Helen Hoffman, the chairperson at the Atrium Village where we now reside, I got started knitting again. I love doing it knowing that someone might be a little warmer with the scarves and knit caps that we do.

My husband Sam and I are here because our home in Metairie, La. was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and since we had a son in D.C. and another who was relocating to Baltimore, we are here.

Helping others gives one such a feeling of usefulness–a reason that we have been put here not for ourselves alone.

Gert Levitan

I’ve been volunteering in various programs since I was in high school. When I was a teen, I was involved in BBYO and participated in community service activities. What I learned early is that it really feels good to help others. As a young adult I was always involved in PTA and school activities with my children. I’ve been involved in an organization to help cancer patients and their families. Community service involvement through my synagogue has always been a part of my life and continues to be.

The Bookworms program has given me an opportunity to touch many young lives by enriching their learning experience in a way the children wouldn’t be exposed to if the program didn’t exist.

If there is a need, it’s important to help. That’s what I’ve always believed. And I try to act on my beliefs. I have learned that if I need to feel good, I just have to open myself to helping others. The rewards are amazing!

Anne King
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