Category Archive: Volunteers

Volunteer Spotlight: Judith Hara

Judith prepares to hand out a shopping cart full of donated groceries to a client of JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

“It’s only a drop of what they need, but it helps.” Longtime volunteer Judith Hara can’t remember exactly how long she’s volunteered in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry—“Over five years,” she estimates—but she knows she loves doing it. “People have to eat and we’re helping in the little way we can. It’s the right thing to do. It’s just such a good feeling to be able to help.”

Born in New York, Judith moved to Orlando as a young girl in the second grade. She later became a registered nurse and mental health counselor, then a wife and mother. “Until last year, we [my husband and I] were caregivers for our parents. And that was a full-time job. Now I’m entering a new phase of life. My husband and I travel to New York a lot to see our grandkids. I’m very involved as a grandma, as a bubbe. Our two granddaughters live up there. They’re 5 and 8. It’s a great age! And I volunteer. I’m going to be working at the Holocaust Center—I’m a second generation of survivors—and I volunteer here [at JFS Orlando].”

Judith and her husband have supported JFS Orlando for several years. “The whole family is pretty involved with JFS. It’s a marvelous organization that helps a lot of people.” By volunteering, Judith gets to see the direct impact on the community right before her eyes. “You give $1 and you give $6 worth of buying,” she explains. “The food goes directly to the people that need it. That’s really cool! When they have food drives and people donate—you actually see it on the shelf and then in the basket going to somebody. It’s not like there’s middle men. It goes straight to them!”

Due to her travelling, Judith has a flexible volunteer schedule with the Pantry. She picks and chooses when she comes in depending on her schedule and when she’s needed. “It depends on their need. Whenever they need me and I’m available. That’s why Matthew [my volunteer partner for today] never knows when he’s going to see me again!”

Judith hands fellow volunteer, Matthew, a set of food.

Giving back to the community is one of her favorite things about volunteering, but Judith admits that meeting the other volunteers is also a perk. “One of the coolest things is that you meet wonderful people. People that volunteer are a special kind of people. Actually, years ago I met one and we’re the best of friends now! You meet nice people. They’re really terrific.”

We think you’re terrific, Judith! Thank you so much for your many years of volunteering and helping the Pantry continue to aid the Greater Orlando community. Your kindness and positive attitude are contagious and greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Join a good cause and meet wonderful, fellow volunteers! Several roles are currently available on our volunteer team. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or

Volunteer Spotlight: Pamela Wittenstein

Pamela volunteers in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

Pamela is one of JFS Orlando’s newest volunteers. Originally from Indianapolis, she moved to Florida in 2015 and later to Orlando in 2017 to be closer to her husband’s family. Before retiring, she was a paralegal for 10 years and an insurance adjuster for 30 years. Nowadays she enjoys playing Mahjong, exercising, and volunteering with a few organizations around town—including JFS Orlando!

Looking for a place to volunteer, Pamela reached out to her friends for ideas. “I heard it from Dolores Indek, actually!” she recalls. “I was sitting next to Dolores at a Hadassah meeting and I was telling her that I wanted to find some place to volunteer and she recommended JFS.” Pamela started volunteering at the beginning of 2019, at first helping the Reliable Independent Drivers for the Elderly (RIDE) program with data entry and later in the spring helping in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry. She is ready and willing to help however she can, filling in for any empty shifts that might arise. “I try to get here at least once a week. Just depending on what day they need somebody. This week [for example] I’m working three shifts.”

So far, Pamela has enjoyed giving back to the community and people in need through JFS. One of her favorite things about helping out this summer was seeing the little kids. “You hear them when they walk away,” she explains. “They go, ‘They’re so nice!’ Because sometimes when you have a loose cookie or something, or it’s a hot day and there’s a popsicle, you can give it to a little kid and it just makes their day. It’s just nice!” Having the opportunity to directly help people in need is what makes volunteering at JFS so rewarding for Pamela.

Thank you for your kindness, flexibility, and motivation in all of your volunteering work with JFS Orlando, Pamela! We so appreciate you stepping in for those empty shifts and even helping with that behind-the-scenes office work. Directly or indirectly, your hard work is truly helping the people who come to JFS in need. Thank you!

When you volunteer at JFS Orlando, you’re helping to better your community. Want to be a part of our volunteer team? Several types of opportunities are available. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or

Volunteer Spotlight: Eileen Meyer Schwartz (In Memoriam)

Eileen (left) and fellow volunteer, Dolores (right), working in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry

Dedicated volunteer and friend of JFS Orlando, Eileen Meyer Schwartz passed away on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Eileen dedicated her life to helping others through her work in the legal field. She was a legal assistant for over 50 years, first in New York and later in Orlando after she moved in the 80’s. In August 2017, she married Jerome M. Schwartz.

Eileen loved to support her community by volunteering. In January 2017, she became a Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry volunteer. “Eileen was always smiling,” said Cherryl Faye, JFS Volunteer Coordinator. “She brought such a ray of sunshine to the Pantry; to her fellow volunteers and the clients she helped serve. She just spread happiness to everyone she touched.”

JFS is greatly saddened at the loss of such a beautiful and caring friend. Please join us in sending heartfelt condolences and prayers for Eileen and her family and friends.

Volunteer Spotlight: Holiday Meal Delivery Volunteers

Susan Lazarus (left) and Susie Stone (right) getting ready to deliver Passover holiday meals

Volunteering is good for the mind, body, and soul. This couldn’t be truer for JFS Orlando’s Holiday Meal Delivery volunteers. Although on the surface their job is to simply deliver food to seniors in need, it’s their generosity, dedication, selflessness, and drive to go the extra mile for people they don’t even know that truly impacts the community, (and benefits their own mental health as well!).

The Holiday Meal Delivery Program delivers meals free of charge to homebound, low income seniors in the Greater Orlando area three to four times a year, during Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving and/or Hanukkah. It is part of JFS’ core Jewish value of communal responsibility, to honor our parents and care for older adults. In 2018, the program delivered more than 170 meals to 67 homebound seniors.

JFS is very fortunate to have a big group of dedicated Holiday Meal Delivery volunteers. They’re one of the main reasons the program is able to continue. Although there are many more, at this time JFS would like to spotlight the following volunteers from the recent 2019 Passover meal delivery:

Julie Auerbach

Randi Cunningham

Len Fleet

Susan Lazarus

Lauren Roth

Rachel Selber-Krops

Susie Stone

Dena Wild

David Wittenstein

Susan Lazarus has volunteered with JFS Orlando since she retired back in 2012. “What I like the most about volunteering at JFS is meeting other volunteers, greeting the clients and knowing that I am making a positive impact in their lives.” She volunteers with the Holiday Meal Delivery Program and in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry. “I was a Guidance Counselor in Winter Park for 30+ years. A few times in the last 7 years I’ve opened the pantry door and seen one of my school family members that I told about JFS and the food pantry. That is my paycheck—Great feeling!”

In addition to volunteering at JFS, Susan volunteers at many other organizations around town, including the Ronald McDonald House, the gift shop at Ohev, and the Jewish Pavilion. She enjoys people and helping others, hence, volunteering is an important part of her daily routine. Not only does it help others, but it brings her joy as well. “When you give to others…it makes you smile…sign up, you will love helping!”

Thank you, Susan, and all our other Holiday Meal Delivery volunteers for taking the time during the holidays to deliver much more than meals, but also kind faces and kind words to seniors in our community!

Want to be a part of the JFS volunteer team? Join us and give back to your local community. Several types of opportunities are available, including pantry, office assistance, and holiday meal delivery. To sign up, contact Volunteer Coordinator, Cherryl Faye, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or

Volunteer Spotlight: Dolores Indek, Ashley Urquhart, and Wendi Szafran

JFS babysitting team (left to right): Dolores Indek, Ashley Urquhart, and Wendi Szafran

Most of the time it’s the big life-changing gestures we remember, but truly it’s the behind-the-scenes helping hand that makes it all possible. The same can be said about the JFS babysitting team.

The Family Stabilization Program (FSP) is a long-term case-management program that requires individuals to attend several educational workshops on Tuesday afternoons. Although the workshops are vital in helping participants get back on their feet, many of these clients are single parents who cannot attend without childcare. That’s why JFS began a volunteer babysitting team to watch FSP children while their parents attend workshops.

“I am providing a service for families so they are able to improve their lives. It is one less item they need to think about or stress over,” says volunteer, Wendi Szafran. Wendi has called Orlando home for most of her life. While earning her Masters in Social Work at UCF, she volunteers at various agencies around town, including JFS. She says she began volunteering on the babysitting team back in 2017 because “I was becoming much more involved in the community. I wanted to volunteer with children in different ways.” One particular moment that stood out to Wendi was when a young girl she was taking care of wanted to return to her to continue learning kids yoga instead of staying at home. “That was a heartening moment.”

Another FSP babysitting volunteer is Dolores Indek, who also volunteers in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry. Dolores helps out with childcare once a month or when needed. After working for Lockheed Martin for 50 years, she is now retired and volunteers around various Jewish agencies in the community. She particularly likes volunteering at JFS because of the “great feeling you get when you come here. And everyone is friendly. You feel like you’re really helping the community out. I wish the community knew what a wonderful job they do here.”

Similarly, volunteer Ashley Urquhart chose to volunteer with JFS because she wanted to help out her community and do something good. “I started volunteering about a year ago,” says Ashley. “I wanted to do something more productive with my time.” Born and raised in Florida, Ashley works full-time and enjoys hanging out with friends and staying active. She heard about JFS and thought it would be a great opportunity to give back. She loves working with the kids and coming up with fun activities for them to do. “A year ago, around Easter, I brought in Easter eggs to decorate with stickers and markers. It’s a good activity. I really liked it.” Not only does she enjoy the work she is doing, but she has connected with her team. “Everyone here is really friendly, really nice. The other volunteers I work with, they welcomed me right in, and we have our own little email chain going on. It’s a great way to give back and everyone here is super nice. It’s a great place to be.”

Thank you Wendi, Dolores, and Ashley for taking care of our FSP children and, in turn, giving their parents the chance to learn, grow, and get back on their feet. Your help is truly vital to their success!

Want to be a part of the JFS volunteer team? Join us and give back to your local community. Several types of opportunities are available, including pantry and office assistance. To sign up, contact Volunteer Coordinator, Cherryl Faye, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or



Volunteer Spotlight: Peggy Leonard and Matthew Poweski

If you happen to visit the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry on a Thursday morning, you’ll run into pantry volunteer dream team: Peggy and Matthew. Both agree they love working at the Pantry because they like to stay busy and because there’s good people. “I really fell in love with Heather (the Pantry Manager), Amanda (the former Volunteer Coordinator), and Audrey (the Pantry Assistant),” says Peggy. “They’re great. And I’ve got the best partner in the world: Matthew! We’re the A Team.”

Before volunteering with JFS, Peggy was a deputy with the sheriff’s office for 35 years. After retiring, and even after having her knee replaced, she enjoys staying active by playing tennis, biking three days a week, and swimming. She also enjoys working part-time at Universal in loss-prevention. She started volunteering at JFS Orlando a couple years ago after seeing an ad in the newspaper classifieds. “They told me to come try it out and I fell in love with this place.” She’s enjoyed getting to know the JFS staff, as well as the people that come to pick up food. She also loves to keep busy. “If you want to stay busy, this is a great place to volunteer. Some places are so redundant and boring. When Audrey comes she comes with a van full of stuff. And we have to quickly sort the vegetables and the fruit, and put them in the right places, and get rid of the bad stuff. My two hours go by so fast sometimes I think I’ve only been here 20 minutes!”

Similarly, Matthew says he volunteers at the Pantry because “it gets me out of the apartment. I don’t like sitting at home doing nothing. I rather be here, giving food to people who need it.” Matthew first got involved with the Pantry as a RAISE (Recognizing Abilities & Inclusion of Special Employees) employee in 2014. After he graduated the six-month program, he decided to keep volunteering because he liked how fun it is and the good energy he gets from “giving food to people that can’t always afford to go food shopping and making them happy. They say ‘Thank you’ and ‘God bless you’ and ‘I’m thankful for what you’re doing’. They’re very grateful. There have been a lot of people that cry. Sometimes I wish I could give them more food!”

Thank you, Peggy and Matthew, for working so hard every week to help hungry families in our community. We enjoy working with you both and appreciate everything you do for us and the Pantry!

Want to be a part of the JFS volunteer team? Join us in fighting hunger and giving back to your community by becoming a JFS volunteer! Several types of opportunities are available, including in the pantry and office assistance. To sign up, contact Cherryl Faye, Volunteer Coordinator, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or

Volunteer Spotlight: Issy Beham, Harold Plessner, Dolores Indek, and Joan Schwebel

(Left to Right) Issy Beham, Harold Plessner, Dolores Indek, and Joan Schwebel

From Orlando or South Africa, retired or in their 20s, volunteering for one month or for five years, JFS Orlando volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. However, all can agree on one thing: volunteering at JFS is worthwhile and meaningful.

“It just feels good!” says Harold Plessner, who’s volunteered in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry for over two years. Originally from South Africa, Harold grew up in the States and has lived in Florida most of his life. He started volunteering for JFS after he retired a few years ago. “Living in Orlando for seven years, we’ve always contributed to JFS because we like what they do. And then finally, when I retired, I had free time. I thought instead of just contributing, I’d physically do something.” Harold volunteers in the Pantry on Tuesdays, usually teaming up with long-time JFS volunteer, Dolores Indek.

Dolores has volunteered with JFS for over five years and works in both the Pantry and with babysitting for the Family Stabilization Program (FSP). After working for Lockheed Martin for 50 years, she is now retired and volunteers around various Jewish agencies in the community. Like Harold, she is a JFS donor and loves volunteering “because you see where all your donations and your money goes. The people come to the door, you hand them the bag. When people come in a wheelchair, or they take a bus, or they had to call a cab or ride a bike just to get here to get the food, it’s those kinds of things that really stand out.” She says she gets a great feeling from helping her community out and, as an added bonus, gets to work with friendly people while she does it. Friendly people like new volunteer, Joan Schwebel.    

Although Joan has only been volunteering in the JFS Pantry for a month, she already feels connected to the agency. Like Dolores, she likes to volunteer around the community, including for volunteer organization, Hadassah. When she came to JFS to drop-off Hadassah’s end-of-year donation, she had the opportunity to speak with Cherryl Faye, JFS Volunteer Coordinator. “Cherryl said they needed volunteers and I said ‘I can do that!’ so that’s how I got started.” So far, Joan has liked working in the Pantry because “we’ve been very busy and I like being busy. I like to feel like I’m doing something. And I like interacting with the people. We’ve had a constant stream of people.” Joan has been able to see first-hand how many families the Pantry serves and how great the need is, something that former Pantry Assistant, Issy Beham, knows all too well.

Issy first came to JFS when she was 20 and in college. Looking for a nonprofit to volunteer at for a class, she found JFS and immediately knew this was where she wanted to volunteer. “JFS is so efficient and organized and everyone is super nice. It’s a great community and it’s a really well-run organization.” She loved it so much she soon became the Pantry Assistant. In this role she had the chance to see and do it all, everything from carrying 2,000 lbs. of donated Matzah to seeing the quality of food in the pantry improve. “Over these five years I’ve seen how much healthier the food has gotten. We’ve gotten some more produce, and when I started we didn’t even have a produce fridge.” Although Issy’s tenure as the Pantry Assistant ended in 2016, when she recently moved back to Orlando she decided to continue volunteering at JFS. She says there is value in volunteering here because “you see things from other people’s perspectives. Because we have so many different volunteers from so many different backgrounds. And so many clients from different backgrounds, it really challenges you to see things from other people’s perspectives.”

Thank you to Dolores, Joan, Issy, and Harold for your time and support and for adding to the diversity of backgrounds and experiences in our volunteer program. JFS truly couldn’t run without the work of amazing volunteers like you!

Want to be a part of the JFS volunteer team? Join us in fighting hunger and giving back to your community by becoming a JFS volunteer! Several types of opportunities are available, including in the pantry and office assistance. To sign up, contact Cherryl Faye, Volunteer Coordinator, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or

Volunteer Spotlight: Tom Lucas

From bag boy to owner, Tom Lucas has worked in grocery stores for over 58 years. He owned one of the top independent supermarkets in the country back home in Pittsburgh. That’s why it only felt natural when he started volunteering for the food pantry at his church. When Tom decided to retire to Orlando, he wanted to continue fighting hunger in the community. He found out about JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry and right away knew it was right up his alley. “I started volunteering at JFS about two years ago. I do it because you should always give back to the community. I’ve done so well in my life, now I want to help others.”

One moment that has really stood out to Tom from his time at JFS was when an older lady was having trouble getting her food to her car. Tom went out to help her and he remembers how she was just so grateful. “She prayed for me, and that was just the best feeling.” He felt good knowing that this small act of kindness had really made an impact on someone.

Working in the pantry, Tom has seen all kinds of families and individuals come in for food. From families living paycheck to paycheck who need the food pantry as a meal solution to hold them over, to homeless individuals currently living on the streets who don’t even have a stove and need a special set of food that they can eat without heating up. “You should volunteer with JFS to simply help people who need help. If there’s anything we can do to help we should do it.” Thank you, Tom, for volunteering with JFS and helping feed the needy in our community!

Looking for a way to fight hunger and give back to your community? Become a JFS volunteer! Several types of opportunities are available, including in the pantry and office assistance. To sign up, contact Cherryl Faye, Volunteer Coordinator, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or

Hurricane Irma

hurricane-irma-satellite-noaa-ht-jc-170905_12x5_992Hurricane Irma Update: Irma has left many Central Floridians without the most basic of needs: food, water and shelter. JFS Orlando has addressed those exact needs for nearly 40 years and we continue to open our doors and outstretch our hands to lift up those in need. After a natural disaster, it is amazing to see a community band together and help neighbors in need. Now that we have begun to pick up the pieces, many of you are asking how you can help. We have listed our most urgent Agency needs below and appreciate your support!

1. DONATE NON-PERISHABLE FOOD. Our Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry is expecting numbers to continue to rise as power is restored and citizens are able to replenish their food that spoiled. Donations can be dropped off at our building located at The George Wolly Center 2100 Lee Rd., Winter Park, FL 32789.
2. MONETARY DONATIONS. Much of the food we give out through the pantry is purchased from a local food bank. Every dollar donated turns into $6 worth of purchasing power to supplement what we do not get donated from the community. Donations can be made online at or by calling Amanda Benedit at 407-644-7593 ext. 227
3. VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME. Our food pantry is staffed by a wonderful core group of volunteers, however, with increased numbers of clients we will likely extend our pantry hours and need your help to distribute food to those in need. You can apply to become a volunteer by calling Amanda Benedit 407-644-7593 ext. 227.

For additional information on how you can help with Hurricane Irma Relief, please visit or call 407-644-7593.

David Zissman – Mensch Of The Week

MOTW David ZissmanFor his efforts organizing the Rosh Hashanah Holiday Meal Delivery program, Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando is proud to name David Zissman as the Mensch of The Week as seen in the Ma Nishma Newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. David has been a valued volunteer for years at JFS Orlando through service in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry, and he recently organized all the volunteers delivering kosher meals to the home-bound elderly for the New Year. A native Central Floridian, David currently lives in Oviedo with his wife, Heidi, and their three children. David is a graduate of the Federation’s Jerome J. Bornstein Leadership Development Program, and has volunteered with the Jewish Academy of Orlando, The Roth Family JCC’s Richard S. Adler Early Childhood Learning Center, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training. The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando regularly honors individuals and groups in our community who embody Jewish values in service to others.

Thank you, David, for the great work you do throughout our  community!