Photo by Erin Nelson.
Susan Lapidus, center, and her daughter Clara, 16, put groceries on the counter for Jeanne Deaver, at back, in Deaver’s kitchen through the Senior Grocery Initiative.
Photo by Erin Nelson.
Britney McEwen picks up a bottle of tomato juice as she bags a list of groceries at the Jewish Day School before delivering them to a senior resident.
When Ida Campbell needs groceries it's not easy for the South Avondale resident to get out and buy them. "I don't have a car," said the 83-year-old, who has had back surgery and both of her knees replaced. But every second Sunday of the month, volunteers meet at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School on Montclair Road to pack and deliver groceries to Campbell and other low-income seniors. It's all part of the Senior Grocery Initiative of Collat Jewish Family Service (CJFS), through a partnership with the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama.
“The number of volunteers varies month by month, but typically we get around 20 to 30 people,” said Jennifer Nemet, volunteer and outreach coordinator for CJFS. “The response has been wonderful. Volunteers of all faiths sign up each month … Our volunteers say that although this volunteer activity doesn’t require a large time commitment, they find it extremely meaningful.”
Jill Warner and her 7-year-old twins, Lila and Charlotte, second-graders at Brookwood Forest Elementary School, are often among those volunteers.“As soon as I knew that this was a possibility, I said, ‘Sign our family up … we would love to help,’” said Warner, a CJFS board member. “My daughters are at the age where they love to help out, and they need to be continually reminded that a world exists outside their immediate bubble. Being able to contribute – whether it be opportunities through group acts of service with their Brownies troop, community events or individual activities – brings a sense of empowerment.”
Susan Lapidus and her daughter, Clara, of Highland Park, volunteered for the first time in October. “I am always looking for ways to spend time with my teenage daughter,” Lapidus said. “I only get to have her in my home for another year-and-a-half before she goes away to college, and an hour or two on a Sunday fit perfectly into both of our schedules. I think it’s very important for her to understand that we should always make time to help someone else and to be grateful for all that we have.” On the second Sunday in October, the Lapiduses joined the volunteers, filled grocery bags for their two clients and then delivered them.
CJFS joined the grocery initiative earlier this year. “Not all of the sites distributing this food are able to deliver it,” Nemet said. “At many of the other sites, program participants come and pick up their groceries.” CJFS started with five clients in July and is serving 34 right now, with a goal of 40 participants, she said. Participants who meet the financial aid requirements receive up to 30 pounds of groceries each month.
Campbell has used CJFS’s services since about 1998, and she said that after her surgeries, especially, the agency has been a huge help. “If they weren’t there, I’d be up the creek without a paddle,” she said. “They were a godsend, I tell you. I live by myself, and they were just there for me. If it had not been for them, a lot of times I just don’t know what I would have done. I would recommend them highly to anyone.”
And Susan Lapidus would recommend volunteering. She and Clara, a student at Indian Springs School, spent about two hours packing and delivering their groceries, and they planned to do it again. “Both the ladies we visited were so grateful and sweet,” she said. “They invited us in and began telling us all about their families, their pets, which teams they rooted for on Saturday and much more. It was hard to say goodbye. We enjoyed it so much that next month, we have requested to deliver to the same ladies.”
CJFS is a 30-year-old nonprofit organization that helps older adults continue to live independently. Services provided by the United Way of Central Alabama agency include licensed clinical social workers providing needs assessments, caregiver coaching and professional counseling.
CJFS also hosts computer classes, helps with transportation needs and more, serving a racially, religiously and socioeconomically diverse client population. To volunteer, or for more information, email Nemet at email@example.com or call 205-278-7118.