Selfhelp was founded on the kindness of volunteers and is part of the character and uniqueness that make up the home today. Selfhelp’s robust activity schedule provides a variety of enriching opportunities to become a part of our volunteer family and give back to Chicago’s senior community! Your time and commitment through leading a discussion, teaching a class, performing in the Sunday concerts, helping in the rooftop garden, driving the activity bus, or simple companionship is invaluable to our residents.
Every volunteer makes a positive impact on our community. Volunteering provides people with a sense of purpose, joy and connectedness when they give of their time and knowledge to our residents. We’re grateful to highlight three of Selfhelp’s dedicated volunteers who help make our CCRC so special…
“Song & Verse” started as a poetry program and has evolved into a combination of song, verse and other interesting tidbits. Wallie shared, “When Bill Kaplan came to The Selfhelp Home, I asked him to accompany our songs on the piano. Soon after, I drafted several dedicated lead singers, all of them 90+, with whom we rehearse before the program. Rehearsals are always a lot of fun, especially with folks who know the songs the group enjoys.”
“My Life” offers each participant a chance to be heard as they select a topic and tell vignettes related to the topic. Usually 20 residents regularly participate in this activity. Wallie is always expanding the scope and now the group has integrated a small number of well-known songs!
“Wallie-World” consists of light verse, songs, and a story (often a fairy tale). Recent requests were: Jack and the Beanstalk and The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Everybody eagerly listens to the stories, reads along with the light verse, and enjoys singing the old, familiar songs. This program is a fun “escape” for some of our residents suffering from the reality of Alzheimers.
Wallie has built deep relationships with many of our residents. Bill Kaplan and Wallie have spent many hours together vetting songs and parsing the lyrics to make sure they are singable. Bill’s approach and gentle manner makes the Song & Verse program extra special. His passion for music creates magic with the piano and inspires Wallie as she approaches 70 years young! Resident (and local celebrity artist) Peggy Lipschutz and Wallie connected instantly the day they met. Although they have led very different lives, they share many common experiences and interests.
Wallie shares, “Whenever time permits, Dr. Richard Mervis and I visit the other residents. Richard is only a few years my senior, and has often been mistaken for my husband! I now refer to him my Selfhelp Home-husband. He is always happy to see me and tries to tell me how much he appreciates the visit, but he is rarely able to formulate a complete sentence. However, that doesn’t matter, it’s the sentiment that counts.”
Goethe said, “We only find joy in action and reaction.” Wallie continues returning to Selfhelp because it brings her joy and is very rewarding to watch as her work lifts people’s spirits. According to Wallie, “It’s a good feeling to know that The Selfhelp Home residents look forward to my programs, because quite often, when I am only there to visit, smiles flash on their faces and I hear the question, ‘Do we have a program today?’ One resident’s compliment that still resonates with Wallie is, “Your program is like going to Harvard University without having to do the work.”
Stanley Dreyfuss Volunteer Extraordinaire
Stanley proudly celebrates his 3rd anniversary volunteering with us! His smiling face has greeted SHH residents every Wednesday when he comes to chat with our community. His synagogue, Anshe Emet Synagogue implemented a program called the Caring Communities which is based on the Jewish concept of “Chesed”. In the Torah, we learn that “All Jews are responsible for one another,” and the members who volunteer with the Chesed group at Anshe Emet take this teaching seriously. Stanley emphasized that the umbrella committee has five subgroups to support any member of our community in need.
Stanley began by visiting several synagogue members who were staying at SHH for long term rehab and are now full-time residents since they loved the care and community so much! After one year, Rabbi D’ror Chankin-Gould asked Stanley to visit other residents at Selfhelp. Before long, Stanley had a long list of people to keep him very active! For him, visiting the dementia residents on the 7th and 8th floor is very important because they don’t often have family. He feels it’s significant for these residents to have a continuity of familiar, caring faces. Whether it’s by the staff or the residents, Stanley is loved and accepted by all! He is extremely friendly and loves to share a conversation or listen to personal stories.
Stanley left New York 40 years ago to build a life in “small town America” with his wife. Actively connected to his Judaism, his parents raised him to keep the Jewish faith alive by building up small town Jewish communities. Growing up, his family lived in Missouri and Iowa – not unlike his similar way of life in the southern suburbs of Chicago. Young people tend to leave once they have graduated college or decide to start raising their families. They seem to yearn for “bigger, bolder, more bells and whistles” forgetting what is really at the heart of Jewish faith and culture.
His 42 year career as a wholesale distributor and operations purchasing manager for plumbing supplies has nicely afforded him the opportunity to enjoy his spare time volunteering. He visits the ill at Northwestern Hospital as well as other hospitals. Stanley declared, “Volunteering keeps me healthy, spry and happy because I get such pleasure out of knowing that I’ve done something to make someone else’s day brighter.” He is a loyal fan of The Selfhelp Home. Over 25 years ago when his kids were in Sunday School, they visited SHH on a bus to sing songs for the residents. Stanley raves about our highly rated short-term rehab and outpatient therapy programs. Many of his friends are actually considering moving into our senior living apartments. He strongly advocates our close knit community which creates a warm environment and ample program opportunities without overdoing it. His closing words, “People are very happy here. They know they are well taken care of.”
Joyce’s mother, Rose, moved to The Selfhelp Home for a more supportive environment from Chicago’s northside. She visited her mother often and shared weekly dinners together. Rose Wandel lived here for 10 years and of course that was the beginning of Joyce’s commitment to SHH. She loved seeing her mom, a community activist, sit in the front of the Selfhelp building and visit with people. Rose initiated the request to have a place to sit outside and SHH made it happen! Joyce enjoys the peacefulness of the rooftop garden and knows that the residents love to come up there to enjoy some alone time. The view is spectacular – if you haven’t seen all of the beautiful plants and places to relax yet, it’s a must!
This year marks Joyce’s 10th year as a volunteer at The Selfhelp Home! Joyce stated, “Gardening is my passion and it’s truly amazing how well everything grows on the rooftop garden.” The areas are mapped out according to what plants will do well in shade and sun, as well as attract butterflies. The impatiens love the shade and the herb garden loves the sun. Lavender blooms all year!
For Joyce, volunteering with the Garden Club, makes her very happy. “I love doing this for the residents because they enjoy sitting and reflecting up here.” She understands how grateful the residents are who appreciate the space during Chicago’s short warm seasons. Joyce looks forward to continuing creating inspirational environments each year.