WEST ORANGE, NJ – Estelle Friedrich calls the gift shop at the Daughters of Israel “her store.”
It technically belongs to the long-term care and rehabilitation facility, of course, but in every other sense, it is Friedrich’s store. After all, she’s 92 and has some 50 years of retail experience. She’s also a volunteer – one of many who help keep Daughters of Israel running like a well-oiled machine.
“I love it,” Friedrich said. “I don’t get paid - I should pay them.”
She echoes the sentiments of the nearly 100 volunteers at Daughters of Israel, who vary in age and in what they do at the facility. What they have in common is their love for volunteering, and their commitment to being there for the residents.
Eve Goldberg, director of volunteers, said many come on a weekly basis. Some are interns from Montclair State University.
“All of them are phenomenal,” she said.
The volunteers work in the gift shop, thrift shop, work center, and the activities department. They help with the facility’s fundraising efforts, which are many thanks to the economic downturn of the past few years. They help residents get to and from therapy in the facility’s state-of-the-art rehab center or therapeutic kitchen - donated by the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey - and they lend a hand with decorating for teas and parties, and setting up for religious observances. Daughters of Israel, with its predominately Jewish population, hosts regular observances like seders during Passover and a carnival during Purim.
“When the holidays come, people start remembering the days of yore, missing their loved ones, and it helps to have observances here they can take part it,” Goldberg said. Festivities often include young people, who bring their high spirits and energy to the celebration.
In the workshop, residents are busy assembling packages of things like toothbrushes and combs, and they’re paid a small stipend for their work, said Renee Glick, director of public relations and marketing. It gives them money to spend in the gift shop, and instills a sense of purpose.
Volunteers busily tote supplies to the tables for residents in the workshop. There’s a feeling of camaraderie in the air as volunteers and residents chat among themselves.
“It’s a great way to meet people,” Goldberg said. “Volunteers fall in love with the residents, and vice versa, and they look forward to coming here and spending time together.”
Ilan Etin, a volunteer who lives at Jespy House in South Orange, is a regular volunteer at Daughters of Israel. Goldberg said Etin, who is fluent in Russian, is a big help with residents who only speak Russian.
“I like doing this. I like being there for people who need my help,” said Etin, who also volunteers at a teen center in Secaucus. “Whatever they need me to do, I do. I’m a people person, and a team player. You know there’s no ‘i’ in ‘team.’”
From her perch in the gift shop, Friedrich is characteristically direct with her thoughts on the matter.
“This is a great place, but it wouldn’t be as good as it is if it weren’t for the volunteers,” she said.