Jewish Family Services braced for immigrants

Volunteers/Where good neighbors get together

September 11, 1990|By Ellen Hawks | Ellen Hawks,Evening Sun Staff

THE JEWISH Family Services, a constituent agency of the Associated Jewish Charities, offers a wide variety of help to its clients in the Baltimore Jewish community.

None of its services is more welcome than the Mitzvah Mobility program, in which volunteers provide door-to-door transportation for those who are unable to get around on their own.

Carol Sandler, director of volunteer services for JFS, says that Mitzvah means ''good deed'' but that its translation is more than that. ''It is a good deed, a fulfillment of an obligation to God and to man.''

Volunteer drivers take clients to medical appointments, to shop and to other errands and wait with them. Most clients are frail, elderly, disabled or are Soviet emigres who have a language barrier.

All JFS clients may use the Mitzvah Mobility, which is free to them. However, a person cannot become a client just to use the transportation.

Clients are helped by one or more JFS services such as foster family care, senior assisted housing, home and respite care, in living units and shared apartments, immigrant resettlement help, the frail and elderly, tutoring for children with learning disabilities, dealing with marital conflicts, single parenting, unemployment and financial crisis, bereavement, physical and mental illness and depression.

Potential clients are evaluated by a JFS social worker who discusses and determines what is needed and what services can be provided. Fees for services are on a sliding scale. Those who are interested in becoming a client should call 466-9200, Ext. 285.

Soviet emigres as JFS clients are being helped with tutoring, translations and transportation by volunteers. ''We served some Soviet emigres last year and are expecting more in October when the need for volunteers will greatly increase,'' says Sandler.

She points out, ''We want volunteer drivers, whether they speak another language or not because a great number of our clients do not need translations.''

Five years ago, Mitzvah Mobility was formally established by JFS, which had previously run an informal transportation service for about 15 years.

At present there are 30 active volunteer drivers who drive from as early as 7 a.m. to around 5 p.m. Volunteers use their own cars and are reimbursed mileage and parking if they choose. JFS has insurance protection beyond what the driver already has. Driving hours can be flexible and most volunteers are on an as-needed basis and are on call one day or several days each week.

In 1989, the JFS provided services for 3,718 families and responded to some 2,348 new requests for services. More than 120 volunteers provided 7,727 hours to clients of the agency.

For information on volunteering, call Carol Sandler at 466-9200. Ext. 244.

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