‘As the time went on, we became friends’
JFCS senior outreach visitor volunteer Ester cherishes memories from her time with Elisabeth
After a 43-year career teaching high school, Ester decided she wanted to do “something useful” in retirement, so she called JFCS and asked to see what volunteer opportunities were available. She had previously volunteered with the agency for several years as an interpreter and a tutor.
When she called this time, JFCS asked if Ester would be willing to become an outreach visitor for an isolated Senior Services client. We matched her with Elisabeth, a Holocaust survivor from Romania. Since Ester was originally from Latvia, a Communist country in the same part of the world, our staff thought the two would be a good match.
Elisabeth’s daughter, Gabriela, said her mother was hesitant at first to have a regular companion visitor, but was willing to try it out after meeting Ester. The two didn’t necessarily become best friends right away, but since they both liked each other, they decided to keep the visits going. Over time, they did become very close.
Ester visited Elisabeth every Tuesday and it became their regular time together for eight years. “At first it was very formal, and as the time went on, we became friends,” Ester said. “Both of us cherished our time together. We went for walks in the parks or at the lake, and often we would spend time browsing through current fashions at the mall.”
If the weather was bad or if one of them was not feeling well, the two would play games at Elisabeth’s apartment. Elisabeth always looked forward to the visits – she would make sure to get treats she knew Ester liked. “I think my mother liked her companionship and her honesty,” Gabriela said. “She became a very close friend. Ester pushed my mother to her limits – in a good way. She benefited very much.”
And Gabriela became close with Ester too. She would sometimes join them on the visits, but also knew her mother liked to spend time with Ester by herself. “I put Ester in charge of shopping with my mom,” Gabriela joked. “I told her she was responsible for picking out clothes – she had more patience than me.”
Because Elisabeth and Ester both came from the Soviet Bloc countries, they shared a lot of memories and other commonalities – food, government, clothes, and more. Ester said it was a big loss for her when Elisabeth passed away in December. “I had a wonderful time being with her for eight years,” she said. “I am very thankful to the volunteer coordinator at JFCS for introducing me to this woman. I feel that I did something good, and at the same time, I got much more in return – I got a friend.”
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