Building Community Through One Good Deed

June 30, 2023

Building Community Through One Good Deed

(above photo: Marc (R) and his current OGD match, Stu (L) )

Hardship can strike when we least expect it, and when it happens, we need the support of our community to get through. This is the story about how one couple found themselves navigating the unknown, and how they ultimately found community and support through our One Good Deed program.

Marc and Randy

Marc’s tall stature and booming voice contrast with his wife Randy, who is petite and soft-spoken. To be in their presence is to feel the tangible love they have for one another. Their story is not a traditional love story; after first meeting in 1990, they reconnected through work in 2010, both now over 65. Marc was living near Baltimore and Randy had settled in Atlanta from her native New York. They eloped in St. Simons in 2015 and looked forward to their future like newlyweds do.

In the days after their wedding, Marc and Randy were in Chicago spending Passover with their families when Marc began to feel unwell. A robust man, it was unusual for him to feel under the weather. A mere 10 days after their wedding, he flew home and was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent several surgeries and procedures.

Anyone who has gone through this type of illness knows that it can become all-consuming. Randy’s quiet strength buoyed them through, and nearly two years after his last surgery Marc was cleared for travel. His brain tumor was gone, but he continued to suffer from cognitive problems; still, he was finally able to live with his bride in Atlanta and established a care team at the Shepherd Center.

Connecting with One Good Deed and JF&CS

L-R: Randy, Marc and Max

Randy had friends in Atlanta and was a member at The Temple, but Marc was new to the city and not yet established. As things began to settle they saw their need for community and connected with a chaplain at Shepherd Center. The chaplain learned they were Jewish and introduced them to Rabbi Judith Beiner, JF&CS’ Community Chaplain.

Randy already knew Rabbi Beiner, who was an assistant Rabbi at The Temple before taking on her current role. She referred the couple to JF&CS’ programs: Randy to a support group for spouses, and Marc to therapy and One Good Deed.

Since 2006, One Good Deed (OGD) has matched hundreds of older adults with volunteers for friendship and companionship. These kind and compassionate friendly visitors make a monumental difference in the lives of the older adults in our community - reducing loneliness and isolation and giving them meaningful social connections.

Randy and Marc met with the OGD team and were connected to their first match, Max. A New Yorker like Randy and avid reader and moviegoer like Marc, they immediately bonded with Max and formed a friendship that Randy describes as “more like family. Max, Marc and I all decided that we were family now.” In fact, Randy and Marc did have the opportunity to meet Max’s extended family, spending time with them and spending hours talking and laughing. When Max decided to move to Dallas to be closer to his daughter and grandkids, it was a bittersweet parting. They continue speaking on the phone regularly and enjoy their time and connection.

Not long after Max left, Randy and Marc were contemplating asking for another match. “No one will ever replace Max, and what he has been to us,” says Randy, “but we missed the companionship.”

Before she could call, the OGD team was already on top of it; they knew Max was relocating, and they reached out to see if Randy and Marc were interested in connecting with another volunteer. OGD matched the couple with Stu, a newly retired gentleman who lives close by. Stu and Marc have been meeting for over a year now. The connections he builds with his matches are “life changing,” says Marc. “It feels so good to have that connection.”

“(JF&CS) has a lot of special and positive opportunities to volunteer,” Stu said, “but OGD stood out to me because it was for relational, person-to-person contact.”

Stu was also impressed with the process and detail the OGD team, Vivienne Kurland and Laura Marcus, go through to match people. For Stu and Marc, the match is a big success.

“Even though we weren’t physically together in the 60’s and 70’s, we love to reminisce about the music, politics, sports, and other past experiences we’ve had in our generation,” said Stu. “Marc has a great outlook, and the shared reminiscing I do with him is powerfully positive.”

While reminiscing is powerful, it’s not all Stu and Marc do in their time together. They also go to the library, the William Breman Museum, the Delta plane museum, and the occasional day trip. The benefits of the pairing are mutually beneficial. “Staying involved is important to me,” says Stu. “I like to keep busy.” The opportunity to meet with Marc has been wonderful too- “any time you help someone, you help yourself.”

Making friends can be quite difficult as an adult, and there aren’t as many natural avenues to friendship as there once were. OGD provides an entry point and acts as a facilitator for introduction. The program builds relationships that matter for both the volunteers and the recipients.

“(The program) is called One Good Deed, but (the volunteers) also go one more step,” said Randy. “They’re fully invested and dedicated.”

“To have one great volunteer touch our lives is a gift,” she added. “But two? That is remarkable.”

Interested in becoming a volunteer with One Good Deed? We’re looking for matches now. Please contact us here.