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A Driving Force for Good

A Driving Force for Good

A Driving Force For Good

JF&CS Volunteers Assure Area Holocaust Survivors Can Attend Café Europa Events

It’s been said that life is about the journey, not the destination. For this sweet fleet of volunteer drivers, it’s about both.

Meet Hilly Panovka, Ellen Gebel, and Bonnie Steinfeld. The last Monday of each month, this dedicated crew provides transportation for area Holocaust survivors from their homes to Congregation Beth Jacob, where area Holocaust Survivors enjoy JF&CS’ Café Europa, a catered lunch, conversation, and often a special program for Holocaust surivors – all free of charge.

Hilly Panovka has been a JF&CS volunteer for many, many years. She makes sure that her schedule is open each month for her Café Europa friends. “It is a pleasure. These people are so amazing,” Hilly says. In fact, when Ann Klug, a Holocaust survivor and Café Europa participant, became involved with One Good Deed (another JF&CS program pairing older adults with a community volunteer for emotional and social support), Ann specifically requested Hilly. Beyond the lift to Café Europa, their relationship has blossomed into regular outings and lunch. “They have become my friends,” Hilly says of her Café Europa passengers.

Ellen Gebel, a Café Europa volunteer driver who is also a One Good Deed participant, says she was looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity that offered flexibility, in light of her busy travel schedule to visit out-of-town family. As Ellen describes her volunteer efforts, one might wonder who benefits the most from the experience. “I can’t say enough about the people I’ve met. They are so appreciative. All are so willing and eager to share their stories. They give me perspective, give me gratitude, and they have truly enriched my life.”

Bonnie Steinfeld has been a volunteer driver for the past 12 years.She recalls sitting in a mammogram waiting room, years ago, noticing that an older woman was sitting and waiting, too – all alone. That spurred her desire to offer some companionship and help, saying she just wants to “make life a little easier for others.” Like the other drivers in this special fleet, Bonnie reserves on her schedule the last Monday of the month for Café Europa.

According to Amy Neuman, JF&CS’ Holocaust Survivor Services program manager, without these volunteers, many Holocaust survivors would not attend Café Europa events, which she says are often a monthly highlight. While JF&CS Alterman/JETS vans offers transportation services, these volunteer drivers make the trip a social experience too.

More volunteer drivers are always welcome.

If interested, fill out our Volunteer Interest Form.