JFS Perspectives

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

A Shared Love of Family Brought Two Strangers Together

A Shared Love of Family Brought Two Strangers Together

When Lexi Szewczuga’s grandmother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, passed away last fall, she wanted to honor her grandma’s memory by helping a local senior. “My mom often visited my grandma in her nursing home and shared that hardly any of the residents had visitors and how excited they were when people did visit,” Lexi explains. She used Volunteer Match to search for opportunities helping seniors and found the Friendly Visitor program at Jewish Family Service.

While she wasn’t familiar with the local JFS, she has a connection to the agency. Lexi’s grandmother was separated from her own father in Poland during WWII. They both survived the Holocaust and were reunited in Wisconsin thanks to an ad her father placed in Milwaukee Jewish Family Service’s newsletter!

Mary Bradley, 95, who likes to be called “Mrs. Bradley,” lives independently in a sunny apartment filled with homemade quilts and drawings from her great-grandchildren. Over the past couple of years, her eyesight declined, and she needed some assistance. She called JFS and signed up for homemaker services and care management.

When Mrs. Bradley met with her care manager last summer, she realized she also needed help organizing her paperwork, including the large volume of letters and drawings from her great-grandchildren. She requested a volunteer from JFS to tackle this project.

The Volunteer Services department then worked diligently to select the right volunteer from a pool of applicants. “When matching a Friendly Visitor to a senior client, I look for commonalities as well as personalities that complement each other to make the match as mutually beneficial as possible,” says Christine Gillow, Volunteer Services manager.

Mrs. Bradley and LexiWhen Mrs. Bradley met Lexi, 26, about six months ago, it was a perfect match! “She’s close in age to some of my great-grandchildren and I instantly felt comfortable with her,” says Mrs. Bradley. “Time goes so much slower when I’m by myself and I really enjoy when Lexi comes to help me. Interacting with her is a bright spot in my day. I am lucky to have a lot of family nearby, but they can’t always come over, so Lexi fills up part of my day, which I really appreciate.”

Lexi enjoys helping Mrs. Bradley organize correspondence to her family and friends and hearing about her large family. “She has an amazing array of people she writes to and calls,” says Lexi. “I love seeing how involved she is with her family, especially since mine is 1,000 miles away.”

Mrs. Bradley’s love for her family was even captured in a book! She saved 40 years’ worth of letters from her six grandchildren. In 2014, her daughter turned the collection into a published book entitled “Dear Grandmama, A Collection of Love Through the Decades” that is available on Amazon.

It’s lovely that two people—separated by several generations—who value the importance of family have found a way to give each other this unique gift!

For more information about becoming a Friendly Visitor or other volunteer opportunities, please check out our volunteer opportunities or send an email to volunteer@jewishfamilyservice.org.