JFS Perspectives

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Ruth Leland and Janet Johnstone: Giving Back Through Volunteer Service

Ruth Leland and Janet Johnstone: Giving Back Through Volunteer Service

Every Wednesday morning, you can find two bright-eyed friendly faces offering warm smiles and helpful hands to visitors of the JFS Weinberg Food Pantry. Ruth Leland and Janet Johnstone are dedicated volunteers who are quick to roll up their sleeves and do whatever needs to be done to serve the hundreds of people who come through the pantry each week.

Sometimes it’s sorting produce and stocking shelves. Sometimes it’s helping people shop. Other times it’s listening to people’s challenges and life stories. Many JFS clients know Ruth and Janet by name and have come to appreciate their helpfulness, compassion, and empathy. Janet and Ruth enjoy interacting with people from all walks of life and learning about their backgrounds and cultures.

Ruth Leland (right) with pantry clientRuth, a returning JFS volunteer, was looking for a new opportunity at JFS in which she could interact with clients and decided to help in the food pantry. “I want to make people’s lives a little better and I thought working in the food pantry would give me that opportunity,”

Janet came to JFS after being referred by another agency. She interviewed several nonprofits and decided that JFS was the right fit for her. The chance to work in the pantry was the most interesting to her. “I enjoy helping people one-on-one and the pantry allows me to do that.”

By chance, Ruth and Janet ended up working together in the warehouse helping clients with their shopping. What neither anticipated is that they would develop such a meaningful friendship. “We just kind of clicked,” says Ruth. “We work really well together and have fun,” confirms Janet. The pair occasionally gets together outside of JFS for lunch and hopes to build on their friendship.

What keeps them linked is their passion for the work and people they serve. They appreciate the impact they are having on people’s lives. They like interacting with clients and getting to know them.

When Ruth started volunteering, she assumed that JFS served primarily people of the Jewish faith, but quickly experienced the diversity of individuals representing different races, faiths, and ethnicities. “I absolutely love it,” she says. “It enriches me to be exposed to people of different cultures. This experience has given me a new perspective. You quickly realize that we are all more alike than different.”

Janet volunteering in the pantryFor Janet, the experience of working in the pantry opened her eyes to the idea that hardship can come to anyone at any time. “There but for the grace of G-d go I,” she muses. “I see so many people at JFS whose lives have been turned upside down because of an unanticipated crisis. The pantry is such a lifesaver for them.”

Giving back by volunteering at JFS has been rewarding for both Ruth and Janet. They are enjoying their newfound friendship and the opportunity to help others in a meaningful way. “When you do volunteer work, you walk away with so much more than the people you are trying to assist,” says Ruth. JFS and those we are privileged to serve are grateful to Janet and Ruth for their dedicated service.

If you are interested in exploring volunteer opportunities with JFS, contact us at volunteer@jewishfamilyservice.org.