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Nominated by Marlene Heller
Jewish Home and Care Center
Length of Service:
80+ hours per month for 32 years
January 21, 2014
Some people volunteer to fill their time. For 92-year-old Della Bornstein, volunteering is a way of life. But more than that, it's her way of contributing to the lives of the residents of the Jewish Home and Care Center (JHCC), many of whom have been her friends, neighbors, and relatives.
What Della does as the volunteer proprietor of the JHCC Gift Shop has clear results. That's because the proceeds from the gift shop all go directly to enhance the lives of residents at the Jewish Home, as well as at the rehab and memory care of the Sarah Chudnow Community and the JHCC Adult Day Programs. The money is invested by Hand in Hand, the umbrella volunteer organization that supports numerous resident and volunteer programs at our three locations, and the interest is used to provide grants. Grants have been awarded for such items as the VitaStim machine that aids in swallowing, a proton blood testing system, computers with SKYPE video conferencing capability, portable electric pianos, lounge chairs, iPods for musical memories programs, ongoing program support for ceramics, a sensory stimulation room for residents with Alzheimer's and related dementias, as well as special family programming and an elevated garden that residents can tend to on their own. And that's just a sample.
Della began her relationship with the Jewish Home when her mother was a resident. She and her mother began serving tea to the other residents. After her mother died, Della took off a year from her volunteer service. When she was ready to begin volunteering again she wanted to serve tea to the residents but the times had changed. Instead, Della went to work in the gift shop.
Della has been a gift shop volunteer at the JHCC for 30 years. "I run the gift shop for the residents. I want them to have a place to shop. It is my dedication." Della does the buying and merchandising for the store, making all the choices about what to carry in the very popular shop. Della also manages the store's volunteer employees. She drives herself to work (but, she says, "I won't drive at night.") and enforces the policies and procedures of the shop. Della also sits on the board of Hand in Hand, which oversees the volunteers.
"My motto," Della says, "is to find something to do for other people. That will take your mind off your own aches and pains."
She looks through catalogs from her home and buys only the things she thinks the shoppers would like. Sometimes she travels to Chicago with her daughter to find the hottest new items. "All of the gift shop volunteers help." Della wants all of her volunteers to feel like family. "It is very important for everyone to enjoy working together. We are all very proud that the money generated by the gift shop goes back to residents, through Hand in Hand."
Della's patient, warm and welcoming presence is evident whenever someone enters the gift shop. She will go out of her way to stock items that she believes the residents want, and at a good price. "Volunteering here gives me a reason to get up in the morning. I can feel that I am accomplishing something worthwhile in my life. I am happy to do this," she says.
Della loves to spend time with the residents and their visitors. She wants everyone to feel that they are not just shoppers, they are guests. Della has made the gift shop a social hub in the Jewish Home lobby for residents and their families. Here, friends and relatives are guaranteed to run into each other, catch up on local gossip and get a hug and a warm welcome from the all-volunteer staff, and at the same time, be shown the newest items on the shelves.
Della also dedicates herself to NA'AMAT, of which she has been a member for many years, since it was called Pioneer Women. Na'Amat is an organization and a movement striving to enhance the quality of life for women, children and families in Israel, the US and around the world.
Normally, Della spends 18 -24 hours a week in the gift shop. In 2013, she spent 785 hours volunteering at the Jewish Home and Care Center. This does not include her hours spent on the Board of Hand in Hand or buying the merchandise for the shop.
Della, who does not use a walker or a cane, still dresses with stylish flair, and can give you a vivid description of every item in the store, knows that volunteering is one of the things that helps to keep her healthy. But her reasons for volunteering can be seen in the love that pass between her and the residents who come in the door of the gift shop, looking for the smallest item that they know Della stocks, just for them. She remembers what they like, specifically, and they know she will greet them with a touch, a smile, and the warmth of a dear friend. You can see Della in the gift shop here: http://tinyurl.com/mzljxm6
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