Gail Himmelfarb

Gail Himmelfarb

One of the Most Beloved Volunteers of All Time

Gail Himmelfarb: 2009 Kitty Davis Award Recipient for Distinguished Service Still Changing Lives

Gail HimmelfarbHelping people has always been a part of Gail Himmelfarb’s life, and for over a decade the Home has been her main focus. She does every task imaginable: preparing and delivering flowers for our Flowers for Shabbat program, helping or running Bingo, visiting residents, working at Seders and Purim carnivals, taking residents to doctors appointments, staffing the soda shop, and running activities when staff was out sick, and much more. Although she recently cut her time back to about four days a week to make room for her work at the public library, this dedicated volunteer is still doing a bit of everything. “Gail is my right hand; I couldn’t make it without her,” Hedy Peyser, director of Volunteers, stated. Further, dozens of residents and families have called the Volunteer Department to rave about Gail’s work and to thank her for her kindness and caring. 

Although she had worked with a young woman who was visually impaired and one who was hearing impaired, Gail did not become interested in working with the elderly until she had to take care of her ailing mother. By watching a good friend and some professionals who helped her with the care-giving process, she learned how to listen sympathetically, how to interact and how to get difficult tasks done. Later, when she started driving a neighbor out to visit her husband at the Hebrew Home, she began talking with residents and suddenly something clicked. She realized that now she had something to offer and she was getting “nachas” in return. And that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

“The residents have so many needs,” Gail says. “I try to fill both the conventional requests, like listening to a story, and  sometimes the unconventional ones, like bringing a resident challah and honey on Rosh Hashanah.  It makes me feel good. And even if I’m feeling down, I try to be upbeat and cheerful – and pretty soon I feel better!”

Volunteers always say they get more out of the experience than they put in. While Gail has put in an enormous amount of time, energy and love, Gail feels that Hedy, her fellow volunteers and the whole staff have been phenomenally supportive, and that the volunteer experience has helped her connect to her Jewish roots.


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