Volunteer Spotlight January 2023: Annette Sandler

Annette Sandler

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

I am so lucky to have had a wonderful 18 year career with JFCS. I retired as the Aging Services Director at the end of February 2020. As you can guess, retirement was not totally what I expected – the world shut down on March 11 that year. It was like the world said, “go home and stay there.”

One of the many things I know from my years working with seniors is that the most successful people in retirement don’t retire from something, but rather, to something. I spent a good deal of time designing what my post-work life experience would look like. How would I continue to learn new things? How would I occupy my time? How would I keep my brain active? The answer to all of those questions was easy for me. I think JFCS is a vital agency for our community. For me, it is very important to contribute to places that I feel provide the best services to people in need, not only financially, but with my time and expertise as well.

What motivated you to begin volunteering with JFCS and how long have you been volunteering with JFCS?

I started as a volunteer as soon as I retired in February 2020.

What volunteer role have you been involved with at JFCS?

My expertise is in the area of Senior Services. Continuing to volunteer in this area makes me feel relevant and keeps me up to date in the area that I spent so much of my career. 

I had a role in the development of the JFCS Memory Cafe and in the implementation of the Powerful Tools for Caregivers Education Series. I volunteer and assist in the Memory Cafe and get to see how engaged people with memory loss are with their care partners. I co-facilitate the Powerful Tools classes and hear from participants how much they appreciate the class and how much they learn. Assisting caregivers through this class is so much a part of the culture of JFCS and I am happy to continue to participate in this role.

I also work with volunteers and staff in hosting the JFCS Caregiver Conference, “Keeping the Spirit Alive.” Click here to view the recordings from the last conference in 2021. The next conference is scheduled for Sunday, April 30. I serve on the conference planning committee as well as the committee that chooses the speakers, from keynote to all of the breakout sessions. I feel fortunate to work with the other volunteers who are equally dedicated to the agency and the conference. 

What’s your favorite part about volunteering with JFCS and how has being a JFCS volunteer impacted your life?

I believe in lifelong learning and social engagement. JFCS gives the opportunity to do both of those things. I have rekindled old friendships, made many new friends and kept my mind active. What more could I ask?

Do you have a memorable story about your JFCS volunteer experience to share?

In the Powerful Tools for Caregivers Classes we help caregivers learn to develop care plans about how to care for themselves. We always think about the care receiver, but don’t always think about the stress of the caregiver. Caregivers learn to set short- and long-term goals. Sometimes the participants come back to class the next week and tell us what they did and what they tried. One participant’s goal was to attend their granddaughter’s wedding out of town and was worried how they would get everything in place to make it happen. The group had many ideas to help them achieve that goal. We asked what the first step would be and their response was to get them ENGAGED. It provided so much levity and laughter to the group and everyone went home with smiles on their faces.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking of volunteering with JFCS?

JFCS is vital to our community and if you have the time you should definitely give it to JFCS. Any time you give will be appreciated and you will get more back than you would even expect. Knowing that you have helped a person in need will make your life feel rich!

The next six-week class of “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” will run from Jan. 17 through Feb. 21. Click here for more information and to register.

For more information about volunteering with JFCS, click here or contact Dana Shapiro, Community & Volunteer Engagement Manager at dshapiro@jfcsmpls.org.