Volunteer Spotlight – September 2020: Barry Schwabe

What’s your current volunteer role at JFCS and in what ways have you volunteered with JFCS in the past?

I currently serve as chairperson for the takedown committee at the Annual Benefit. I recommended the creation of this committee years ago after hearing that the Benefit Committee, which I served on, was staying late to clean up after the show. I have been managing this function for over 20 years.

How long have you been volunteering with JFCS?

My involvement with JFCS started in 1977 when I volunteered as a “big” in the Jewish Youth Mentoring Program (formerly the Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister Program). I was 25 years old and my “little” was 5-1/2 years old. Although my little now lives in Seattle, we still keep in touch and are close friends. I am now a grand big brother to five grand littles. I also had a second little brother for two years after my first little graduated college.

Barry with his “little” and “grand little”

What motivated you to volunteer with JFCS?

I knew a big brother when I was in graduate school – which stimulated my interest – and preferred to work with a Jewish program.

Tell us about your volunteer experience with JFCS.

I enjoyed making close friends – with both bigs and littles in the program – and I keep in contact with them to this day. I also got involved in generating donations to the program, including tickets to events and gift donations to the annual Chanukah party. I particularly enjoyed arranging the latter. 

I initiated, requested, and received huge numbers of CDs, cassettes, t-shirts, and novelty items from Musicland. JFCS was concerned about the age appropriateness of each item’s content, so I screened all items beforehand. At the party, I set up a mini-Musicland store where the littles and bigs (bigs got presents too) went crazy. My only rule was to take as much as you want because I didn’t want any leftovers (and JFCS didn’t want to store them).

Due to my involvement in the Jewish Youth Mentoring Program, I was invited to serve on JFCS’ Board of Directors, becoming its youngest member at the time. I served for two terms and was an advisor to the Board afterward. I chaired the finance committee and participated on other committees as well. I felt highly valued because JFCS would listen and implement my recommendations. I enjoyed working with all of these “mensches” and “menschettes.”

I also volunteered with the Mental Health Support Services (MHSS) program. It began when JFCS needed supervision for a group going to Herzl Camp one weekend. This was so much fun that it became an annual event for the program and me. Subsequently, I became a driver/companion who took many of the program’s participants to JFCS’ Passover Seders and Chanukah events over the years. Many long-term relationships flourished here too.

JFCS became my connection to the Jewish community after I moved here from Arizona to work for the Pillsbury company. I made lifelong friends with my little, as well as the former heads of the mentoring program, Bobbie Goldfarb and Lois Kozberg. JFCS also helped me grow as a person, since I had never volunteered before.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering with JFCS?

Volunteering with JFCS led to many new opportunities and honors. This includes improving my speaking skills as JFCS’ representative in the United Way’s Speaker Bureau series and as a recipient of the KARE 11’s Eleven Who Care award and the JFCS’ Spirit Award for longtime volunteers. It’s been a great 43 years of volunteering with no end in sight.