A Decade of Volunteering with JFSLA

After retiring as a high-rise building office manager, Helene Altman longed for social connection. When she saw an ad in the Adat Ari El newsletter inviting people to volunteer at the JFS SOVA Community Food and Resource Program (JFS SOVA) pantries, she knew it was meant to be.

For Helene, giving back to the community is an essential part of her life. She grew up in a household where her father would do whatever he could to give back to the community, even if that meant collecting newspapers and glass bottles to take to a recycling center and donating the proceeds. “We did not have a lot of money, but he would always find a way to give back and donate to the temple or an organization,” said Helene. “I think he would be proud of me today, and so would my mom.”

Helene also recalls her parents and others in the community lending their support when she was a single working mother. “Now it is my time to give back to others,” said Helene. “There’s no other feeling like the one of volunteering and seeing the difference it makes.”

Expressing kindness is in Helene’s nature as she loves interacting with clients. Despite the difficulties clients may experience, Helene sees how appreciative, strong, and amiable clients are when she starts a conversation with them. Everyone may need a little help sometimes, and she is happy to pay forward the help she received a long time ago.

“JFS SOVA would not be able to operate without our volunteers; they are the heart and soul of what JFS SOVA does and account for the majority of on-site work,” said Felice Resnick, Volunteer Coordinator at JFS SOVA. “Helene Altman is the perfect example. She always has a positive attitude and is extremely reliable and dedicated.”

Since 2013, Helene has been volunteering at JFS SOVA distributing groceries, sorting food items, and helping with the intake of new clients. During one of her volunteer shifts at JFS SOVA, Helene met Gerry Dicker, Program Coordinator of Chaverim, JFSLA’s social program for adults with special needs, who had come to speak to a group of volunteers. After Helene expressed her interest in volunteering with the group, she attended one of Chaverim’s meetings.

“I remember attending the meeting filled with 25-30 people,” said Helene. “I was in awe at seeing how much they loved each other and how welcoming they were. It was one of the most wonderful experiences I ever had. So, from that night on, I have been volunteering with Chaverim as well.” For the past four years, Helene has assisted Gerry wherever she can, whether she is setting up activities, leading a Zoom group, or welcoming participants. 

“During the pandemic, Helene continued to volunteer on Zoom, which provided our special needs clients with the stability of seeing a familiar face during a time of isolation,” said Gerry. “When we went back to in-person activities at the Valley Storefront Community Resource Center, Helene was the first to step up and volunteer.”

In addition, Helene has been helping Gerry with the launch of the new Supported Volunteer Program at JFS SOVA, a 10-week program for participants with special needs who are interested in developing job skills. During the pilot program, Helene was there making the participants feel comfortable and acclimated to the routine. “Without our wonderful volunteers, it would be hard to put on programming,” said Gerry. “Helene is the kind of person you want on your team. She is a special part of the Chaverim and JFSLA family.”

To join the JFSLA family and learn more about volunteer opportunities, please visit or contact Joyce Williams, Director of Volunteers and Training, at 323-556-2928 or