Making a Difference Among our Heroes
Andrea De Lange has been a volunteer with Jewish Family Service LA for over 9 years. She volunteers with Café Europa, JFSLA’s weekly social group for survivors of the Holocaust. Every Thursday at the Valley Storefront Community Resource Center, she greets the survivors at the door full of excitement to spend quality time with the people she cares for and admires. De Lange has developed a personal relationship with many of the survivors. Their zest for life has inspired De Lange to remain positive through her own personal challenges.
“They are heroes to me because they’ve just experienced so much, survived, and even now they are still resilient,” she said. Being able to volunteer with survivors has also helped De Lange connect to her Jewish background. As a child in Hebrew School, she learned about the Holocaust, and it affected her profoundly. This history became extremely important to her and propelled her to search for volunteer opportunities in the Jewish Community. To her, the survivors are a reminder of strength and gratitude. “They are very inspirational, and they help put things into perspective for me, because a lot of them are so appreciative of everything. They are so appreciative of my volunteer work, and it makes me feel good,” she said.
During the Café Europa meetings, De Lange helps survivors check in and find a seat. “Can I get your autograph?” De Lange says to each as she asks them to write their name on the sign-in sheet. She makes sure they feel comfortable as she sparks conversations with each person. To create an even more joyful atmosphere, De Lange will often sing and dance while musicians play for the group.
By volunteering with her heroes, De Lange is truly making a difference in their lives and her own. At the height of the pandemic, as Café Europa went virtual, she would call survivors at home to make sure they were able to connect.
In addition, De Lange came up with the idea of hosting a Zoom meeting for survivors who wanted to stay online longer to socialize after the weekly Café Europa meetings. She called the series “Schmoozing with Andrea and Friends,” where members would ask each other questions, start conversations, play short video clips, and tell jokes. For De Lange, being a host comes natural to her, since her background is in social work, working as an activity director and leading volunteer groups. Outside of JFSLA, De Lange volunteers for other community groups, but Café Europa and its members have a special place in her heart.
“I have volunteered at several organizations, but this seems better than anything,” said De Lange. “It still really blows my mind that I have had this opportunity because what an amazing gift it is to be able to interact with these people who I think of as heroes. They are amazing.”
To learn more about JFSLA volunteer opportunities, please visit jfsla.org/volunteer or contact Joyce Williams, Director of Volunteers and Training, at 323-556-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.To read our article on the volunteer database platform, Better Impact, please visit: https://www.jfsla.org/media-resource/jfsla-unveils-better-impact-volunteer-database/