Healing Baskets Turn a Nurse into a Volunteer

Sitting at the table in the Youth Lounge, volunteer Rena Chopp engages her buddy Max in conversation as they cook veggie fried rice and spring rolls. Rena has just come from the kitchen, where the 21 and over young adult group prepared yogurt and granola parfaits and tuna salad for baskets that would be delivered to people who are not well or recovering from surgery. Hannah took the lead there, showing volunteer Rochelle Baron how to fill the jar with just the right amount of yogurt and then sprinkled granola on top. “I enjoy it,” said Hannah, a longtime Friendship Circle participant.

Receiving one of those baskets herself following surgery last August inspired Chopp, a nurse, to become a volunteer at Friendship Circle. 

“I was recovering at home,” she recalled, when a volunteer rang her bell to deliver a basket. “I remember seeing the iced coffee,” she said. “I’m not even a coffee drinker but it looked so good!  I drank it – it was so delicious.” She added the tuna to a Caesar salad. It was the good will that came with the package that really moved her.

The volunteer who delivered the package noticed dishes in the sink and started to tidy the kitchen. “She was washing my dishes!” said Chopp. She and the volunteer became friends, and Chopp was so inspired by the entire experience that a few weeks later, when she felt strong enough, she started volunteering with the Friendship Circle herself. 

“Friendship Circle is the perfect volunteer opportunity for me. It’s a way to give back in a meaningful way. And I’m a nurse – nursing is all about helping others, she said.”

Bikur Cholim baskets, named in Hebrew for the mitzvah of visiting the sick, are delivered to people who are not well or recovering from surgery soon after discharge from the hospital, a time when they do not have the wherewithal to care for themselves, and caregivers may be overwhelmed with their new responsibilities.

The packages, which Friendship Circle began delivering in May, provide a nutritious pick-me-up for both physical and spiritual healing. They include juice, coffee, quiche, muffins, fresh fruit, bagels, tuna, yogurt, and soup. All of the items, delivered by volunteers, are prepared by Friendship Circle participants. “It’s really meaningful to the participants to know they are helping others,” said Rochelle Baron.

And now, every Tuesday and Thursday, Chopp can be found volunteering with the 21 and over group, cooking, doing art projects, and supervising as participants like Hannah and Max prepare bikur cholim baskets for others.

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