The JFS Volunteer of the Month for December is Susan Kivett, shown here with her son, Gabe.
Jewish Family Services is blessed to have dedicated and passionate volunteers. Among our volunteer heroes are Susan Kivett and her 18-year-old son, Gabe. Longtime JFS Food Pantry volunteers, Susan and Gabe have both spent volunteer time with JFS during various holiday projects including making Hanukkah deliveries
Susan came to JFS years ago seeking support when she was going through some tough times. JFS helped her cope with an eating disorder.
“JFS helped me in the past and that was my connection,” Susan said. Later, when she had children, Susan began volunteering for other organizations in the Jewish community. Concerned about food insecurity, Susan wanted to help make a difference. When JFS opened its Food Pantry, Susan returned to the very agency that had supported her during challenging times. This was about nine years ago, and Susan has been helping JFS ever since.
“I used to volunteer once a month,” Susan said, “I had a young family, I was teaching at The J (Jewish Community Center) and taking care of my mom. When she passed away, I began volunteering once a week and it grew to sometimes two and three times a week.”
It wasn’t long before Susan brought Gabe along with her. “He was little when he first came in, maybe about seven-years-old,” Susan said. “He’s wrapped with me during the Hanukkah Project and comes to the food pantry, but our passion is delivering High Holiday meals.”
Susan said Gabe was about 12 years old when he truly understood the impact of their volunteer efforts. “A light bulb went off in his head, and he said, ‘Mom, these people wouldn’t be able to have the holiday if we didn’t bring them a meal.’”
Since then, Gabe has joined Susan to help JFS – school and work schedules permitting.
Growing up, Susan watched as her parents volunteered in the community, but they never took her along. Susan made the decision she wanted her kids on the front lines.
“It’s Tikkun Olam, and it is important we install in our kids we are fortunate,” Susan said. In addition, Susan’s daughter Rachel has joined her mom to help out. “My husband even comes along sometimes,” Susan said.
Susan has found volunteering at JFS fulfilling in a number of ways. “It gives me a sense of purpose and meaning. I really lost that when I lost my mom,” she said. “There was this strong voice in my life. I have always had that passion for others,” she said.
The Kivett’s have helped many people through their JFS volunteer experiences.
“My most memorable experience was when a mother of five, whose husband left her soon after her baby was born, came for food assistance. Knowing we were there for her to have one less burden to worry about meant so much,” Susan said. “It’s such a meaningful experience to know you are helping other people. We’re providing one less stress of feeding their families. ”For several years, the Kivett family has participated in the JFS Hanukkah Project.
“This year we adopted a 13-year-old girl and a one-year-old, and it was so much fun to shop,” Susan said. “We do impact people’s lives. It may be a little thing, but to them, it is the world
“Times are so trying right now, but I see the impact the food pantry has on people,” she said.