Bi-lingual volunteer brings special commitment to work
For a decade, Melanie Allmayer has served as a spiritual care volunteer through the Chaplaincy program. Whether visiting a patient in the hospital or making a call to an older adult living in a long-term care facility, Melanie continues providing caring conversation, a listening ear and a hand to hold.
While a veteran of the program, Melanie’s inspiration to serve at JFS came years ago.
“As a high school student, I admired the work of JFS social worker Reggie Goldberg,” Melanie said.
While the Prairie Village resident didn’t follow Goldberg’s career path into social work, she did commit to helping others.
A member of Congregation Ohev Sholom, Melanie was recommended to serve in the JFS Spiritual Care program by the congregation’s rabbi at the time, Scott White.
“I was honored and thought that I would give it a try for a year,” Melanie said. “Obviously, I have enjoyed being a spiritual care volunteer more than I imagined and plan to continue.”
Working through the Chaplaincy program, spiritual care volunteers work closely with Community Chaplain Jonathan Rudnick to deliver comfort, connection, and support. These volunteers go through extensive training as they gracefully fulfill the mitzvah of “bikkur holim,” visiting the sick in the community.
A native Kansas Citian, Melanie holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and human services and two master’s degrees – one in marketing and one in romance languages. Her educational background has served her well as a spiritual care volunteer.
“I visit Jewish and non-Jewish patients at KU Medical Center in their rooms pre/post-Covid and over the phone during Covid, and I began having phone visits in Spanish with Latino patients this year,” she said. “I complete online forms of my visits for JFS and an email summary of my visits for my KU Chaplain mentor.”
JFS is not the only organization to benefit from Melanie’s caring work. She volunteers each week as an interpreter for JayStart, KU’s free clinic for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Melanie also services a biweekly volunteer interpreter for JayDoc, KU Medical Center’s free health clinic and freelances as a Certified Medical Interpreter and trainer with JVS. She co-leads a chapter of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, an organization building relationships between Jewish and Muslim women.
Recently, Melanie was honored by JFS for her 10 years of service as a spiritual care volunteer. During her tenure with the program, she has had some memorable moments, and one in particular stands out. Melanie visited a young couple who recently moved to the metro area and had just become first-time parents of a three-pound premature baby.
“I was nervous when I first entered their room because the anxiety about this baby’s survival was palpable. I was able to visit this family monthly for about five months and witnessed the steady progress,” she said. “When the baby was healthy enough to be discharged, I felt emotional and connected to this family. I think about this family and how much I learned from them about faith, love and appreciation.”
With a decade as a JFS Spiritual Care volunteer under her belt, Melanie has no plans to “retire.” A self-described people person, she loves the work.
“I meet people during their vulnerable times and try to bring some sunshine to their day by asking them about what they do for fun when they’re not in the hospital,” she said. “I am amazed how much some people share about themselves and how uplifted I feel by their inner strength, life experiences and spirituality.”