April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and Jewish Family Services (JFS) is honoring the hard work and dedication of its many volunteers, including Rip Fernholz, who helps with the JFS Food Pantry.
JFS has named Fernholz its April Volunteer of the Month.
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Fernholz has experience when it comes to food, having worked in sales in the food services industry before retiring in 2017. Now a resident of Kansas City for some time, Fernholz had been volunteering at a food pantry in Kansas City, Missouri, when it was forced to close after a flood.
“I searched the internet for volunteer opportunities and discovered JFS,” Fernholz said. “I was familiar with the need and the benefits that food pantries provide. It was an easy decision to make.”
That was a decade ago, and Fernholz has been helping the JFS Pantry ever since.
“Over that period, I filled in at various spots wherever I was needed,” Fernholz said. “I’ve assisted with shoppers, stocked shelves, unloaded the produce deliveries, and broken-down booths at the library. Currently, I am picking up donations from Whole Foods every Wednesday and bringing them to JFS.”
Vickie Leitnaker, JFS Volunteer Engagement Manager, is grateful to Fernholz for his dedication to JFS.
“Rip is always willing to step up, even if the request is at the very last minute,” Leitnaker said. “Recently, I reached out with a request 45 minutes before we needed his help, and he jumped in his truck and came.”
Fernholz’ belief in the value of volunteering stems from his parents.
“My parents did a great job of instilling in me the importance of giving back,” he said. “I am truly blessed and feel that volunteering is a way to acknowledge that and pay it forward.”
In addition to JFS, Fernholz also volunteers at New Hope Food Pantry. Over the years, he has volunteered for numerous organizations including Habitat for Humanity and Hope Faith’s kitchen, and he has taught a junior achievement class at Wyandotte County High School.
“One of the benefits of volunteering is the relationships you develop,” Fernholz said. “I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. In talking with my Wednesday ‘pickup partner,’ I learned he went to school in Chicago and had friends that live blocks from where I grew up. He also knew the streets, parks, etc. It was great.”
Fernholz encourages others to check out JFS for volunteer opportunities that are flexible.
“They have multiple opportunities,” Fernholz said about JFS. “They’ll find one that fits your needs. Bottom line is you have to make the effort and reach out. After that you’ll be hooked.”
More information about JFS volunteer opportunities is available at the JFS website or by contacting or (913) 730-1410.