Barnetts provide acts of lovingkindness as JFS Spiritual Care Volunteers
For Lori and Paul Barnett, the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim – visiting the sick – has been part of their weekly routine for almost a decade. The Barnetts are Spiritual Care Volunteers (SCVs) through Jewish Family Services Chaplaincy program. Since becoming part of the program, this dynamic duo has brightened the day of dozens of Jewish people in area hospitals and long-term care facilities. JFS salutes the Barnetts as it Volunteer of the Month.
Active members of Congregation B’nai Jehudah, the Barnetts first got involved in spiritual care work through temple connections with Kansas City Hospice. Through their involvement, the Barnetts were introduced to Jewish Community Chaplain Rabbi Jonathan Rudnick, “and the rest is history,” Paul Barnett said.
“We found ourselves doing a lot of committee and board work and it wasn’t as fulfilling as this work,” Paul Barnett said. “We do find fulfilling activities in service to people and face to face contact. This is first tier mitzvot.”
“We began to transition our volunteer work to touching people more directly,” said Lori Barnett, “and this was the perfect opportunity.”
The Barnetts moved to Kansas City 32 years ago from Philadelphia and got involved in their congregation, but the seeds of volunteerism were planted much earlier.
“My parents did a lot of volunteer work – school based and civil rights,” Paul Barnett said. “My dad’s volunteer life was in scouting.
“We were both raised on Gemilut Chasidim (acts of lovingkindness) and that has continued throughout our lives,” said Lori Barnett, who retired from teaching. “I learned from my parents who did volunteer work and that was the model for me.”
Once the Barnetts signed on as SCVs, they completed four training sessions that included spiritual prayer related coaching, HIPPA regulations as well as shadowing another SVC.
“That training was how to interact with people but getting in touch with yourself,” Lori Barnett said. “The best part of training is the volunteers would get together to hear a guest speaker and when we get together to talk about a situation we have encountered and how we could have handled it better. We really support each other.”
Rabbi Rudnick provides SCVs with advice and support throughout the year.
There are two cohorts for SCVs – visiting residents of long-term care facilities and hospitals visitations, which is what the Barnetts do on a regular basis.
While committed to their work as SCVs, “we go into the unknown and work each situation as it arises,” Paul Barnett said. “We never know week to week who will be there.”
“You have to be empathetic and a good listener,” said Lori Barnett, “and you can’t be judgmental.”
Working as SCVs can be challenging.
“It’s not for everyone,” Paul Barnett said. “You have to be able to read a situation, be comfortable with that and adjust to it. “You have to learn what’s beyond your scope of expertise and where to ‘let it go’,” he said.
The Barnetts are doing important work as SCVs.
“Each time I go in I ask how much good am I doing,” Paul Barnett said. “Then when I leave, I feel like I have done so much. There is personal fulfillment in doing this work…just knowing you have touched people in a positive way and brought a smile to their faces,” he said.
“Sometimes you walk in and cheer them up but the beauty of doing this with JFS is they may have other needs that we can connect them to other JFS services has and help them on their path,” Lori Barnett said.
Rabbi Rudnick appreciates the Barnetts service as SCVs.
“Lori and Paul are deeply dedicated, faithful long-serving spiritual care volunteers who sustain the partnership we have with Menorah Medical Center through their weekly visits at the hospital that remains the medical center with the highest Jewish patient census on a daily and weekly basis,” the rabbi said. “Thanks to the relationships they have helped us nurture with the hospital and thanks to their cautious yet care-full commitment during the Covid pandemic, the Barnetts visited Jewish patients at Menorah, whether by phone or in person, throughout these past two years. I and we cannot thank them and each and of our spiritual care volunteers enough for their faithful service and the impact their connecting presence and support has had on so many individuals and families.”
Lori Barnett said becoming a SCV is a great way to volunteer for JFS.
“The work is so fulfilling but we also get so much support from Rabbi Rudnick and Jaime (Corral). They have been rocks for us,” she said.
JFS has many volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in becoming a JFS volunteer, please email email@example.com or visit the website at jfskc.org.