When I worked in education our office had a “Sunshine Committee.” All the money collected from coffee sales went into a sunshine fund. Any staff member sick, hospitalized, in treatment, or bereaved received a floral arrangement from the Sunshine Committee and the committee members sent cards too. The thoughtfulness from the Sunshine Committee permeated our office culture.

 

My congregation did not have any caring or “Sunshine” program so last year I offered to start one. I used my personal experiences with illness and death to craft a program that provides comfort and support to our members. This is what we do:

 

  1. When a member is sick, hospitalized, in treatment, or bereaved we send a card with a handwritten note.
  2. Rather than send a sympathy note to the bereaved, we wait two weeks when all the company is usually gone and we send a thinking of you card.
  3. We call all members who are sick, hospitalized, in treatment, or bereaved to check in with them and see how they are doing. We ask if they would like a personal visit and if they do, a volunteer visits. Or, if they seem to be struggling, we ask if we can check in again and then a volunteer follows up until the member is feeling better.
  4. We deliver a challah to all bereaved members with a note that says the congregation is thinking of them. This gives us another opportunity to let them know they are not alone as well as check in and see how they are doing.
  5. If the member needs some help with meals, the meals coordinator calls them to determine how many meals they need, how many family members, and allergies or special needs. The meals coordinator then sends an alert to volunteers and meals are delivered on schedule.
  6. If a member requires help with transportation to medical appointments or the pharmacy, a message is sent to our volunteer coordinator. She either arranges for a volunteer to help or links the member to local social services.

 

It was a lot of work to recruit members but since launch, we’ve had little turnover. We have our volunteers specifically assigned to write certain categories of cards, make phone calls, conduct visits, do long-term follow up, prepare meals, deliver challah, and assist with transportation. The caring program has proved to be so rewarding that we have volunteers who have offered to volunteer in other parts of the program who now may work in several areas, for example, preparing meals and delivering challah or making calls and preparing meals.

 

It is a wonderful feeling to make a difference in the life of someone ill or grieving a loss. All of our volunteers feel they have received more than they have given. One of the most satisfying elements of the program is the shift from a caring program to a caring congregation. And our thoughtfulness doesn’t end with our members; we all find we are more cognizant of others in our life and our kindness extends to friends, family, and neighbors.

 

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.

 

Image: Flickr Creative Commons / Ctd 2005

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Comment by T.C. Goodwin on March 31, 2013 at 4:35pm

This is very loving and you show your love by actions. Proverbs 17: 17

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