Computer Classes, Doing Taxes, Changing Lives
Volunteer: (noun) A person who does something, especially for other people or for an organization, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it
While this may be how Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “volunteer,” we use a slightly more condensed version here at JFS:
Volunteer: (noun) Ellen and Phil Lorang
Married for 40 years, this dynamic duo is bringing their enthusiasm for helping others to many of our programs. Ellen regularly volunteers at the Cyber Café at our College Avenue Older Adult Center to teach seniors about computers, tablets, and smartphones. She’s quick-minded, warm-hearted, and an easy conversationalist – all things that make her the perfect educator and companion at the Center.
“There’s a 102-year-old that wants to get an Apple watch because of me,” she laughed. “He asks me every day, ‘How’s my stock doing Ellen?’ And I check for him on my watch, but he wants to do it himself now!”
Her husband, Phil, recently retired from a long career at the Environmental Protection Agency. This year he wrapped up his first round as a volunteer for our VITA Tax program, which provides tax filing help to low-income families. After taking our training session, Phil helped dozens of people understand the complicated process of tax returns.
“I met some very interesting people from a wide variety of backgrounds,” he said. “It’s fascinating to talk to people and see the creative ways that they’re getting by on limited incomes. I probably learned as much as they did during our time together.”
The Lorangs say that volunteering with JFS keeps them connected to the community – and sometimes in very unexpected ways.
“One day, Ellen went to her computer class and there was a guy there who was 85 or 90,” Phil said with excitement. “He told her he had been a high school English teacher at Saints. She texted me and said, didn’t you go to Saints? Do you know a Mr. Bowman? And that was my senior English teacher, sitting right there in her class! He remembered me 47 years later. We reunited over lunch at the Center.”
Apart from spending time with old and new friends, the Lorangs say the mission of JFS is what keeps them coming back. No matter which program they volunteered with, Ellen says our dedication to building a stronger, healthier San Diego was apparent in every interaction and event. But their favorite part about JFS? The diverse group of people that make this vision come to life.
“What’s interesting is that all the programs are multi-generational, it’s volunteers of all ages helping out,” Ellen explained. “It’s very nice to volunteer side-by-side with young people. I especially love when the pharmacology students at SDSU throw a Senior Prom at the Center. Seeing those students dance with the older adults is so heartwarming.”
The Lorangs say the cherry-on-top to their experience at JFS lies in our excellent Volunteer Engagement team.
“We volunteer for many other organizations, but JFS is amazing when it comes to showing volunteers how much they appreciate you,” Ellen said. “It’s unlike anywhere else. JFS does the most superb job at making me feel valued.”
Whether they’re driving for On the Go or organizing a game of bridge at the Older Adult Center, the Lorangs have made volunteering a top priority as they settle into their Golden Years.
“It’s just so nice to see the way the clients interact. It’s nice to be around people who are nice with each other!” Phil said with a smile. “It lifts your spirits seeing other people enjoy the situation that they’re in.”
Thank you Ellen and Phil! You show us exactly what it means to move forward together.