Volunteer Spotlight

The Annual Campaign funds our outstanding JFS Volunteer Opportunities Department which recruits, trains and supervises over 100 volunteers! Besides the important human value of this work, the average dollar value of each volunteer's time is estimated to be over $20 per hour, translating into huge savings for non-profits such as Federation.
"Although financial contributions are undoubtedly important, investing one’s time and energy as a volunteer is an invaluable gift to our community,” says volunteer Chantel Braley. "As someone who started off at JFS as an unpaid intern three years ago, I can state from personal experience that volunteering at the Federation will make your life richer. Volunteering provides personal gratification and positively impacts others in a way that money simply cannot buy."

For More Information

Contact Coordinator Mike Witt about Volunteer Programs
at 805.957.1115 x113
524 Chapala St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101

“Everyone has something to offer the world,” says Louise "Weezy" Palanker, an outstanding volunteer instructor, building confidence and character in her Teen Comedy Club. “Taking what you love and sharing it with others, that is tzedakah to me. I love comedy, writing, and kids. The Federation has provided me with a place where I can share what I love. I once was that funny kid, looking for an outlet. Providing it for these kids feels like giving it back to myself.
You may be nervous when you first walk in that door as a new volunteer, but then you see Christina smile at you and welcome you; you know that this is something you are supposed to do. There are people waiting to know you.” Weezy has been running our All-Star Comedy Nights for many years, bringing laughter to many!


"As a Jew by choice, said Beverly Penner​, "I wanted to learn more about Judaism's belief system, a model of morality, compassion and intellectual challenges." This led her to a life of work that embodies the Federation Mission of tzedaka (charity and justice), Kol Y'israel areyvim zeh lazeh (all Israel must care for one another) and tikkun olam (healing the world). A nurse by profession, Beverly's volunteer experiences have ranged widely.

"When JFS asked for volunteer visitors, I knew it would interest me." She was matched up with a woman residing at an assisted living facility and "knew at first sight that this relationship would work. We have many things in common, and we both greatly enjoy our weekly visits."

The client and her family are very appreciative of Beverly's commitment and caring. "The loss of health and strength that result from aging are difficult enough to deal with," says the client's daughter, "but loneliness seems to be the most crippling issue facing the homebound. Beverly has been a godsend, a warm and reliable bright spot in my mother's day."

"I highly recommend participation in the JFS volunteer visitor program. I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity afforded by JFS to give back to our community, in gratitude for the many benefits afforded me as a member of the Jewish community."


Barbara Primeau brought her mother Faye to Schmooze Room five years ago and decided she wanted to pitch in. She's been a dedicated Schmooze Crew volunteer since 2007. "I just love the people," she says, "plus I like helping to streamline the operation. Volunteering makes things work better for everyone." Barbara recruited her husband Paul to do some of our shopping, regularly saving Federation money. She has donated a variety of items, including the beautiful Israeli wall hangings in our library, and assists at other Federation events. Barbara, who recently became a greatgrandmother, continued bringing her mother to Schmooze Room. "You never know the impact you'll make," Barbara says. "You can always find the time. You get more back than you give."


Norman Risch is a friendly guy, always ready for the next project. Norman assists staff members with time-consuming projects: survey tabulations, database set-up, creating forms, posting class listings online, computer support, set-up and refurbishment. He never says no to a project, and is consistently reliable and incredibly helpful, saving many hours of staff time and streamlining our future work.
Upon moving to Santa Barbara, Norman was looking for volunteer work to keep busy and challenged. The work at Federation has done just that. He has especially enjoyed the work compiling survey data from Portraits of Survival program participants. "I was struck by some of the comments from visitors, how strongly they were affected, how they related to the survivors, and how useful the program was for them." The ongoing compilation has enabled Staff and Board to evaluate the impact and success of this valuable exhibit and program.

I recommend volunteering with JFS and Jewish Federation to anyone looking for social interaction within a foundation of meaning and value."


Professor Arthur Schwartz is one of Federation's longest-running volunteers—so long no one can remember– 2 buildings and several directors past, perhaps 20 years! A stable core of students attends weekly, and it continues to be one of Federation's most popular classes.

A past Jewish Family Service director thought some of the seniors might enjoy hearing about Yiddish, and Schwartz came for a talk. They enjoyed it so much that he came back the next week, and it soon turned into a regular weekly class.


“I volunteer through Jewish Federation and JFS," says Karen Raders, "because the sense of community is important to me. I wanted to be connected with a Jewish organization, and was looking for an extended family. I’m not a newcomer to volunteerism, but being a volunteer with JFS is different; it feels like being part of a caring community. JFS finds  the right match, appreciating and honoring the volunteers. JFS is available to the entire community in so many ways, and is my preferred organization.”

“If we can contribute to someone’s sense of family and security, then the whole community is better for it. Volunteering helps keep the heart open. With open hearts we can help heal ourselves and others. Try it—you might like it!”


Wendy Paley has helped make Schmooze Room a warm, welcoming place since 2002, greeting everyone at the front door. Wendy is enthusiastic about her work. “I love greeting, meeting and talking to seniors who are looking forward to each Schmooze Room, and connecting with the Federation staff and other volunteers.

“I know I’ve been fortunate in my life, and I believe it’s a priority to give back to your community. It’s gratifying to know I am helping others—Jewish and non- Jewish seniors alike.”


Alexandra Forbes was so moved when Portraits Docent Maria Segal spoke at Santa Barbara Community College, she immediately volunteered, working on the Portraits committee, helping to organize events, and contributing her research abilities to find information on those missing in WWII. Her assistance was monumental for people who had given up on finding information. For a refugee from France, she found a list of concentration camp prisoners that included his father. For another, she found new documents listing family members’ names.
“At the JCC there is lots to learn, and a wonderful friendly environment. I love seeing what Portraits of Survival is doing locally, educating and relating to kids in difficult situations.”


Julianne Heyman serves as a role model for Portraits of Survival local youth through her story of surviving the Holocaust (available at www.portraitsofsurvival.org), with numerous escapes and near misses in several countries. Later in her career, she went on to travel the world through the Peace Corps.

“For 50 or 60 years we tried to forget what happened, but with Federation’s help we survivors are able to retell our stories; it’s important to not forget. Education programs are terribly important for the future of Jewish community and for our country. We need to stress how important tolerance is and what prejudice and bigotry can do. Latinos especially relate to our stories, coming to a new country, adjusting, learning a new language. We encourage them to persevere.

“I’ve had a good life, and it’s time for me to give back. Donations help spread our ability to do outreach and spread the Portraits program. It takes a lot of thought and time to put these programs together and it can’t happen without the financial backing.

Speaking of her passion for the Portraits program, Julianne explained, “Contributing your story, time or money creates change. We can only impact a few people in our lives. We have to do so much to get a small return. It takes a lot of effort and money to change people’s thinking. We have to be realistic—we may not see the impact of our work in our lifetime.”


Ron Sorgman is a volunteer with many talents. He teaches a popular weekly JCC class called Doing Doo-wop: Learn to Sing In Harmony (Even If You Think You Can’t). When he’s not singing, Ron, using his skills as an architect, working with our Building Maintenance Committee.