“Hearts of Gold” is how Shoshana Rubenstein describes Jenny Baldwin and Laura Shifrin. Shoshana has worked with these two long time friends, roommates and community volunteers in JARC's Independent Living Program for 20 years.
The great achievements of these two women can truly serve as an inspiration to others. Jenny and Laura have been helping and volunteering in the community for so many years, across such a wide array of projects that they genuinely are deserving of recognition.
The two started as Candy Stripers at a local hospital at age 16. (Jenny and Laura are just four months apart in age.) “Their whole life is giving to others,” states Shoshana, “with such dignity and warmth and kindness, it humbles me.”
Jenny and Laura have continued their involvement on volunteer projects that benefit young children, senior citizens and all age groups in between, and have been doing so for over forty years.
One of Jenny and Laura’s important volunteer commitments for 20 years now is the K’ver Avot (Graves of Our Ancestors) program, organized by Temple Israel and Ira Kaufman Funeral Chapel. The two womenaccompany seniors who have no family members to the cemetery to say prayers for and visit their departed loved ones. The pair get up early in the morning, help these seniors in and out of the car, holding them as they walk to the gravesite, and embracing them as they say prayers; showing true compassion to these seniors whose emotions often overflow. Jenny and Laura always find something loving to say, taking them by the hand and providing true comfort.
The projects Jenny and Laura volunteer for are very numerous. One is the big “Fall Fix Up” project conducted by Jewish Family Service. This includes raking leaves and fixing yards, usually for low income seniors or people with disabilities. On one such visit to a better neighborhood and a woman of apparent means, Jenny and Laura were able to befriend a Holocaust survivor who was isolated and depressed and needed to know that people would help her from the heart (and not just for pay). The personal connection Jenny and Laura forged with this woman lasted long after the afternoon of raking her leaves.
Once a year in December, Jenny and Laura participate in serving a dinner for homeless guests. Jenny and Laura embrace these folks with their kindness. This event began with the two women wrapping sandwiches and has now grown into a massive seven course meal, deeply benefitting the homeless community.
The two women take part in a cancer walk every June, taking place at West Bloomfield High School; each having lost a mother to cancer.
Just this past Valentine’s Day, the two women took part in an event called “Heart to Heart”- wrapping and packaging Valentine’s candy bags that include toys and stuffed animals and go to needy children- including those in care at Beaumont Hospital and those in foster care through Orchards Children’s Services. 700 packages in all were wrapped.
Jenny and Laura, according to Shoshana, “feel so good about sharing of themselves. Financially they don’t have a lot, but in giving of themselves, they have become ambassadors to the world.” “They have a busy calendar,” Shoshana concludes.
According to Laura Shifrin, “It just gives me such a warm feeling knowing that I can help people.”
Regarding their volunteer commitments, Jenny Baldwin says: “I would miss it so much if I didn’t have it.”
They have assembled packages for victims of Hurricane Katrina, sewed dolls for children at Children’s Hospital and shipped cookies overseas to those involved in Desert Storm.
Jenny Baldwin and Laura Shifrin, together as well as individually have donated countless hours to those less fortunate, touching others with their volunteer work and selflessness. Their ongoing charitable acts go so far back and will continue far into the future. The two women are deeply committed.