The Max Japha Volunteer of the Year award is presented annually by Jewish Family Service of Tidewater to honor an outstanding volunteer for his or her commitment to JFS. This year’s award was presented to Rita Brannan at the JFS Volunteer Appreciation Lunch last month.
Brannan has called Tidewater home her entire life and considers herself a “late bloomer” as she continues on the path towards her career goals. A graduate of Tidewater Community College with an associate degree in applied science in human services, she attends Old Dominion University working towards a bachelor of science degree in human services with an emphasis in older adults.
Brannan began volunteering at JFS in a rather roundabout way. Working for an elderly woman who was not eating well, she did some research, found the JFS Meals on Wheels program and contacted JFS. At the time, JFS was unable to deliver meals to Portsmouth, where the elderly woman lived. Brannan offered to pick up the meals and deliver them herself. Then, she offered to deliver meals to anyone else who might be in that Chesapeake/Portsmouth area. With Brannan’s assistance, JFS expanded the Meals on Wheels program, and she quickly had a delivery route that included six clients.
Clare Krell, a former JFS case manager, needed assistance preparing the meal bags, which included sorting and bagging the appropriate number of milks, juices, desserts and fruit for each bag. Brannan volunteered to assist. For almost two years, she has arrived at JFS every Thursday at 9 am to package the bags, which can take up to two hours. Then she spends another two hours delivering to the clients on her route. She often sits and visits with those clients, many of whom cherish Brannan and look forward to her weekly visit.
Those who work with Brannan on Thursday mornings know the true meaning of volunteer dedication. She has missed only five Thursdays in two years! This past fall, she suffered the loss of both her parents and yet still showed up to package and deliver. The Meals on Wheels program would not run nearly as smoothly as it does without Brennan.
by Patty Shelanski, JFS Volunteer coordinator