Jewish Collaborative Services” (JCS) Volunteer Coordinator Samantha “Sam” Chinn, LCSW, is one of JCS’ newest hires. The Alaska native grew up in a military family, so relocating often was the norm for Sam and her family.
JCS: Can you tell us a bit about your academic background?
SC: I earned my undergraduate degree from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and then earned a master’s degree in theology from the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland. Later, I was impressed by how certain social workers skillfully managed difficult conversations, so I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in social work. I recently graduated from Simmons University School of Social Work in Boston, which is where I earned my master’s degree in social work.
JCS: Tell us something about your hobbies and interests?
SC: My fiancée Molly Girton and I enjoy “flipping” houses, where we buy houses, fix them up and then sell them. After Molly and I visited India Point Park in Providence during the Fourth of July in 2019, we decided that we wanted to move here… and we did. We recently bought a house in Providence – not to flip, but for us to live in.
Our rescue dog, Munchie, only weighs four pounds, and she’s deaf. She’s the sweetest dog on the planet and kind to everyone. I’m able to take her everywhere. Our wedding date is “To Be Determined”; I’m not one for a big, fancy wedding.
JCS: What drew you to working here at JCS? What was the appeal?
SC: I had been working as a social work intern at the Veterans’ Administration in Bedford, Mass., and I discovered that I wanted to “touch” or interact with more people than just those individuals who were clients coming to my office. As the volunteer coordinator for JCS, I’ll have the opportunity to touch so many people through our many volunteer initiatives, including the Partners in Care program that helps not only the clients, but also clients’ family members.
JCS: Can you remind readers of some of JCS’ volunteer programs whose volunteers you recruit, train and coordinate?
SC: JCS has so many volunteer opportunities, including at the Full Plate Kosher Food Pantry, Jewish Eldercare of RI (JERI), The Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living Residence, our Kosher nutrition food sites and Kosher Meals on Wheels, and Partners in Care. Although Partners in Care requires volunteers contribute between four and 12 hours of time each week, many of these programs can accommodate individuals who are only able to volunteer an hour each week.
JCS: Partners in Care is one of the newest programs at JCS; tell us what’s involved and who it helps?
SC: Partners in Care, known nationally as Legacy Corps, provides respite care to families caring for relatives who are military veterans; even those with fairly loose connections to relatives with military backgrounds may be able to access respite care through Partners in Care. As the daughter of a veteran, I am especially proud of the work we do through Partners in Care.
Respite care is essential, and keeps caregivers from totally burning out. A Partners in Care volunteer will go to the veteran’s home for a few hours, generally twice a week, so that the veteran’s caregiver(s) can rest and recharge during that time period.
As the only agency in Rhode Island offering this service, JCS has a waiting list of some 25 families for a Partners in Care volunteer. Training to be a Partners in Care volunteer involves 20 hours of pre-service training which includes a CPR certification; with the exception of the CPR certification and the dementia simulation experience, the remaining training can be done online.
Americorps Partners in Care volunteers who wish to earn a yearly $1,500 educational stipend and an additional $150 per month must provide 450 hours of companionship during a one-year period, which averages out to about 10 hours per week. Alternatively, individuals who volunteer two or three hours a week are called Collaborative Partners in Care volunteers and don’t receive compensation or an educational stipend. Currently, four families are being served by three Americorps Partners in Care volunteers, and we are eager to recruit more volunteers, either through Americorps or otherwise, in order to help more families and reduce our waiting list.
JCS: What do Partners in Care volunteers generally do?
SC: Look at photo albums and talk with seniors, run small errands, provide transportation to medical appointments, and, perhaps, do some light housekeeping. As all seniors who are eligible to have a Partners in Care volunteer manage their toileting and prescriptions independently, volunteers would not have to do any personal care, heavy lifting, or handle any medication.
People with a nice demeanor who are good listeners, non-judgmental, patient and willing to learn, especially about Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia and other aging processes, are the type of volunteers we seek; volunteers must have reliable transportation.
Our current hot spots for families who need Partners in Care volunteers are currently in Providence, Cranston and North Kingstown, though the need is very much statewide. By the end of February, 2020, we hope to double the number of current Partners in Care volunteers, from three to six.
In addition to Partners in Care volunteers, we need volunteers to help with Bingo or poker nights at Tamarisk and to make food deliveries of our Kosher Meals on Wheels to individuals in Cranston and Providence. We are also always looking for volunteers through our Jewish Eldercare of RI (JERI) to help make visits and/or deliveries to those living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or hospitals.
JCS: We know you’ve only been at JCS for a brief period, as of the interview date. Even so, what makes a great day at work?
SC: A good day or great day is getting to know the volunteers. Some of JCS’ dedicated JCS volunteers have been with Jewish Family Service or Jewish Seniors Agency [the two entities that were combined to create JCS] for years and have become involved in multiple programs due to their commitment and dedication. Some people worry about the time commitment associated with volunteering or are unsure what they can do to help. The first step is asking me, as I can find something for everyone to do, even those with the most hectic schedule. There’s always some way they can help.
Contact Sam Chinn for all volunteer opportunities at 401.331.1244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.