Honoring Kathryn Winogura
After twenty-three years of committed service to our community, Kathryn Winogura is stepping down from her role as JFCS East Bay’s Director of Volunteer Services. Her last day with the agency will be Friday, February 5.
Not surprisingly, Kathryn is currently JFCS East Bay’s longest-tenured employee, so her departure is a significant mark in the agency’s history. I want to take a moment here to recognize her many, many contributions during that time. Kathryn really created our current Volunteer Services program, essentially from the ground up. Her warmth and creativity drew hundreds and hundreds of community members to the agency, helping them find a path to giving back and living their values.
Here are just a few highlights from Kathryn’s long and distinguished career at JFCS East Bay:
- Kathryn has grown our meal delivery program to now be weekly Shabbat deliveries as well as special holiday deliveries on Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah, and Passover, serving hundreds of seniors and Holocaust survivors every year.
- Kathryn created a Welcome Group model to support newly arriving refugees, with small groups of volunteers coming together to help families learn about life in the U.S. as they build their new homes.
- Kathryn conceived of and organizes our Holiday Giving Program, which helps hundreds of immigrant, refugee, and low-income families celebrate the holidays each December.
- During the pandemic, Kathryn organized a corps of volunteers to deliver groceries, produce, and shelf-stable foods to client families impacted by shelter-in-place orders and the economic downturn.
- Over the years, Kathryn created collaborations with dozens of synagogues, churches, schools, and community groups, bringing in more people and resources to support client needs.
- Our Friendly Visitor Program has long paired volunteers with isolated seniors and Holocaust survivors, giving them social contact and connecting them with a caring community.
- Kathryn created a hosted housing program, identifying community members willing to open their homes to low-income refugees during their first few months in the country.
There’s no way to capture twenty-three years of service in one short blog post, but even this impressive list gives you an idea of Kathryn’s impact. Her work has directly touched the lives of thousands of JFCS East Bay’s clients and volunteers over the years. That work will continue to ripple out after her departure, and we will nurture her legacy. We honor and deeply appreciate her dedication, care, and contributions, and wish her all the best as she moves into the next phase of her life. Please see below for some words from Kathryn herself.
In 1998, I joined the staff at JFCS East Bay to help build programs for Bosnian and Afghan newcomer communities. About three years in, I was lucky to be asked to shift over to running our volunteer programming—and that was twenty years ago! From friendly visitors with older adults, delivering meals for homebound folks, gathering donated supplies for families and children in the East Bay, and placing volunteers directly with newcomer refugees, it was a robust and fulfilling job right from the start. For many years, our volunteer numbers hovered around 100, and hundreds of clients were served. We couldn’t have known how much the times would change!
In late 2015, the interest and passion for volunteering with us swelled. The news at the time was filled with images of refugees walking through Europe, and anti-immigrant messages were becoming more common in our politics. There was a day when more than 100 emails from prospective volunteers showed up in my inbox. People I met with would sometimes weep, while explaining that as an American, they wanted to counter the messages being sent. They needed to find a way to help.
That desire has continued through this time, and I am happy to say we have helped people find some pretty amazing ways to help! We started our Welcome Groups for helping new refugees resettle; we facilitated dozens of hosted housing arrangements for new LGBTI refugees; we increased the number of families receiving holiday gifts; we provided under-resourced preschools with books, toys, and art supplies; we delivered hundreds of meals to Holocaust survivors and homebound seniors; we created opportunities to hold collection drives of gift cards, toiletries, backpacks with school supplies, diapers, and household items. We grew from that wonderful, original group of 100 volunteers to more than 400!
I now move on from this beloved place after almost twenty-three years. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have served the community in this way, and I will remember this as the best job of my life. Over the years when clients thanked me for something, I have always said, “I am not the one who did this, but I was ‘the pipe.’ The community has contributed this, because they care about helping you.” It has been an honor to be that conduit. So, community, thank you for partnering with me on so many things! And, for showing up.
Director of Volunteer Services