TKA’s Deb Ford lends a hand to many programs and projects.
Deb Ford of Livonia, a member of Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield, is this week’s Volunteer of the Week.
A former kindergarten teacher, Ford became an activities director at an assisted living center after retirement and remained working with the senior population until she retired in 2020.
Ford’s passion for the elderly began with visiting local assisted living centers with her three dogs and husband, Roger, in 1988. She has volunteered as a Friendly Visitor for Jewish Family Service and Jewish Senior Life.
She has delivered food to Yad Ezra clients for the last four years, including passing out Passover parcels and delivering turkeys for Thanksgiving. She said she especially liked the opportunity to chat with the recipients, as during the height of the pandemic, she was the only in-person contact many had.
Ford also serves on additional Temple Kol Ami (TKA) committees and the Relay for Life for Breast Cancer each summer, as well as the Jewish Food Festival, South Oakland Shelter food preparation for a week each year and TKA Mitzvah Day.
Ford currently works with the TKA Caring Community to set up a Meal Train for those in need of extra support during various challenges in their lives. She also volunteers by serving dinner a few times a year with TKA volunteers with Circles in Ann Arbor, an agency helping families recovering from poverty due to challenges in their lives.
In 2020, she became volunteer coordinator for a pop-up food pantry at Temple Kol Ami. She runs a weekly drive-up pantry, coordinating and recruiting 18 volunteers as well as organizing the sign-up list for the 80 families who visit the pantry.
Ford says she gets great satisfaction from greeting and talking to every car that comes through the TKA parking lot. She knows everyone’s name and calls them if they don’t come to make sure they are OK. The group of volunteers at the pantry are well aware that the reason the lineup of cars is slow is because Ford and the neighbors need to catch up on how their week has been.
She periodically adds them or a family member to the TKA Mi Sheberach list, saying there are never too many prayers when in need of healing. She makes sure each Jewish client has some of the essentials for Jewish holidays. This year she purchased 80 bags of potatoes for latkes and passed out Chanukah candles that were donated from various local stores and Yad Ezra.
Ford says of all her volunteer efforts, the pantry has given her the best source of accomplishment, building relationships and helping those in need.
Ford has been a member of TKA for six years. If there is a committee that is being formed to help others, she wants to be on it. She is looking forward to many more years of volunteering, knowing the day may come when she is the recipient of a caring person who treats her the way she treats others.
Ford takes great pride in helping people and giving back.
“Being Jewish, it’s an even better feeling,” she said. “We’re one big family.”