One of Our Meals on Wheels Heroes – Jacqueline Gelfenbein

As part of the submission process to Law school, Jacqueline Gelfenbein was asked to provide a personal statement about a volunteer or extra-curricular experience that inspired her. Although she had many options to choose from, she decided to write about her role as a Bernard Betel Meals on Wheels volunteer.

Jacqueline has lived in the Bathurst/Steeles area for the majority of her life and is very familiar with the community. Growing up in a single-parent household and her mother faced with health issues, her grandparents were her source of strength and support. These experiences taught her to be more compassionate, patient and empathetic.

In response to her mother’s health issues, she became familiar with the health care system and the lack of quality of care. This was her motivation to apply to law school with a focus on health.

It is her goal to change public policy and improve standards of care. The pandemic has revealed inadequacies within the health care system and how essential it is that the elderly have someone to be their voice. She asks the questions: “If they cannot speak for themselves, who will speak for them? Have our elderly been forgotten?”

Seeing the impact that the pandemic was having on those most vulnerable she wanted to volunteer her time in the most productive way and found that supporting an essential service would achieve this goal. In October 2020, she joined the Bernard Betel Meals on Wheels volunteer team.

Jacqueline sees her volunteer role as, “Rewarding in the simplest way.” She is able to provide one of the most basic essential needs – a meal. “It is a seamless process that involves so many steps including cooking, preparing, packing, creating the routes, scheduling the volunteers and delivery. Everything is done for you and you just need to pick up the meals and deliver.” She cannot think of anyone who would not have an hour to spare each week to volunteer to deliver meals. “It just feels right – it is essential.”

She describes the seniors as always being pleasant, polite and grateful. She knows that for many she will be the only person they encounter on that day. Keeping physically distant and safe, she strives to make each interaction meaningful.

This fall, Jacqueline will begin a dual program at Windsor University and Detroit Mercy School of Law. Congratulations Jacqueline!

Jacqueline shared with us a portion of her personal statement submission and included the following message. “I am deeply inspired by what is done here each and every day with you and your team, and the ones who volunteer alongside me. Despite this difficult time, this has been wonderful every step of the way – from picking up the meals and communicating with all of you to dropping off the meals and hearing the many thanks and seeing the smiles. My hope is to obtain a legal education that is focused on heath law. There is much to be changed and improved and my goal is to be a part of it in some significant way.”

Here is an excerpt from her submission:

My Socio-Economic circumstances often created a societal divide. Lack of access to luxuries and select basics often led me to feel “different” or “less than” the norm. Now I see that being different has instilled compassion and resilience. Much of my volunteer experience will reflect such compassion. I currently volunteer with Meals on Wheels bringing meals to the elderly whose quality of life has been highly impacted during this pandemic. Volunteering alongside disparate groups has increased cultural and social sensitivities. I have witnessed several societal barriers and I believe there is an immediate need for revision of existing policies in order to work towards truly humanizing our legal system. It is through such processes that we will achieve a more equitable and just world. My leadership and dedication in combination with an interactive legal education will be my road map in engaging in dialogue about social justice, social control, and understanding deviance from the “norm”. We have all experienced a “deviance” from the norm due to COVID-19. However, Meals on Wheels is committed to upholding a renewed sense of community despite this. This resilience connects with my own and has left me inspired, primarily by my community. Firsthand accounts of social barriers and access issues in my community while also being a caregiver to my mother reveal the immediate need to revise existing public policies. It is through innovative and collaborative responses to legal and/or ethical challenges, that reform within the Health Sector can begin, and social justice on a grander scale can be achieved.

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