Charity Does Not Have to Be Saved For the Holidays

Zippy Ostroy on vacation.
Zippy Ostroy on vacation. –Courtesy of Zippy Ostroy

Zippy Ostroy may be retired, but some days it doesn’t feel like it. Ostroy is 72 years old and works almost full time as a volunteer with no pay.

We all think of the holiday season as a time to be charitable and give to those less fortunate than ourselves, but here is a look at someone who does it all year round.

After retiring as a speech pathologist in 2005, Ostroy and her husband moved from West Lafayette, Indiana, where they were both working at Purdue, to Brookline, Mass.

Since then, Ostroy has thrown herself into local charity work, and she hasn’t chosen just one organization.

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Ostroy volunteers for Friendship Works, Brookline League of Women Voters, two groups in her Synagogue (Caring Committee and Social Justice Committee), and the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA).

FriendshipWorks

FriendshipWorks, an organization dedicated to providing support to elders, was the first volunteer work Ostroy did after moving to the Boston area. She wanted to be a medical escort, as she could make her own schedule. She would pick up people in her car, take them to places they needed to go, or just spend time with them

“It was very satisfying and I enjoyed doing it,’’ she said. “I met people I would never have encountered otherwise, they were so appreciative and it was always a good feeling.’’

She later did other volunteer activities for FriendshipWorks, such as substituting for the coordinator when he was ill. For a couple of months, she was going in five afternoons a week.

“It felt good to support a program I was enthusiastic about it,’’ she said. “It was just fun and satisfying and I wanted to hang out there more by doing something productive.’’

Now Ostroy does bookkeeping for FriendshipWorks about 10 hours a week, which makes time for her other charitable activities.

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Brookline League of Women Voters

Ostroy became involved in the League of Women Voters when living in Indiana. She said that most of the professors in the science department, where her husband worked, were male, so one wife decided to gather all the other wives to get involved in the community through the League of Women voters.

“I got hooked on that,’’ she said. “I have learned so much of the community because people know what’s happening.’’

She is now the treasurer of the Brookline group and does a lot of her work, which involves paying bills and doing tax forms, from home. The group has meetings once a month, but also hosts informational meetings for women and other events.

Caring Committee

Ostroy joined Temple Sinai, a reform Jewish congregation, in Brookline, fairly quickly after moving to the area.

“I joined a few committees,’’ she said. “One is Caring Committee, which organizes congregants to help other congregants.’’

She is now the committee chair.

“We try to be supportive of people within the congregation, [who are] experiencing death, accident, surgery, a baby, etc.,’’ she said.

She does not do as many direct duties, but mostly oversees the people going out and bringing food and services to those in the congregation who need it.

Social Justice Committee

Another Temple group, the Social Justice Committee, is much more external and is directly involved with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization.

“It’s a way to have more impact in some of the systemic issues in society,’’ Ostroy said.

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She is also a co-chair of this committee.

It meets once a month, with the chairs sometimes meeting weekly, and uses a community organizing model based on relationships and conversations to run the committee. They have started having brunches to get more people involved.

Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA)

Ostroy is the treasurer of this group. She was very involved in the last primary election, gathering signatures and canvassing door-to-door in order to get the sick time question on the ballot.

Ostroy is retired and could be doing whatever she wanted, but she spends most of her days helping others and being a leader in her community.

“Some days it feels very full-time,’’ she said. “So I am retired so I have flexibility and I have choice on how to spend my time.’’

Her hard work has paid off. In 2010, Ostroy received the Synagogue Distinguished Service Award, which is given every year to the person most dedicated to charity work.

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