That is why this volunteer extraordinaire can be found every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday in the Home’s café, doing whatever she can to help Diane, and assist residents, staff and visitors who are stopping by for a bite.
“Esti has a respect and an affection for elders like I’ve never seen before,” Diane says. “She’s very engaging and she gives 110 percent.”
Esti has been volunteering in the garden café for nearly 13 years, doing whatever needs to be done, she says. “I sell, bring coffee, help Diane prepare things, and chitchat with the residents.”
Gloria Houtenbrink, a Jewish Home resident and good friend, vouches for Esti’s invaluable help. “When I come into the café, Esti makes my coffee and carries it to the table for me. She takes good care of those of us who need extra help.”
“I’m here for the residents. That’s it!” Esti states emphatically.
Born in Israel, Esti was raised by her grandparents. Perhaps that is the reason, she suggests, that she has always had a special place in her heart for seniors. After a stint with the Israeli army’s intelligence forces, she met her husband-to-be, Eli, at the cinema. In the mid-1970s, after Eli returned from fighting in Egypt, the couple and their two children (their third was born later) moved to the United States.
“I was lonely at first,” Esti recollects. “I missed my family.”
She began taking classes and volunteering at her children’s schools. “Life changed,” she says.
Her volunteering at the Jewish Home came about when a friend, who volunteered at the Home’s gift shop, suggested that Esti might enjoy it, too. She did – so much so that she split a six-day week between the gift shop and the café. Her stint ended in 2010 when the Uziels decided to move back to Israel. They stayed for a few years, during which time she volunteered at a senior center.
Esti says she loved being back in Israel. “Everything was slow motion – not rush, rush, rush. But my son-in-law wanted to come back to America.” They returned to the Bay Area in 2012, and Esti came back to the Jewish Home.
Not long after their return, she had a devastating shock when her husband died suddenly. Being at the Jewish Home was the therapy that helped her deal with her loss, she says. “I helped people and that gave me help. When I was at the Home, I forgot everything.”
Today, Esti’s schedule is full. In addition to her days at the Jewish Home, she volunteers at a food bank, bagging food for veterans who live in her building. “I don’t know how not to volunteer,” she says.
Even so, she manages to save time for her family. She has a son in Wisconsin and another son and daughter in the Bay Area, plus two grandchildren – Eytan, 9, and Shai, 4½. With her grandchildren “growing up so fast, I need another baby,” Esti laughs, directing her command to her children. “So get to work!”