For Longtime Volunteer, Community Outreach Now Her Job
One in an ongoing series.
Chris Berkowitz decided when her children were growing up that she wanted to be a role model for them. So she became the mother who was always there. She volunteered at their schools and their after-school activities and with the school district foundation.
She became the neighbor who was always there, too, available for every community event – the festivals, the fund drives, the collections and celebrations – even while she worked full time.
Berkowitz involved her children in all of the activities, whether it was setting up tables or handing out leaflets. “It was important to set an example for my children,” she said.
Now, her daughters and son are grown – indeed, she has three grandchildren. And she no longer has to worry about squeezing her volunteer work in on lunch breaks or before or after work. Because being involved in the community is her work now.
“This is my dream job,” said Berkowitz, who is community outreach coordinator at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery. She’s the hospital’s ambassador at large, recruiting patients for programs, engaging the hospital in community events, building partnerships and relationships with police, neighborhood leaders and associations.
“The thing about Einstein is, they’re really trying very hard to be active in the community with different programs, different sponsorships, different things,” she said.
Berkowitz’ primary responsibility is recruiting and communicating with patients for the Nurse Family Partnership, a grant-funded program that assigns the same nurse to work with a first-time mom from pregnancy through the child’s second birthday.
Berkowitz is very active inside the hospital as well. Indeed, she’s already begun planning this year’s Adopt-A-Family program in which she coordinates a hospital-wide initiative to provide Christmas gifts to struggling families. She compiles a list of recipients and their desired gifts and distributes them to each of the hospital departments.
“It’s so overwhelming to see all the presents that come in for people we don’t know and we’ll never meet,” she said.
Sometimes, all the departments chip in to buy one big gift for a family. Usually, though, they fulfill individual family wish lists, including clothes, toys, games, and sometimes food.
Indeed, Berkowitz always thinks about the elderly man from a few years ago whose gift list had none of the usual requests. He didn’t want a coat or a toaster or a scarf. All he wanted was food — specifically, Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes and Entenmann’s cookies. Clearly such treats were not in his budget. “I think about him every year,” she said. “It was sad.”
Berkowitz even coordinates a cookie swap the day the wrapped gifts are put under the tree in the hospital lobby, though baking isn’t something she normally does. “I’m not a baker at all,” she said, “but I did bake chocolate-chip and sugar cookies with my grandsons and daughters.”
The holiday program is Berkowitz’s favorite of the many activities she participates in as a member of Einstein’s Employees Activity Council — for which she volunteered, of course.
“Einstein employee relations is so important – making people feel good about working here,” Berkowitz said. “We’re like Einstein cheerleaders, which is easy because I believe it.”
Berkowitz’ activism and generous spirit earned her a Keeper of the Dream Award in 2018 in honor of Einstein’s Martin Luther King Day commemoration. It’s safe to say that she has succeeded in her effort to be a role model for her children – and for everyone else too.