Excerpted from The Jewish Star [Long Island, New York], October, 2006
“The name of the game is Carpe Diem. There’s more in it for me than the recipient, believe it or not.” That’s how Bob Schwell explained why he and his wife, Susan, seize the day by volunteering nearly full time for an Israeli social service organization called Yad Sarah.
The Schwells live in Woodmere [NY], but spend nearly six months a year in Israel. Two of their children and eight grandchildren live there. Two other children and four more grandchildren live several hours from each other in Elizabeth, NJ and Bala Cynwyd, PA.
Schwell, 65, is retired from Wall St. where he specialized in computer operations for banks and brokerages. At Yad Sarah he specializes in repairing and conditioning medical equipment, which Yad Sarah loans out free-of-charge from a hundred locations across Israel. Said to be the largest volunteer organization in Israel, Yad Sarah also operates dental and podiatry clinics and arranges visits for the homebound. It was founded by Uri Lupoliansky, who currently is mayor of Jerusalem.
Yad Sarah has “a very large array of different equipment,” Schwell said, enough to make between 250- and 300-thousand equipment loans per year. When equipment is returned, “it has to be cleaned and prepared to be redistributed. I make sure all the moveable parts are still there and working fine. I test to make sure it's working properly.
He volunteers for Yad Sarah in Woodmere, too. “If insurance pays for a wheelchair for three months in New York, it doesn’t rotate. People pass away, or they recover and they don’t need ]the equipment] anymore. People don’t know what to do with it — wheelchairs, crutches, commodes, canes. We even have motorized wheelchairs that people gave us.” The items are stored in a garage on Edward Ave., according to Schwell, who explained, “We make sure it’s in working condition and we ship it off.” Recently, he shipped off to Israel, and Yad Sarah, a 20-foot long container filled with cast-off medical equipment which will be put to good use.
While in Israel, Susan spends four days a week volunteering at Yad Sarah. She visits the homebound, lends an ear to mothers of terror victims who need to talk, and teaches English to children who need a little extra attention.