One might categorize Sandra “Sandi” Fried as a career volunteer. Even as she worked in geriatrics and as a dialysis and renal social worker, Fried was out in the community doing what she could when she had the time.
The activities have run the gamut, including being a life member for Jewish War Veterans, Aviva Junior Hadassah and B’nai Brith Women (now Jewish Women International). Fried was also heavily involved in PTA while her children were in school. But currently, the South Euclid resident spends her time on the medical advisory board of the Kidney Foundation of Ohio and with Moms Against Drunk Driving, which she was already involved in before her daughter, Barbara Fried Becker, was killed in a drunken driving incident alongside her boyfriend, Arthur Gugick, on March 30, 2019.
“I’ve always wanted to raise funds and make a difference, and I’ve done that with both of my husbands and kids,” Fried said.
CJN: Why did you choose these activities?
Fried: With Jewish War Veterans, it was simple. My first husband and father were in the armed forces. And I was active in that for a while. I also had friends and people I knew that were very active in it. I was socializing with them and became active because of that. The Kidney Foundation of Ohio was a no-brainer because of my experience as a social worker. I’ve always supported the foundation. It continues to assist the public and renal professionals that are my colleagues and patients and their families, and they’re all so appreciative. When I worked in long-term care at a skilled care facility, it was such a pleasure at the time to sit down and listen to patients. They were amazing. I had one client that had survived the Holocaust and they had so many remarkable stories to tell.
CJN: What keeps you volunteering and how do you stay inspired?
Fried: When you volunteer, you give yourself and the rewards you get are not monetary or narcissistic. It’s so heartwarming and rewarding because you know you aided those who truly need it and truly appreciate what you do. You get the gift back time and time again.
CJN: What have you learned while volunteering that you might not have otherwise learned?
Fried: I’ve learned that in any profession where you’re involved with helping people, it can also be draining. That is why I stay active doing yoga, walking or traveling, or even taking a ride. You can kind of then create balance so you don’t take that slope. I’ve had such a good support system that has helped me through the worst loss in my life – the loss of a child. It’s so imperative to stay busy and balanced during retirement, especially during things like that.
CJN: Do you have a favorite volunteering memory?
Fried: When I worked in long term care, I know how much the residents looked forward to talking with me and expressing what they had to me. That was heartwarming alone. When I was involved with dialysis, the patients needed organ transplants, having a part in that was so rewarding. I took these experiences with me into volunteering and it has made such a difference in them, their loved ones and their lives as well. It drives what I do now. You don’t ever forget that and it inspires me every day.
CJN: How does your Jewish heritage play into this?
Fried: My grandmother, who I was very close with, I remember the morning before she took ill while we were on a trip to my cousin’s house in Baltimore for his bar mitzvah and we slept in the same room at his house. My grandmother said to me in Yiddish that she was going to go home and bake a honey cake, which was the most delicious treat. She was always an inspiration to me and I take her impact and apply it to my daily life. You think of those things, those memories, as you go through life. I remain spiritual. When I’m home Friday nights, I light the candle and say the prayers.
Seeing the impact it has made on her own life, Fried said others should also rise to the occasion.
“It’s so genuinely rewarding,” she said. “What you give comes back to you 10-fold. That is the way I see it and it’s proven to be true for me. Some of my friends ask me how I do it and I have friends in their 60s that say I have more energy than they do. These things that happen to us in life do drain us, so I need to take a step back and catch up a bit but I’ll never stop supporting my community.”