One volunteer’s story.

Heather Sosler is a VP of Community Service of the Women of Temple Judea (WTJ), the women’s group within Temple Judea in Coral Gables, FL, one of the largest reform synagogues in South Florida. With her leadership, WTJ and its diverse community of women have become part of our Casa Valentina family, cooking and serving meals for residents, hosting life skills workshops, collecting home items and, most importantly, showing our youth that they’re supported and cared for.

How did you learn about Casa Valentina?

I am very involved with my temple, Temple Judea in Coral Gables, and serve as one of the VPs of Community Service for the Women of Temple Judea. We had done a collection of household items a couple of times over the years. Then, three years ago, we decided to get much more involved and started providing monthly dinners. Over the years, we’ve continued the supply drives, hosted life skills workshops with women professionals and found creative ways to stay connected even during the pandemic.

Tell us more about the women’s group and your community service.

Temple Judea promotes community building within our congregation and through outreach to many organizations in need. One of those ways is through Women of Temple Judea (WTJ), the women’s group within Temple Judea. We are an eclectic group of women of all ages, at every stage of life, with over 190 members. Community service is central to our group. The Hebrew phrase tikkun olam means “repair the world.” It’s a concept in Judaism that’s become synonymous with social action and social justice.

Why did Casa Valentina resonate with you and WTJ?

As parents, we know how much it takes to prepare children to go out into the world. To ready them financially, emotionally. Casa Valentina residents are able teens and young adults who have everything ahead of them and simply need support. We’re able to provide that support and bridge that gap.

Personally, I wouldn’t have accomplished what I have without the emotional support of my family. When you see children who don’t have the same opportunities we had, or our children have, it makes you think about the injustices in the world and what we can do to give children the opportunity to realize their potential.

How has your engagement with the nonprofit evolved?

During the pandemic, they worked with us to find ways for WTJ to continue our service. Rather than gather for home-cooked meals like we had been doing, for example, we provided restaurant delivery. We collected supplies like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. My daughter and her sewing group also made masks and delivered them. We also took our workshops virtual. We hosted one with a nutritionist and a chef who taught nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals on a budget. The dinner we served that night was the one residents learned to cook via Zoom. Another workshop was with one of our members who’s a physician. She gave a training on life and wellness and talked about topics like the importance of going to the doctor, sexual health, STDs, and because it’s a small group, residents are able to ask questions comfortably and confidentially.

What keeps you and your group going back to Casa Valentina?

To keep volunteers engaged, it takes finding a way to both feel connected to the cause and feel like you’re really making an impact. It’s easy to write a check, but to stay connected takes doing hands-on work. Casa Valentina is a small organization and values its volunteers. From the board to leadership and staff, they make you feel welcome and like family.