Volunteer Spotlight — Ilana

“It was a passion project that we all had,” Ilana Lefkowitz, a co-founder of Conversations to Remember, said about starting the organization. “It was a very eye-opening thing because it shocked me just how fast Conversations to Remember expanded, and how well it expanded.”

What was once “just a passion project” during the COVID-19 pandemic is now a national organization. 

Image courtesy of Ilana Lefkowitz

“We just wanted to start something that could make a change,” Ilana said. The original goal of Conversations to Remember was to decrease loneliness and isolation for elders during the pandemic, when there were strict regulations on in-person interactions. But thanks to its success, Conversations to Remember will continue to connect senior citizens and volunteers in a convenient, beneficial way.

As the organization grew, Ilana acquired various roles. She is the student director of training, an intern manager and a senior volunteer. As the student director of training, she helps coach and prepare new student volunteers for their virtual visits, as well as training Conversations to Remember’s senior volunteers to help coach other new students. She also works to create and develop the framework for the training process. As intern manager, she said, she currently manages two interns, focusing on Conversations to Remember’s social media presence. Finally, as a senior volunteer, she joins weekly calls as a substitute whenever a student volunteer is unable to attend their scheduled visit. 

Ilana sees her roles as more than just responsibilities — they are opportunities to connect with other volunteers and help them grow. “I like to coach my interns in a more feedback-based manner, where they’re really learning something,” Ilana said. 

In fact, the impact Conversations to Remember has had on volunteers was not anticipated. However, it is noticeable in multiple aspects of daily life, even for Ilana. She said, “I know, from personal experience, that I am better at talking to people and making connections.” On top of interpersonal skills, the weekly calls give student volunteers the chance to build meaningful relationships with senior citizens. “So many of our students have a pseudo-grandparent of a sort,” Ilana said, “someone that [they] can talk to, someone that’ll have these conversations with [them] and really care about [them].”

Looking ahead, Ilana expressed that she would like to see Conversations to Remember continue to grow. Though she focuses on Conversations to Remember’s gradual expansion on a day-to-day basis, in the future, Ilana said she hopes Conversations to Remember will reach a new level of recognition. “Bigger organizations are so well known, and I would love for Conversations to Remember to reach that level,” she said about her hopes. “[I want] to be this to be well-known, to the point where we reach more students, so we make even more of an impact.”