Meet five of this year’s Unsung Heroes

For the past decade, Debbie Caplin, 59, of Ladue, has spent time training dogs, protecting dogs and rescuing dogs. She is a founding member of the volunteer advisory council at Support Dogs, Inc., a nonprofit agency that uses trained assistance dogs to improve the quality of life for people with special needs. She serves on the board of the Animal Protective Association of Missouri, where she also volunteers, taking trained dogs to assisted living communities and to schools so that they can provide an incentive to help struggling students read. In addition, Caplin actively volunteers with a variety of organizations in both the secular and Jewish communities, including Gateway to Hope, Jewish Family and Children’s Service and Jewish Fund for Human Needs.

Harvey Wallace, founding and managing partner of Brown Smith Wallace, has served on the board of directors for the Jewish Community Center since 1988. Since 2002, he has been actively involved as a member of the board of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, where he currently serves as the vice-chairman for the 2014 and 2015 Annual Campaign. Wallace, a grandfather of four, is a former board member of Jewish Family and Children’s Service and has served on the board at the Magic House in Kirkwood since 2011, with a stint as board chair from 2013 to 2014. He is also on the community advisory board for St. Louis Public Radio and the board for the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Wayne Kaufman, 66, of Creve Coeur, has been raising money to help veterans, their families and children’s charities for decades. Last year, he spearheaded the formation of a nonprofit called the Kaufman Fund, which helps returning veterans gain access to a wide variety of services, including housing, employment and psychological help. The organization even helps with home repairs for those who have served and bolsters scholarship funds for their children. He’s also been involved with the Northwest Chamber of Commerce, Old Newsboys, 1904 Charitable Foundation Veterans Affairs and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of St. Louis, among other groups.

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For over three years, 17-year-old Mark Rodgers of Clayton has volunteered as a “swim buddy” at Super Swimmers Academy, primarily helping Matthew Henke, a 12-year-old with autism, learn to swim. Mark first volunteered with the organization for his bar mitzvah project, but stuck with it because “trying to understand how to communicate with (Matthew) both verbally and with body language . . . I’ve helped get (him) comfortable in the water,” Mark says. Currently, he is finishing his junior year at John Burroughs School, where he plays football and teaches kids to play tennis. He also participates in Cultural Leadership, a yearlong program that teaches Jewish and African-American teens to be leaders for social justice.

Even today at age 86, Dorothy Meyerson volunteers one day a week at the Miriam School and Learning Center, which specializes in educating children with learning disabilities. For years she has helped by assisting students there in assembling books they’ve written on topics such as their favorite pet or interesting trips they’ve taken. A longtime teacher in the University City School District, this grandmother of six says she loves helping to shape young minds. She also gives a day each week at the Missouri History Museum and is part of the 1904 World’s Fair Society.

Join the Light in saluting the 2015 Unsung Heroes during a special event at 7 p.m. Monday,  May 18 at the JCC Arts & Education Building in Creve Coeur. The cost is $18 and includes a dessert and coffee reception (kosher dietary laws observed). RSVP online at stljewishlight.com/unsungrsvp. For more details, see ad on page 17.