Unsung Heroes 2015: Sherri Goldman

Sherri Goldman

By Richard Jackoway, Special to the Jewish Light

Sherri Goldman is apprehensive. Fidgeting in her chair, she casts about for the right words.

Goldman isn’t used to the spotlight. In all of her many volunteer endeavors she has only reluctantly taken the titles of leadership, but given many hundreds of hours to the work of making people’s lives better.

So as she is interviewed as one of the Light’s Unsung Heroes of 2015, she predictably would prefer the spotlight to be on the work rather than on her.

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Her friends and colleagues have no such reservations. They know that without people like Goldman thousands of young people would have gone to school without proper supplies. Abused women would have a more difficult time putting their lives back together. And cancer patients would not have much needed support.

“Sherri does not just do projects but has to do the projects, just as an artist must paint,” says Barb Goldberg, director of the Cancer Education and Information Center at Missouri Baptist Medical Center.

Longtime friend Susan Witte agrees. The two grew up together in Ohio and both ended up in St. Louis, where they have worked side–by-side on many volunteer projects.

“Sherri sees her roles as a job. She takes it so seriously,” Witte says. “And she is so totally dependable. When Sherri says she is going to do something, she is going to do it.”

Continuing the theme is Ellen Alper, executive director of National Council of Jewish Women-St. Louis Section.

“She does what she says she is going to do, and usually more, and as a volunteer that’s a wonderful thing.  I never have to worry that a job won’t get done if Sherri has agreed to do it.”

Finally, Goldman’s nomination for Unsung Hero comes from Marilyn Ratkin, who, as a nonprofit management consultant, knows a thing or two about the importance of volunteers.

“Sherri Goldman is the consummate community volunteer. Every project/task she undertakes is accomplished with grace, skill polish, and to perfection. And, in so doing, she gives credit to all those around her, always shying away from the spotlight,” Ratkin wrote in the nomination letter. 

Goldman had a personal connection that she brought into her volunteer work with cancer patients, first at the Miriam Foundation where she chaired the Cancer Service Committee and then, for the past 13 years, at Missouri Baptist, where she volunteers in the Cancer Support Center and in the Look Good, Feel Better Program. 

Goldman’s mother volunteered with cancer organizations before she succumbed to the disease herself.

“I wanted to continue her work,” Goldman says.

A Chesterfield resident, she has also volunteered extensively in the Parkway schools, where her sons Josh and Ben attended, and at Congregation Shaare Emeth, where she and husband, Rick, are active members.

Of all of her volunteer work, she holds a special place for the local chapter of the National Council for Jewish Women, where she has volunteered for 20 years.

“I have love, love, loved it,” she says. “Their mission is to improve the lives of women, children and families and what could be more important? I’m more involved in community service, but I support all of the advocacy that they do.”

With NCJW, Goldman has been active in the Back to School! Store, which provides back to school supplies for more than 5,000 school children.

And she is co-chair of Lydia’s House, an innovative program where Goldman helps register domestic violence survivors for all the household items they need to set up a new place to live and then purchases the items through donations. Finally, the volunteers spend a weekend morning transforming the previously undecorated apartment into a new home.

“You go into this bare, not fancy apartment, and you walk out knowing you have created a home for somebody,” she says.

In talking to people about Goldman one of the comments that comes up is the way she makes other volunteers feel about volunteering. If you are on a committee she is chairing, expect to be thanked and appreciated. In doing so, she makes any volunteer organization she works with that much stronger.

Longtime friend Witte summed it up.

“Sherri is so good about showing appreciation to people. She is the one who will always write thank-yous. Not everyone does that, but sets a very great example,” she says.

Goldman has advice for anyone looking to volunteer but not sure where to begin.

“Step your toe in and give it a try. If it’s the wrong project you’re not committed for life,” Goldman says. “But I guarantee, no matter how much you give will get more out of it than you will give. I know I have.”