Volunteering is about performing mitzvot, say super-committed

They're busy. They're committed. And to outsiders, they're perhaps a little meshuggener, working for no pay at three, four and sometimes five nonprofit organizations.

These super volunteers have a different motivation: Giving back to the community and tikkun olam, or repairing the world.

What doesn't seem to be a factor is time. The busiest people seem to be able to make time for volunteering because of their desire to create mitzvot every day.

Efi Lubliner, a 47-year-old Lafayette computer store owner and father of four, said he volunteers at so many things because he believes in tzedakah and "not being selfish."

Lubliner spends his non-working hours serving on the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Greater East Bay and the board of Congregation Ohr Emet in Walnut Creek. He also stage-directs student plays at Campolindo High School in Moraga, where some of his children are students.

"We all have priorities. I like to spend my free time being charitable, raising money on the phone, sitting on committees and getting my hands dirty working on a project rather than anything else," Lubliner said.

Irv Scott, an 88-year-old San Francisco resident, also likes to spend his time volunteering. A retired children's clothing store owner, Scott is an escort driver for the American Cancer Society and the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children Services. Every morning, he drives patients to their radiation appointments and every afternoon he takes elderly women in his Chevrolet to their doctors' appointments, where he waits for them and drops them off back home.

On Saturday, he helps out at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum doing odds and ends. Currently, his project is rewinding self-guided tour tapes.

"It's not enough to be retired and play golf these days like it was 50 years ago," Scott said. "Today there are too many charitable things to do and people to help when you have the extra time."

Shirley La Mere, a 60-year-old retired school teacher who lives in San Anselmo, said what drives her and many volunteers like her to donate their time is a Jewish mantra she heard repeatedly while growing up:

"Every Jewish child I know was indoctrinated knowing that they have to give back to the community," she said. "Volunteering is what mitzvahs are all about."

One day a week, La Mere answers phones for the Jewish Community Information & Referral Service, a position she learned about while volunteering at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's Super Sunday fund-raiser.

La Mere also does secular volunteer work, serving as volunteer coordinator for the Smuin Ballet, as secretary for her Sleepy Hollow neighborhood group and as a docent for the Decorator's Showcase, a group that helps raise money for college scholarships.

Now that La Mere is retired, she has more time to dedicate to volunteer projects, but even while she was a teacher, she offered her services to nonprofit groups. She said she never thought life should be any other way.

"I grew up watching my mother inviting guests to our table and giving of herself to the community," La Mere said. "I guess it was ingrained in me that no matter what, I'd give back too."