Bikur Cholim literally means “visiting the sick” in Hebrew, but some organizations with the name go well beyond that mission. Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington (BCGW) is one of them.
Debi Wildman founded BCGW, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, in 1997 in memory of her late husband, Howie. During Howie’s illness, the family was lucky enough to have a support system–– people visited, made meals–– but Debi knew not everyone had the same good fortune.
Over the years, Bikur Cholim has evolved to do much more than just send friendly visitors to the ill and elderly, itself a laudable activity.
Volunteers with the organization’s J. Peter and Shoshana Lunzer Food Program deliver store-bought and home-cooked meals to hospital patients and their families, the ill and homebound, and caregivers as well. During the past year, the organization provided close to 3,000 meals as well as 800 rides for medical appointments. It also lends out medical equipment and helps pay medical bills for those who qualify.
There is also the Meir L’Olam Fund, dedicated to the memory of Mel Rishe, which runs kosher pantries at Children’s National Medical Center in DC, The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Maryland.
On May 18, Bikur Cholim will hold its annual “My Brother’s Keeper” workshop, geared for hospital staff and others who want to understand the special religious needs of Jewish patients in their care. BCGW offers educational programs for the Jewish community at large as well, often related to elder care, women’s wellness–– and most recently a health and halacha series in coordination with Young Israel Shomrai Emunah and many local synagogue chesed communities.
And thanks to BCGW’s brand-new SmileMakers program, dedicated in memory of Rabbi Yosef Samberg N'E, a child who had undergone brain surgery and longed to see a basketball game between the Wizards and the New York Knicks was not only able to attend but received VIP treatment as well.