"My Grandfather was my Best Friend"

by Carole Klein-Alexander

This simple yet powerful statement is how Russell Karlins began our interview about why he and his wife Laura are longstanding donors to CJE SeniorLife. His tender memories of his grandfather, Hyman Garvin, peppered the conversation and provided insight into why the Karlins are so dedicated to CJE’s mission to enhance the lives of older adults.

“Laura and I just want to do our little part to try and make sure that seniors have a comfortable and safe place to live. My grandfather had such a positive experience at CJE’s Robineau Residence that choosing to donate to such a wonderful organization seemed a logical choice to us. We donate to many amazing causes, but when you have actually experienced an organization’s services, it makes a bigger impression on you.”

Mr. Karlins’ connection with CJE began in the late 1980s when his widowed grandfather moved at the age of 85 from an apartment in Rogers Park into CJE’s Robineau Residence in Skokie. “From day one, Robineau was a nurturing environment. He fit right in and got involved in the community. He loved participating in all the activities and was especially proud to be recognized for his role in the children’s reading program.”

In memory of his grandfather, the Karlins family dedicated a bench that graces the front lawn of Robineau. Looking at current Robineau residents sitting on the bench, chatting with friends while watching neighborhood children run down the sidewalk, it is easy to imagine how Hyman would have been honored by this gift.

Robineau Residence has been a very special home for seniors since opening in 1982. Nestled in a quiet residential neighborhood in Skokie, it was specifically designed to foster social interaction among 24 older adults living independently. The thriving, single floor community has six suites, each comprised of four private bedrooms and baths that converge around a small living room/kitchen combination... a perfect arrangement to encourage socializing among its residents who enjoy group activities, meals, transportation, excursions and 24-hour staff.

According to Dorothy Levant, Manager of Robineau Residence, “Although Robineau was designed at a time before there were so many residential options for seniors, it is still an incredible model...communal living with great programming. There is a tremendous amount of social interaction which is critical to the older person.” Indeed, the Karlins reminisced about Hyman’s enthusiastic conversation about all his activities from the preceding week, such as his latest arts and crafts creation, when they would take him out for Sunday dinner. Mr. Karlins will never forget how his grandfather’s last years at Robineau were incredibly rich and fulfilling.

Deeply committed to CJE’s mission and values, the Karlins are ongoing donors to CJE and have also supported CJE’s innovative programming that is meeting the evolving needs of today’s seniors. Their most recent contribution went toward the launch of the Virtual Senior Center, an Internet-based way for seniors to connect with family and friends throughout the country for lifelong learning opportunities and socialization.

But the most fundamental reason for their enduring connection to CJE still goes back to the unique bond between a beloved grandfather and his grandson... a covenant that is deeply rooted to Jewish values.

As Russell Karlins reflects, “I don’t think I would have changed anything about my grandfather’s experience at CJE...and that is why we have decided to do something. We are very blessed and want to give back to an organization that really understands how to respect and honor older adults. Actions truly do speak louder than words.”