Volunteer Appreciation Month: Marcia Persin + Richard Teets

April 16, 2019

Jewish Family Service assists all community members interested in accessing health insurance. Since 2013, our team of certified health care navigators has responded to more than 18,000 requests for assistance in exploring and purchasing insurance on the health care marketplace through the Affordable Care Act. Our agency has been fortunate to have some incredibly knowledgeable and compassionate volunteers who help our clients access and navigate the labrynth that is health insurance.

Marcia Persin has been volunteering with JFS since the summer of 2017. She tells us, “My daughter is really the one who found this volunteer opportunity for me. She works at the JCC and called me and said she found the perfect thing for me. She was right.” Marcia is a retired health care adminstrator having worked at Sinai Hospital and for Blue Cross; she has 41 years of experience in health care. Marcia has a Master’s degree in Public Health Adminstration and says that she originally entered the field because she wanted to help people access care. Marcia says, “I was working on the provider side, not with individual customers. After all these years, volunteering at JFS and working with individuals after a career on the provider side feels like I’ve come full circle.”

Richard Teets, a former JFS Volunteer of the Year award recipient, has been a healthcare navigator since the beginning of our program in 2013. Richard has a strong background in research having retired from an auto engineering career at General Motors and Delphi, and says he took an interest in the Affordable Care Act. Richard started his volunteering career advocating for Medicaid expansion with his church congregation. He says he was introduced to JFS through Metro Health Foundation and mentioned that he was not working with a sponsoring organization at the time and he was asked by JFS if he could start the next day. He says, “I was working with a good group of dedicated individuals here.”

When it is not Open Enrollment season, Marcia and Richard both volunteer once per week at the Fern Clinic, a free community clinic in Ferndale. Richard says, “I’ve learned a lot about the lives of low-income individuals. How much bureaucracy they have to put up with to get what they need. You don’t always see that side.” Richard explains he has been working with a low-income family that is also struggling with mental illness. Richard explains, “The system is complicated enough but for people with mental health issues, navigating insurance can be almost impossible.” Marcia agrees, “I see so many people using the clinics and I try to tell them about the importance of getting insured and staying in the system and practicing preventive care. But its a heirarchy. You’re not worried about health insurance when you can’t get to work because your car broke down.”

Marcia and Richard keep each other on their toes. Marcia is the expert on the Blue Cross Marketplace plans and asks Richard all the Medicaid questions. Other than their busy schedules enrolling people in health care and staying up on policy changes, both Marcia and Richard lead active lives volunteering and advocating elsewhere. Richard is active with his church and spreading his advocacy wings over those who have been unable to advocate for themselves: most recently a Syrian refugee family. Marcia is a member of the Temple Kol Ami sisterhood of the Women of Reform Judaism and stays busy with 6 grandkids. Marcia says, “We see how difficult and confusing this can be for people. I do this because it is so important to me.”