“Newsmaker: Golden Service,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 69
Fifty years ago, Jeane Henny Kirschbaum was a messenger for the underground armed forces during World War II. Although the job was dangerous, Sister Kirschbaum knew that service was one of the things that makes life worth living.
Recently, Sister Kirschbaum was presented with the royal golden medal of honor of the knighthood of Oranje Nassau for half a century of service in the communities of Heemstede and Haarlem in the Netherlands. During the ceremony in the town hall, the burgomaster of Heemstede (a suburb of Haarlem) noted a long list of activities that have kept Sister Kirschbaum busy since her days as an underground messenger. Those activities include volunteer work for the Red Cross, Rheuma Foundation, old-age care, Unmarried Mothers, and other organized charities or local causes.
However, much of the ceremony focused on Sister Kirschbaum’s twenty-five years as organizer of a twice-monthly cultural afternoon for retired individuals. “You cannot stop this lady,” the burgomaster observed. “When we had to terminate the subsidy for her cultural afternoons for old people, she continued them on a private scale and found a sponsor. Since twenty-four years ago, she has continuously organized these cultural presentations every two weeks.”
And Sister Kirschbaum does more for elderly people than organizing activities for them. She loves the elderly and counts most of them among her friends. She asks about their families, their illnesses, their troubles, and their dreams. She gives each person a heartwarming greeting as they attend each cultural afternoon.
One regular afternoon participant refused to undergo surgery until Sister Kirschbaum returned from out of town. “My guardian angel is on holiday,” the 93-year-old said. After Sister Kirschbaum came home, the elderly lady consented to the operation.
In addition, Sister Kirschbaum is a member of the board of “Haarlem Is Helping Poland.” She is very active in getting all kinds of medical equipment from the surplus stock of the hospitals in Haarlem. With her husband, Christiaan Robert, she has traveled to Poland several times to distribute the donated items.
Although Sister Kirschbaum, a member of the Haarlem Ward of The Hague Netherlands Stake, is seventy-three years of age, she still works long hours each day. In addition to her service projects, she spends much of her energy on her family, which includes three children (one of whom died as an infant) and seven grandchildren. She also works tirelessly in the Church and has served in the Relief Society, in the Sunday School, and as a public affairs representative. She was her husband’s great support during the seventeen years he was branch president in Haarlem.—C. R. Kirschbaum, Haarlem, Netherlands