Meet Janice Bilchik, 25 Years with EA and a Volunteer in the City She Loves

by | Sep 10, 2020 | EA Staff News, EA Stories, Networking & Connections, Volunteering

It’s 2020, the year of the pandemic and my first time writing a blog! Who could have ever dreamed what this year would be like. Definitely not me! – Janice Bilchik

Q: Hi Janice, would you share a bit about yourself and your family?

I am originally from the Pittsburgh area, moving to Cleveland when I married my husband Gary. We met at OSU, he a law student and I an undergrad. I completed my degree in education at CWRU and master’s degree at John Carroll University. We have a married son and daughter, each have two children, providing us with the best treat in life, four wonderful grandchildren.

Now that Gary has retired, we spend a significant amount of time visiting our children and grandchildren in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles along with traveling to other destinations. My 90 year old mother and my brother also live in LA. I am a member of the sandwich generation! During winters we are snowbirds and fly to Florida. With everyone out of town, we are often asked why we still live in Cleveland. The answer is very simple. We love Cleveland!

Extended family gathered in Naples for my Mother’s 90th birthday 10 days before the outbreak of the pandemic-happy and blissfully naive

Q: Congrats on becoming a member of the first graduating class of Legacy Guides. What other roles have you held at EA?

I have been involved with Executive Arrangements for over 25 years. I started out as a community guest. I was a “soccer mom” and asked to join the table for lunch with a candidate whose son also played the sport. I have met so many wonderful and interesting people that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity meet, several became friends.

I left my position as a volunteer director to be available for my family. Shortly thereafter, I was asked to be an EA Guide and readily accepted with its flexible part time work. I was in awe of my fellow Guides who knew so much about our city. I quickly learned that we are provided continuing ed, aka EA University held once a month keeping our entire team up to date on the latest happenings in the city. I then became a Project Manager, part of the team who brainstorms new jobs and and plans orientation days.

As a result of all my traveling, I am now a member of the first class of Legacy Guides. The seven of us have been team members for many years but our lives have now changed and moved in different directions. We are still called in for special projects, as community lunch and coffee guests and if we are a good fit with a candidate will Guide orientations as we have in the past.

The Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv

Q: Do you have a memorable EA story to share?

Yes, it was on 9/11…can it be 19 years ago this month? As I left the house the first two planes hit the Twin Towers, and with my son in NYC and daughter in DC I was very concerned. Just as my colleague and I walked into the Renaissance Hotel, the third plane flew into the Pentagon. Our candidate met us in the hotel lobby and the three of us sat stunned and in disbelief.  Suggestion was made to reschedule but our candidate insisted that we carry on.

Throughout the morning our phones were ringing and downtown was evacuated. We learned that a fourth plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. The three of us managed to explore Cleveland’s east side and worked our way to Chagrin Falls. Our ever-loyal lunch guests met us at a near empty Game Keeper’s Tavern.

During the day our candidate shared that she had trained and worked as a nurse in her native Ireland prior to coming to the States. Living in the shadow of IRA terrorist attacks and treating victims in the ICU, her history and experiences gave her a sense of calm and helped us along on this difficult day. Soon after, we received a beautiful note to thank us, she said yes to the job she was being recruited for and moved to Cleveland with her family.

Q: In these last 25 years with EA you’ve spent an equal amount of time volunteering, what’s on your plate now?

“Working” at Executive Arrangements was more a “labor of love ” for the city I love. EA’s flexibility offered me the opportunity to be involved at my children’s schools, the Arthritis Foundation, my synagogue Temple Tifereth Israel and with the National Council of Jewish Women where I served as co-President. 

Currently, I’m a volunteer supporting programming for foster children, particularly for those who age out of the foster system. Once we are able to have personal interactions again, temporarily halted due to COVID, I can’t wait to return to my role with these wonderful kids. My hope is that more engagement and assistance be put forth by our civic leaders so that these children do not end up returning to the system of which they were a product of.

Q: Back home in Cleveland, how are you staying connected to friends and family? Favorite spots to explore, dine in or visit?

We came back from Florida in April earlier than we had planned. Gary and I landed in Ohio in lock down, in a new home (moved out of our home of 32 years a week before we left for FL), and in a required two-week quarantine. The next day was the first night of Passover, so we ordered a holiday dinner from one of the few restaurants that was open. Our children found a Passover abbreviated service on the internet appropriate for their young children. From five different homes and coast to coast, our entire extended family Zoomed the Passover service.

Since then, ZOOMING has become our new way of life! I have attended lectures, meetings and classes. I Zoom with my trainer, doctors and friends. I play lots of Mahjong (a Chinese tile game) with friends. The best Zooming has been baking with my grandchildren. They love it and so do I! It gives their parents a break from planning yet another activity. We have all the ingredients laid out and then take a break while the cookies or cakes are baking. 

My grandchildren and I have always enjoyed baking together. COVID might have stopped their visits but not our baking. Zoom has kept us connected!

We have gradually started seeing a few friends, always with masks, outside and socially distanced. I take lots of walks and work in the yard. We enjoy day trips to Chagrin Falls, Cleveland Museum of Art, movies at the Cedar Lee Theatre and restaurants. Some of our favorites are Aladdin’s, Geraci’s, Anatolia, L’Albatross, Marotta’s, Blue Point, Luna’s and Luca’s. There is no shortage of good restaurants!

Q: What would you recommend to an empty nester who is new to town to help them get connected?

It can be particularly difficult to be a newcomer who has just become an empty nester. It also is not an entirely uncommon occurrence, since many wait to make a move until their last child graduates from high school. I recommend joining churches or synagogues if this is important. Get involved in the affiliate groups there and volunteer to do something. Join a newcomers group. Find out about the various volunteer activities in Cleveland that are similar to what one’s done before or try out something new that you always wanted to do and have never done before. Explore the city. Take a class.

If you were with EA for an orientation day, call your lunch guest and make arrangements to get together. They are very willing and friendly people. Reply to your email from Caroline Weingart, Director of Settling in Services.  She is wonderful at helping people to stay connected and get acclimated to to their new hometown. Review your itinerary and go back to the places that were of interest to you on your EA Day. A favorite for me, is a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art. It’s restorative during the winter with the light-filled soaring atrium providing a boost of Vitamin D. And it’s free, just make sure to secure a timed ticket online and bring a mask, protocols instituted to provide a safe environment for all.

Gary and I in Naples FL