Not enough time for any interest outside of volunteerism for Jerry Edelman. The retired businessman, former pharmacist and Sanibel resident chooses to walk Gulf beaches checking on the well being of sea turtles, to promote coupon books and his beloved Sanibel Kiwanis Club, raise funds for local hospitals and to help oversee FISH of Sanibel-Captiva, a human-services agency, donate his clay artwork to benefit a Sanibel land trust, glad-hand visitors, spending every day doing something to benefit Sanibel. In his company, it's funny how many passers-by wave and smile to him. One small child yells "Jeeeeeerrryyy" in passing.
Edelman estimates spending thousands of hours in the last decade pitching in to Sanibel causes, donating cash, his good nature to those in greatest need.
Edelman is no secret to those clamoring for his help and leadership. One island group labels him as a volunteer's volunteer.
"We're going to have to put angel wings on Jerry," said Maggi Feiner, executive director of FISH, an island agency running a food pantry and a dozen programs to help the needy. "He's that special. He started as a volunteer driver, now he's on our board (of directors). He really spreads himself out on Sanibel. People like Jerry are the life-blood of all nonprofits. He and Maryanne (wife) are very special people."
Like many, Edelman has been shaped by his family. His parents in St. Louis were active in charities for hospitals, community centers, those suffering. The Edelmans ran a small grocery store in the Gateway City.
"There's wasn't all that much money," Edelman said of his family, "but my parents were always generous with time, always giving. I saw it every day of my life. My mother would hold a collection can in front of our small grocery, shake the can, and people would smile and put a buck or two in. Giving makes (you) feel good. It's the only way I know how to measure what I do."
Edelman didn't choose to follow in the grocery trade, instead opting to become a pharmacist. He later formed a health-care business that he sold in 1994. He had vacationed in Sanibel for several years, moving to the island full time in 2005.
Rather than reflect or hit the rocker, Edelman began pottery classes at the BIG ARTS complex. His work became serious, eventually gaining some notoriety for his marine wildlife bowls and decorative work. He has offered a portion of the sales to the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, which is used in its sea turtle program. Edelman has long volunteered to survey turtle nesting sites, walking Gulf beaches every day during the season that starts in May.
Edelman, now 74, is also passionate about the island Kiwanis that raises funds for scholarships and other programs for children. He has been the group's secretary for several years. Many islanders smile at his persistence and persuasion in hawking coupon books during the service group's fund-raising drive. But it works. And the books are sold out every season.
"If every person helped another person," Edelman said, "the world's problems would disappear. Helping your fellow man is what life is supposed to be about."