- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Teri Burnstein would tell people that when she retired she was going to create a greeting card empire.

She creates cards for every holiday and special occasion that are sent to family, friends and acquaintances throughout the year. Each card is personalized to incorporate the recipient’s favorite color.

Burnstein even gives one to her postal carrier for his hard work.

“My mailbox is full during the holidays and he is generous to pick up all the cards,” she told the Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/2hdvm5Z ).

When it came time to retire, she discovered a different passion: volunteerism.

Burnstein retired from Temple Israel, where she spent 31 years working as a teacher’s assistant, and started volunteering with a number of organizations.

She volunteers frequently at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and with Oklahoma Advocates Involved in Monitoring, or OK AIM.

The program, run by TARC - Tulsa Advocates for the Rights of Citizens with Developmental Disabilities - ensures that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live quality lives and receive the best possible community-based residential services.

“We go into their apartment or house and ask them if they like where they’re living, if they like where they work, if they have a way to get out in a fire or a safety room if there’s a tornado,” she said. “We make sure if they or their staff need anything.”

Burnstein provides a unique perspective as a volunteer with the program because she, too, has developmental disabilities.

“Having peers go into the home provides a comfort level for a lot of the folks they visit,” said Michelle Brinkley-Jones, OK AIM program coordinator. “Teri knows how to bring it out of folks and get them involved. I’m so impressed that she can go into a home, assess what that person needs and how they need to be communicated with.”

Perhaps as equally impressive is that she’s developed her passion for volunteerism amid multiple battles with cancer.

In 2011, she found out she had Stage 3 ovarian cancer.

“It surprised and scared me,” she said.

After 11 months of treatment, the cancer was in remission.

The following year it returned.

In all, Burnstein has battled cancer eight times since that initial diagnosis. She’s had chemotherapy twice and radiation or cyberknife treatments six times.

The latest was in March when doctors found a golf-ball sized tumor on the right side of her brain.

By that time, she had become rather used to treatment.

“With everything she’s been through, brain surgery was a walk in the park,” said Brooke Andrews, Burnstein’s habilitation training specialist, or personal assistant as she refers to herself. “She’s tough.”

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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