The current COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we do things – both personally and professionally. But what it hasn’t changed is our connection to one another. We must keep physical distance, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the support the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation is receiving, and by the stories from those we’re helping. I want to share a few of those stories with you.
A resident at Heritage Manor with dementia doesn’t see her grandsons much. They both live out of state. Staff members are helping her FaceTime with them. Each time she sees their faces on the screen she smiles and her eyes fill with tears. She says, “That’s one of the boys!” She is also able to see her great grandchildren run and play. Her grandsons appreciate the opportunity to talk with her and to see how she’s doing, especially now when they can’t travel to her.
Another resident, also with dementia, is amazed by the technology and that she’s able to see her daughter on the screen. Though she at first thinks it’s her sister, by the end of the conversation she knows it’s her daughter. Especially for dementia patients, keeping up this communication is critical, so they don’t forget their loved ones.
But the virtual communication doesn’t stop with families. Heritage Manor residents and Levy Gardens tenants were able to participate in a virtual Seder led by Rabbi Frank Muller. One said, “I thought that was tremendous. I never expected that. Rabbi Muller was excellent and really brought the holiday to me.”
Jewish Family Services and Jewish Community Center of Youngstown staff are reaching out to older adults in the community.
A homebound older adult from the Jewish community received a Passover basket from JFS and JCC. She said, “Thanks to you I didn't feel lonely and could celebrate Passover. I can't visit my family, but I know that I'm not alone.” That was just one of many calls saying the same.
One client, when asked what would make her happy, asked for one simple thing – a chocolate bunny. By the next day, JFS and JCC had collaborated and ensured she had five bunnies. This client has no family, and our outreach coordinator is the only person in the community she has contact with.
JFS has adapted to the need to stay physically distant by offering teletherapy to clients. One long term counseling client cried when the social distancing restrictions were put in place because she feared she would no longer be able to communicate with her therapist. She was assured they would keep in touch by phone.
Many people are grateful for the mobile meals provided by JFS and JCC in partnership with Direction Home of Eastern Ohio. Comments from callers who appreciate the meals include: "What a wonderful service to the community!" and "It's a God-send to me, because I can't cook!" We’re delivering 3,500 meals every week.
And the Federation is offering a hotline to connect people with mental health assistance and other resources.
But we couldn’t do all of this without the help of the community. Donations to our Emergency Relief Fund are helping, as are donations of much-needed supplies. Donations of gloves, masks, fabric to make masks, gowns, shoe covers, caps, face shields, and sanitizer help us do the essential work we’re doing. I can’t thank all of these donors enough. We will get through this difficult time together. I am proud of the Federation staff, and our community. Please stay safe and be well. I look forward to the day we can open our physical doors again!
Executive Vice-President, Youngstown Area Jewish Federation